The Inbetweeners

After the ‘Oh-my-god-don’t-do-this-to-me!’ tension of the Argentina game, come the relatively stress-free occasions of two games against Georgia and Romania, before the climax of the Scotland match on the 1st October. Without doubt they are the minnows of Group B, but as somebody will surely point out, there are no easy games nowadays!

According to late Mediaeval texts, the Georgians are labelled such because they especially revere St George. This would explain why their flag is very similar to ours, but the similarities pretty much end there. They aren’t great at rugby, and their names are like someone’s taken 12 letters out of the Scrabble bag, arranged them in any old order, then added -ze to the end. The poor old commentator has a more difficult time than Johnathon Ross reading the ‘R’ section of the phone book, but I’m sure the Georgians expect that.

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Collapse.

I’m sure they also expect to get beaten.

But they certainly don’t show it at first. As the Otago stadium ripples with red and white flags, the opposition make a good fight of it. In fact one might be mistaken for thinking they’d stumbled upon one of St George’s own crusades, with men regularly falling, battle-injured, medics running to their aid.

However the superior skill and firepower soon overcomes the opposition, and we return to the green and pleasant land of the Dunedin Holiday Park with the satisfaction of a 41-10 win, although not thoroughly convinced by it.

The scrum still looks dodgy, we conceded too many penalties (again), and the backs need to step it up a gear or three, but thankfully we have another ‘warm up’ game next weekend, so hopefully a marked improvement will be seen there….

Lovely English Weather!

And so, a week later, us English fans – and an equal number of Kiwis who seem to have discovered Romanian roots – file back into the same stadium for the third Group B match, and frankly I want and expect nothing more than a crushing win for England.

In fact, their highest ever win came over today’s opponents, a try-a-minute rout of 134-0, and while I’m sure that will not be re-enacted today, I would hope for about half that. However, the sad fact is that we could put 200 past the Romanians today and the headlines would still be focusing on Zara and Mike, about whom frankly I could not give a fuck of the flying variety.

From our seats behind the goalposts, my brother and I can see several photographers, their over-sized lenses aimed not at the large patch of grass in front of them, but about 45 degrees to the left, towards a certain royal grand-daughter. That doesn’t especially upset me, no. It’s the fashion in which the British media seem intent on destroying any hope we ever have of winning any major sporting event.

Romanians are Evil

A nothing story about the Captain messing around with a ‘mystery’ woman – who is in fact a good friend of both he and his missus – is blown out of all proportion, and one can’t help noticing similarities to a familiar story involving an England football captain and a minor fling. The press should be backing our boys, not trying to bring them down. But whereas sackings of skippers and all that may have had a detrimental affect on the minds and game of the football team, I can’t see the rugby squad being affected by it.

If anything, rumours of boozing and throwing of vertically-challenged people seems to fuel their fires, and they find a gear or two more, spinning the ball around with conviction and putting a satisfying score past the Romanians. But while it’s fun to watch, it doesn’t really give us any clues as to how we’ll fare against a recently-improved Scottish team, in what will be a must-win match for our auld chums from the North.

And North is where The Rambling Rose now heads, back past Christchurch to the Interisland ferry, up route 1 to Auckland, and Eden Park.

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