This is an extract from Jonny King’s new book New Rugbyland.
Of all the sides in the International Code, I think it is fair to opine the bastion of English rugby has most aggressively sought to subvert the brand of New Zealand rugby brutality. A less than accepting response to the Haka, all part of breaking the bank. It is true, South Africa, has the bravado and playing-beast to over-run on their day, but there is genuine mutual respect. Questions can be asked whether this borders on awe of our interconnected past; where on occasions, the Springboks will pay too much of a price when they play. Can you live such a disjunctive and contrastive reality, on and off, the field?
There is also near-neighbour-maaaate, Australia, who still survive on scar-tissue remembrances of a stolen rugby generation. Stolen? There were multiple; when they proved that 80 was just enough; taking the victory when the clock was most painful for the opposition. And of course, you do not need copious recitations on Les Bleus. New Zealand rugby folk have had intimate relations with the French. Akaroa. This is not a reference to the Battle of Nantes, nor to the travails of Buck Shelford, down below. The Rainbow Warrior, an appropriate metaphor for the times when our dreams of World Cup glory were sunk. Sacre Bleu. Merci. No Mas. The pain was felt multi-lingual.
While these nations have all had their moments, and some more than others – Here’s looking at you, South Africa – as I write this day, it is as if the present-day English set-up have become closest at decoding the All Blacks program of mass rugby destruction. All Blacks rugby has found the Red Rose more akin to a thorn in their side, making any “painful” excursion to Twickenham, one loss to be remembered; that must be redeemed.
Must! Who can forget how the All Blacks would have a whale of the time in 1995 when Jonah would show unusual gifts on the left wing. That was payback. It was as if Lomu owned the Mike, not to mention Keith Quinn’s now famous commentary conceptions. Quinn would struggle to articulate the immensity charging like a Rhino on an African plain – Ohh-Ohhh-Ohhhh! And we would understand completely. Before this line gets away, there is another referent.
In the World Cup year of 2003, in the New Zealand Capital of all places, an aging English side – who do you think you are kidding Martin Johnson – would provide sustenance for a looming ordeal; the world of rugby summit. When on the Back of a Jonny-gone-recently (there is much respect), that English side would create some myth of their own. God bless the Convicts. Experience definitively counts at the International level, so goes the pounding of the rugby pulpit, and that 2003 English side had it in grey. When one considers this All Blacks side of the future world event in 2015, there are some positive reflections. But, we are just beginning this Test Series, so there is plenty of time to communicate copious lines.
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By Jonny King (@iamjonnyking)