Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lies, Damn Lies, and Welsh Excuses

It was wonderful to watch the rugby today. Welsh rugby fans are insufferable at the best of times, and last year was not much fun at all. To watch Wales, however depleted, being thoroughly dismantled by an England side, however poor, is always a delight.

But it's funny how quickly excuses seem to come flowing after a game like that. According to the BBC, Mike Ruddock, the Welsh coach, had this to say after the match:

"The sin-binning of Martyn Williams was a crucial moment, as that allowed England to turn the power on," he said.
"With a 14-man Wales team they really put us to the sword and ran away with it - and that really hurts."

It may have allowed England to turn the power on, and ultimately sap Welsh energy, but they didn't exactly put Wales to the sword during the ten minutes Williams was off the pitch. They may have put 8 points on the board, but that is scarcely above average, and the try that was scored wasn't the result of the shortage of one man. As the replays showed, any number of players could have ended up with the ball in their hands crossing the line.

Ruddock was also quoted as saying:

"A couple of things just weren't going our way.
"For example, from a great turnover Michael Owen threw a pass when we tried to break out and it was called back for being forward."

That's not things "not going our way". That's just poor, sloppy play for which there is no excuse. When you are behind your own goal-line, you make sure the ball gets cleared. Infuriating, maybe, but certainly not as unlucky as is being made out. It was an unforced, costly, error.

As for the England performance, it certainly picked up in the second half. It was great to see Matt Stevens play so well at prop, because my belief is that England will be most dangerous at the next World Cup if they have a quick, lively pack, which means Stevens is the most obvious choice. The other person who I thought had a note-worthy game was Jamie Noon, who made some excellent breaks. Mark Cueto's running was typically excellent, too.

That said, when you can play Tom Voyce at full-back for most of the match and not look threatened, it tells you that you weren't up against great competition, and it would be foolish to read too much into the result.

A couple of postscripts:

1) Why did the BBC commentators need to constantly talk about the difference between Adam R Jones and Adam N Jones. One of them is a fat prop with a gigantic curly perm, the other is a second row forward. It's not exactly difficult to tell the difference between them!

2) Andy Goode must be one of the most amusing players to watch. I can't think of many other people who have played at international level at their sport whilst looking so unathletic. And yet he kicks like a demon and runs one of the most exciting back lines in the country. Now I'm just waiting for a quick break through the line to score the winning try against France.