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Anorak | All Right

All Right

by | 16th, June 2003

‘ENGLAND’S win against the All Blacks elevates the rugby union team to a new plateau of excellence. When faced with the best, the team dug deep and won.

England are unstoppable

And New Zealand on their own patch are the best. England are top of the world ranking – and were going into last Saturday’s match at Wellington’s Westpac stadium – but the All Blacks are always tops at home.

At least that’s what the Kiwis have been brought up on. The All Blacks play at home and the All Blacks win. They had lost once to England on home turf, but that was back in 1973, a result widely considered a fluke.

When England went down to 13 men, we expected the Kiwis to rack up the points. In an eight-minute spell with two spare men on the field New Zealand scored no points. To rub salt into the wound, England scored three.

But still the mood said that the Kiwis would win. With the shirt comes the legend. Deep in every Englishman’s psyche lies a seed that was planted in their youth: the Kiwis are the best there is.

The danger was that England would suddenly realise that they were up against the revered All Blacks. A splash of water – or in Josh Lewsley’s case, a kick in the head – would wake them from the dream of victory.

The game bought to mind images of Muhammad Ali, with the Kiwis in the role of the Louisville Lip. Like Ernie Shavers, England had hit the champion hard. The champion had wobbled.

Here was the crunch point. Would England back off like Shavers had done, unable really to comprehend that the legend was reeling? Or would they seek to press home their advantage?

Over to Martin Johnson, England’s captain on the day. He knew that many thought England would crack after the Kiwis had scored the game’s only try.

”Let’s crack them, let’s not fold,” he told his team-mates. And so it was.

At the vital moment, England realised that they were no longer just another side on the up; they are the best in the world.

And to be the best you take on everyone, reputations and all. As a result, it’s no longer merely hopeful to say that this England side can win the World Cup.



Posted: 16th, June 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink