Now I’ve seen everything. Eddie Jones singing ‘God Save the Queen.’ I can imagine all his old mates from Matraville High School, situated in one of the tougher parts of Sydney, almost wetting themselves watching him in the Murrayfield coach’s box mouthing an anthem that irritates countless Australians.
Maybe it just brought us all back to the days when we were toddlers, had gone to a movie matinee, and were forced to stand before the first reel for a syrupy orchestral version where we professed our allegiance to a faraway Queen.
Then again, Fast Eddie has taken the big bickies, and that clearly involves some sacrifices, which is probably why the longer the national anthem went, the more confident he became singing away with all his new England team colleagues, thrusting out his chest to proclaim: ‘happy and glorious.’
He defended himself pre-match by arguing that Australia had strong English links, and that all we are Down Under are ‘the convict side of the nice England gentlemen.’ Again we bent over in laughter. Comparing us to gentlemen, even if faintly, I don’t think so!
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
So Pommie Eddie has already made some dramatic changes. Would it continue into the game? Would we see a new England?
Not exactly. Two weeks doesn’t exactly give the new England coach much of a chance to conjure enough magic tricks to transform a basket case. And it takes some time for a tactician, who can often be a dictator, to rid them of their obvious bad habits.
The first few stanzas were encouraging, but by the 10th minute you could see England were floundering. Competent Scottish defence was thwarting endless phase play, and England had run out of ideas. So they went for a field goal. You could hear the moaning and groaning all across Australia. Oh no, here we go again! Time to turn over to the Sydney Sevens.
There were some reasonable moments in the game, but England were never going to show much when their half pairing of Danny Care and George Ford were so off tune. Greig Laidlaw was far more industrious than Care, and Ford kicked too much. The England pivot also lacked authority.
“The most encouraging Six Nations performance of the first round came from Italy; and the luckiest was France.”
Greg Growden on the opening weekend
At least Jones had a backrower who knew how to put in the hard work, and he was understandably backslapping Billy Vunipola after the game, saying that he could become the best No.8 in the world. There was an even better No.8 going around on the weekend, as Italy captain Sergio Parisse came close to singlehandedly embarrassing France.
The most encouraging Six Nations performance of the first round came from Italy; and the luckiest was France. The home team got away with it, helped along by match officials ignoring a blatant forward pass that led to France’s first try, and a dubious refereeing decision that allowed them to win the game in the final minutes but which could have instead gone Italy’s way.
And what was going on with the France jersey? It looked more like something you’d wear to the beach. A bit like their performance actually. Full of irritating sand up your nostrils, grit and chafing.
It was the usual headless stuff from the French, and if Parisse had a few more willing allies, Italy could have easily won, and had taken the referee right out of the equation. His work-rate was exceptional, involving himself in virtually every Italy attacking play, was dynamic at lineout time and led the defensive charge.
In the end, the rest of the team must have thought he was actually Superman, as Parisse was even asked to attempt the final field goal, which would have won Italy the match. He kicked it like a No.8, slithering off his boot and going nowhere near the posts. It was lucky it didn’t concuss one of his teammates by smacking them in the side of their head.
But this silly moment should not camouflage the fact that Parisse deserved better as the other 79 minutes and 58 seconds of his performance warranted victory points.
No victory points for Ireland and Wales though. Just the usual ifs and buts revolving around a rare draw that followed 80 invigorating minutes of relentless bash and barge football. Also a grand rendition of ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ (Land of my Fathers), mouthed very, very well by a Kiwi in the coach’s box.
ESPN.com – RUGBY