By our rugby correspondent Mr. L.R. Jowett
England 13 Argentina 9
For Argentina: Penalty goals by unidentified (3).
No event in recent rugby football history has been so anticipated amongst the rugby fraternity as the opening match of England’s 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign.
Despite the fixture taking place far off in our most distant colonies, the amazing advances in communication technology in the modern era meant eyes from all over the civilised world were able to ‘tune in’ (if I may use modern parlance) and watch our stout yeomen take on the fiery South Americans.
The offences against the true spirit of rugby union in and around this encounter were manifold and, if the reader will permit me, I would like to indulge in a short tirade against these before moving onto the match itself.
I realise that to rally against the payment of players in modern rugby is to be of little avail, but I am personally still left with a sour taste in my mouth when I see so many young men spending their youth idly pursuing sporting honours rather than contributing to society in a more meaningful way. However, I am fully aware that bird has flown, so to speak, and will not return to the subject for the time being.
Furthermore, whatever the outcome of the matches themselves, I am still uncomfortable with the RFU’s decision to award full caps for matches against junior countries like Argentina. I remember in 1905 Scotland did not even deem the mighty New Zealand worthy of full cap status. I wonder what these leading administrators would make of today’s culture of awarding caps against all manner of lowly nations. I am of the firm belief it devalues our great game.
What is more, whilst one can admire the technical dexterity of the Colonials in Dunedin in building a rugby stadium with a roof, one wonders if the spectacle of rugby really should be played in such artificial conditions? Are not the elements of wind, rain, sleet and snow as much a part of rugby football as scrum time and lineouts?
And finally, before we move on to a report of the game itself, I must express my outrage at England wearing anything but white when playing. Even if there is a potential clash of regalia with opponents, surely as England are the founders and true guardians of the game it is for other teams to change colours? And if we are to use this method of numbering players like cattle (I am still uncomfortable with this dehumanising of our men) could it not be possible to affix numbers which do not disintegrate upon contact and leave us looking most slovenly? One cannot help but come to the conclusion than the outfits of the Englishmen had a negative impact on the team’s general mental constitution and the sporting goods firm Nike should be thoroughly ashamed of their crass and inferior product.
The match was an intense affair with players showing no regard for their own physical well being and all men involved throwing themselves into contact with gay abandon. Making matters more interesting (and despite the fact the stadium’s roof meant there was no wind to distract the kickers) neither team were able to kick with any accuracy and it seemed like both teams missed at least six kicks at goal.
In light of how the match panned out England must consider themselves somewhat fortunate that the Argentinean number ten, who it seems is considered an important player for the Pumas, was unable to continue after taking an early knock around twenty minutes into the game.
Indeed, the South Americans led 9-3 until England finally breached their opponent’s stout defence in the 66th minute. A well worked team try by scrum-half Ben Youngs was sullied somewhat by rather ungentlemanly celebrations by a handful of young Englishmen. One can only speculate as to why the likes of Delon Armitage (a man already known for the crass act of kissing his badge in times past) feel the need to act like the lower class men who play Association Football when England score. I can only conclude the negative impact of professionalism is where the fault can mainly be found in this regard.
The try seemed to bring a sense of realism to the South Americans and they realised that despite their brave efforts England were inevitably going to emerge victors. A late penalty by Wilkinson made sure order was fully restored and the referee blew the final whistle with England four points to the good.
Onwards to glory, England!
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