We wanted blood. So did you, so did your grandparents. So did your dog that was awoken every time Pocock turned us over and you screamed for a true 7 at the breakdown.
I guess now the dust has settled, however. We are composed. We are being very very English about the whole thing. Our polite and unwavering dedication to remaining as gentlemanly and ladylike as possible has done us well these last few months. Much like our white collared friends who represented us at the greatest contest our sport can offer, we have slunk back into the shadows and curtailed our thirst for blood.
Jonny Wilkinson joked about not being able to talk to Martin Johnson or Lawrence Dallaglio when he first played for England. Such was their fearsome representation and professionalism that a mere 10 like Jonny could only bow his head in training sessions as the patriarchs of the game snarled and snapped at the pack. I made a little fun at the beginning regarding our very English way of subduing our bloodlust, but when you look at the way we played at RWC, our squad was positively vegan. We didn’t have anyone who wanted to inflict damage.
Lancaster had seen the need for a thug far too late, but by summer he had laid his bed selection wise, and that’s where he slept. Lancaster’s selection policy crippled the pool where he could have chosen from. When he came to pick his bruiser, he couldn’t see above the towering frame of Burgess with his selection of YouTube montages and nauseating league statistics, so as a last ditch effort he put him on the coach and left the ever polite professional Luther Burrell in his wake.
‘But we had Lawes!’ Yes we did. But anyone who analyses the games as we do will tell you that Lawes’ hits make up merely a fraction of his contributions, he’s a master in the lineout and covering tackles, not exactly a showstopper. He’s also a bit of a gent.
When Manu Tuilagi stepped on for Leicester for the last 25 minutes the other day, and remained uninjured, a small and slightly wicked smile caught me by surprise. Much like when I heard the Hartley captaincy rumours, I started to get a little bit excited. As much as Lancaster held tight the reigns which kept the likes of Mike Brown’s and Owen Farrell’s tempers in check during RWC (sort of, Farrell you plonker, you know what you did) , for the last few years there has been a muffled cry from the English fans baying for blood, and the time has come to unleash our dogs.
Manu offers to fulfil our wicked desires. Like a loan shark offering to give us a few grand for the races, he allows us the opportunity to glut on the Europeans who were similarly mocked on England’s mountains green. To some extent, if we don’t win the championship, but I see an England team desperate to wrap themselves around the posts to make a tackle, run screaming into rucks and chomping at the bit to gain an extra yard, I will be satisfied. There is a time for professionalism and honour in Rugby, but our beloved team has born its cross for the last 5 years and it’s time for them to start obsessing over personal battles, touching nerves and becoming personal with the game again. Bringing back the villains may mean suffering the indignity of admitting that being shrewd and efficient was not enough, it may even mean being slightly uncouth, however, now is not the time for complacency nor mourning, now is the time for vengeance.
Article by Jack Hughes
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