RWC 2011 Tour Diary: Thanks England, who shall we support now?

We approached Auckland brimful of excitement and hope. Stirring power rock blared out of the stereo at full volume and we raucously sung along. Titles such as ‘Holding Out for a Hero’, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and ‘The Final Countdown’ seemed completely appropriate, ‘Simply the Best’ maybe a little more optimistic. As it turned out there was to be no hero, we stopped believing even before the halftime whistle and the only countdown was to the final termination of England’s woeful World Cup campaign. Simply the Worst.

On the road in to Auckland it seemed as though every vehicle had flags of one colour or another fluttering behind them. We had all been bouncing off the walls from the moment we woke up (not a mean feat in a camper van) and the emotions only went north from there.

Auckland was heaving with English and French as well as Irish and Welsh who appeared to have taken a wrong turn on the way to Wellington. The majority of the English whom we have come across all week from Wanaka to Wellington, Taupo to Auckland were confident of an English victory, firstly because the French were even more of a shambles than England and secondly because England always beat France in these sorts of games. Don’t they?

On arrival in the city we headed for a bar near the stadium and it seemed as though almost everybody else had had much the same idea. There were Irish and Welsh aplenty and what a treat their teams provided. When Ireland drew level shortly after half time it seemed as though the tide was moving inexorably in their direction, Wales had hardly had the ball for half an hour. But this Welsh side are fitter and mentally tougher than any of their recent predecessors and they dominated the last quarter when it mattered most. I still didn’t believe that I was going to have to spend the rest of the tournament supporting them though.

By half time at Eden Park I was having to come to terms with that prospect. England did everything they possibly could wrong in that first half, passive and ineffective in defence, directionless and uninspired in attack. And whether you interpreted their body language as showing that they just expected it to come right or that they were clueless, either way it was awful. It was hard to tell whether the French were even that good but that may have been due to the fact that our seats were closer to the moon than they were to the pitch.

The Kiwis have not been slow to criticise England on this tour (one even had the temerity to say ‘being expansive is not England’s thing. They would have been better to stick to the grind’ which given all the ‘boring England’ jibes suggests that the press down here will criticise England whatever they do). But the NZ fans gave credit where it was due after the game expressing their admiration for the attitudes of their English and Irish counterparts. Had it been the All Blacks who had lost, they said, they would have gone straight home for an extended period of mourning and recriminations. Many of them cancelled their trips to France for the semis and final in 2007 after they fell in the quarters. We assured them that we will be here for a while yet.

Within two hours of the end of matches you would have been hard-pressed to tell who had lost. Yes there was disappointment for many but there was also a city full of rugby supporters who had just seen two fantastic games and there was a party to be had.

We therefore can’t tell you too much about Sunday as much of it was spent asleep but we roused ourselves to head back to Eden Park, resolutely clad in England shirts which attracted a few comments. Although this time our seats were past the moon and on their way to the sun, we had the pleasure of sitting a few seats down from some Argentinian fans without whom the atmosphere would have been fairly flat. They were hilarious, singing, dancing and shouting throughout. I also don’t think they banked on any of us speaking a little Spanish as some of their songs were somewhat descriptive.

As it was they had plenty to cheer in the first half and their team put up a great fight. The All Blacks march on to face their conquerors from 1991 and 2003 (we might bring that up a few times this week), the Wallabies. And after their Six Nations showings who would have thought that Wales and France would be facing off in a semi? If it ever stops raining here they promise to be two fantastic occasions. And from a pure rugby point of view, much as it pains me to say it, the semis are almost certainly better off without England.

by Stuart Peel

42 thoughts on “RWC 2011 Tour Diary: Thanks England, who shall we support now?

  1. Answer to the question in your headline – Wales.

    You know we’d support England if it was you in the semi’s :-)

    1. Support England? Would you bobbins.

      I was in Rome for the 2007 final and everyone bar the English was behind South Africa, so c’mon France!

      1. Yes, it was a joke, hence the use of “:-)”. Of course we wouldn’t support England. We supported France in the QF. Equally we’re not expecting the English to support us. We genuinely couldn’t care less who you support. We’re supporting Wales as they are our team, who the rest of the world that isn’t in the semi’s supports is up to them.

          1. That’s sort of my point – I would be surprised if you didn’t want France to win? I wouldn’t want England to win. I think the smiley was needed though as Dale completely missed the sarcasm in my original post…

            Also I hope me saying “I wouldn’t want England to win” isn’t going to start some torrent of abuse or indignation. It’s just a preference ok. I don’t like the way England play rugby, so mostly I prefer to see other teams beat them. The only exception would be SA as I dislike their rugby even more (kick and chase, kick and chase, kick and chase, for ever and ever and ever…).

            1. I meant through the bits of smugness that creep into your comments. Having said that, it would be pretty poor if something like that swayed my whole opinion on a rugby team, especially Wales who I have a lot of time for.

              My team for the tournament is still Australia, but from there I’ve no preference, not as in I don’t care, more I’d be happy with all three of them winning it after the Wallabies.

          2. Of course – dislking English rugby == smugness. Enjoying Wales run in the WC == smugness. I understand the way it plays here.

            1. Not at all, we’ve all enjoyed the run Wales have been on, their games against South Africa and Ireland were two of the best in the tournament. And no one dislikes England’s style of rugby more than their own supporters. It’s a just a personal opinion on your comments. Hope there’s been enough Welsh coverage this week to keep you happy.

          3. Once England is out of the equation, I think for me I’ll always support the NH over the SH and then within that anyone over France

            If its just the SH playing then anyone but the Aussies

            The only exception to this is the Pacific Islands and any of the minnows who I’ll support over any of the bigger nations

          4. Ben, care to elaborate? I’m not keen on name calling without some sort of background.

            If it was the “where is the Welsh coverage” thread then hopefully you saw enough of my “it was a joke” replies to cover that one. Don’t want to over retread old ground, so again, it was intended as a bit of wind up, not intended as a serious question.

            1. Principally that yes. For the amount of comments you made it didn’t feel light-hearted. However, I hope that you’ll have realised now that your accusations of bias weren’t true. It’s passing comments such as “who the rest of the world that isn’t in the semi’s supports is up to them” and digs at the media that might get on some peoples nerves, particularly those of us who work in it.

          5. Ben, that’s not not smug, that’s called having an argument and doing it in a way you don’t like. I was replying to a guy who said he wouldn’t support Wales. I dont see him berated for it? I wanted to make it clear that I don’t care who he supports as we are in the semis and his team are not, a dig as part of an argument. I don’t see the article that referred to “Wales getting it right for once”‘called smug? As for my digs at the media, if you’re part of what I see as poor quality writing then I’ll berate it as much as I want. Feel free to tell me I am wrong, argue with me or ignore but, but just resorting to name calling is a bit c***.

            1. Fair point, I didn’t like it. Why would the Wales article be called smug?! That’s irrelevant. If you feel we are part of the “poor quality writing” of the media, then maybe this website isn’t for you. And lastly, please do not swear in posts.

          6. Umm, that c edit looked worse than it is Ben, I guess an auto-filter got to that one. To be clear, I was using the four letter word beginning with c that rhymes with wrap. Not the other more abusive word that it now looks like I used. As for the website, I’m intrigued with what I have seen so far. Some interesting comments and arguments. As for “not for me”, well, I guess that’s the joy of an open website, you’re going to get all sorts joining in and a lot won’t agree with what you say, and won’t disagree in a way you like. Happens all over the net, as I said, no reason to resort to name calling, would prefer a robust response of the point.

            I don’t think the Wales article was smug, but if me saying “the rest of the world that isn’t in the semi’s” is seen as smug because it’s implies that I am enjoying that we are there and others are not, then an article starting off with “Very rarely in Welsh rugby is the question uttered ‘where did things go so right?’ ” could be (the emphasis is on “could be” here) seen as having an implicit “unlike other teams…” in the same way. As I keep saying, that’s a question of interpretation that can be challenged, but name calling doesn’t challenge it, it’s just abuse.

            1. I guessed it was the first c word from the sentence!

              We welcome all comments from anyone as long as they’re not littered with swearing and personal attacks, which I’m not saying yours are. A lot of it is down to mis-interpretation at times. I apologise for calling you smug, it was the impression I had gathered but a bad one. However, it doesn’t mean in the future if you denounce a piece of writing as “poor” or complain that all the website ever talks about is England that we won’t contest it.

              As for the Wales article, it was written by a Welshman, Paul, and that was his perspective on it, so there’s no suggestion of comparing it to other teams.

          7. Good, we understand each other now then. I would fully expect you to rebut any comments I make on quality of writing or quality of rugby. Aye, I agree the article wasn’t smug, just saying that someone could have read it as such, much as you agree you could read my comments as such when they were not intended to be.

            I am as amazed as anyone where Wales are, probably more delighted than most of the readers here though as I guess the Welsh are in the minority. I had an inkling things were looking up in our summer games – we had chances to win that game in Twickers, we defended magnificently to win the home game and we made an under prepared Arg look like a third tier side. Nothing amazing but it was much better than the previous 12 months, including the draw with Fiji. But anyone who says they thought Wales would get the semi’s AND be favourites to go to the final would have been laughed out of town. Good times.

        1. Ah yes sarcasm is easily picked up on in e-mails, never used a smiley face to indicate this, must be a Welsh thing ;-)

  2. Good point about the party afterwards happened in Nantes too after the Fiji game for Wales last time around also turned up in the quarters with a Fiji shirt to support them against the Boks.

    All support welcome even the old enemy !

  3. The really annoying thing is that most English supporters will support Wales and Brighty we know what would happen if it was the other way around!

    However for the joys of attractive rugby, and the fact that you are the only northern hemisphere team left that speaks English (alright only technically!!!!) I will be there rooting for you. Just don’t expect it on a regular basis! ;-) Good luck.

  4. I hope the French play as well SA they did against England because I have no doubt that if they do, Wales will win. It was a poor poor quarter final whereas both Wales and Ireland were quality. English rugby would honestly have benefitted more from departure ay the group stage. As it stands they are in denial and hiding behind 4 wins (should have been 2 losses), and a quarter final blip. Unfortunately they will be stuck with an inexperienced coaching failure.

    1. Dyl, not sure that you can call England in denial, when half the country are calling for Johnno’s head and retirement of half the squad. I do think you’ve hit the nail on the head as far as coaching goes – but hey ho – we’ll wait to see what happens with the coaching set up. I don’t suppose they’ll ask for my opinion.

      I also wouldn’t write the French off just yet – I think you’re in for a tough old match. I think you will edge it but not by much.

      1. If you are praying for the way the French played against the English then you will be in for a shock, they attacked with flair and were almost perfect in defence, don’t get too cocky.

        1. The attacking with flair is an interesting viewpoint as the English players and management still contend that the French tries were very soft. They did look soft to me (for the first one Eng tackle each other, for the 2nd one all 3 defenders go for the same man) but it was fantastic play from France to get into those positions in the first place.

          Perfect in defence? England scored two tries. Granted France had switched off by then and were planning their semi final match, but there was still enough evidence that it’s possible to get around them to convince me that Wales have a chance to take this game. I’d be surprised if anyone in Wales was cocky about it, but I do think that if we play at our best, and France play at theirs, at the moment we could have the edge. At the moment. And just an edge, not a guaranteed win. It should be a brilliant match.

          1. The French were perfect in defence by the way they did not give England a sniff of a kickable penalty in their own half, yes we scored two tries but the lack of penalties and the fact England were awful saw the French through.

            So the point I make is if the stifle your attack and don’t give wales the kicking options your in for a tough game.

          2. To be honest I don’t think it was very difficult to not give away pens or be broken with the way England attacked. Wales will ask them many more questions and then we’ll see how they hold out.

            Love the selection of Hook at 10. Just about come to terms with supporting Wales. Always N Hemisphere and then anyone against France with the exception of minnows who always get shouted for.

  5. As a Kiwi, I apologise for “our” media – they really are terrible and seem to be trying to emulate the British media in throwing together overly emotional tosh that barely has anything to do with rugby and passing it off as expert opinion e.g. Stephen Jones.
    If you were to believe the NZ media, the whole country is in a state of mourning due to Dan Carter’s busted groin – yeah, right, thanks guys. Half of Christchurch still has to walk down the road to a port-a-loo every morning, I think they’re able to put it in perspective, thanks.

  6. Gotta be Wales. Partly because they are NH and not French, but mostly because they show so many attributes that England fans aspire to. They did plenty of experimenting in the build up, ie they were more focused on the long term RWC readiness than the 6N. Meanwhile Johnson was totally obsessed with the short term and showed up in NZ with potentially useful players untested and left at home, in favor of a tried and tested but predictably limited range of talent. (Irony is that Manu, our most impressive player, was a very late arrival to the squad when many of us were calling for him to get an opportunity much sooner). How many players who could have made a difference were left at home?

    Gatland has a good coaching team and they play a good technical game. The levels of tactical awareness, organization and game management are in a different world to England’s. They have an air of confidence and composure. But the thing I admire most about Wales is the passion. This has always been strong for the Welsh, but when you combine it with the other attributes it makes for a strong package.

    Some will point to players like Warburton, Philips, Jenkins and Roberts and argue that we just don’t have the natural talent to match. Personally, I think that’s crap. Why are they so talented? They weren’t born with it, they’ve been nurtured in a set-up focused on development and continuous improvement.

    So I will be rooting for the Welsh this weekend, and feel very good about their chances. Even if the French play well, I think they will beat them quite comfortably. And out of all the teams left in the competition, I would give them most chance against the AB’s.

    Good luck you Welsh b******s :-)

    1. It is a portrait of a strong man trying to retain a stiff upper lip under the weight of crushing disappointment.

      I’m not responsible for the pictures, mainly the content. Think Hutch put that up there, he’s been looking at me rather lustfully in recent days.

  7. thanks guys-your support is appreciated-but if England were there i could not support them-my grandma would turn in her grave- its called good old fashion banter ….. and a beer after
    i am sure if the aussies beat nz the blacks would not support them….its called honesty !
    i support wales and anyone who plays England ! lol

  8. I would imagine most English would support Wales. As an Irishman, I am neutral on it. I’m also neutral on the other semi, but Wales will have to be better than they were against Ireland. I say that because Wales conceded an additional 3 kickable penalties against us, and if we kicked and scored them , together with the try right after half time, Ireland would have been almost out of sight (19-10 advantage).. France will kick their penalties and will pose more of a threat up front, so Wales will have to be at their best, and more disciplined. If they can do that and frustrate the French enough, they are in with a good shout for the final.

    1. Those three penalties were from the same period of posession and territory, so if Ireland had kicked one of them they then would not not have had the other two. So they blew a chance for three points, and they blew them partly due to hubris (the “it’s only Wales” mindset) and partly because of the pressure our early score created. Also, we won with 22 points. So I disagree Ireland would have won that game, Wales were the better team in that match. Better tactics. Better players. More aggressive.

  9. I’m firmly supporting the Kiwi’s as my fiance has them in her works sweepstake with £75 at stake for the winner and we have a wedding to save for!!!!!!!

  10. To be frank despite my comment above most Welsh supporters aren’t really bothered whether other countries fans “support” them.

    Generally when I watch a neutral game I usually have a pecking order of prefernce which generally involves preferring the under-dog. It has to be said that this is what Wales are perceived as in the World Cup and probably that is why neutral support is coming our way.

    I think the Wales -England debate is a separate issue based on the history of the game and lets be frank some right stuffings given to us in the 90’s and early 2000’s .

    It’s also the big country/little country next door issue which NZ clearly have with Australia too. I think to support another team fully is impossible but give us your preference by all means.

    1. I think at the moment Wales are benefitting from a surge in support from their neighbours (whether they like, or care about, it or not!), for a number of reasons.

      1. Most rugby fans love attractive rugby and Wales are playing this.
      2. Wales are conducting themselves like “proper gents” both on and off the pitch and this is something most rugby supporters appreciate.
      3. They are not displaying arrogance (yet! – we’ve known it in the past when Wales were winning everything!)
      4. They are really the underdog as they are the only remaining team not to have made a final.
      5. There is a sort of British/Home Union/Northern hemisphere thing going on partly because we share so many traits. (this is also why we argue so much!!).

      So whether you like it or not you’re stuck with our support (and lets face it, if the support of the English annoys you, it gives us another reason to support you! ;-)

  11. Well said by both.

    Support for Wales is not just limited to the ‘home nations’. It’s great to see their resurgence.

    The whole Northern Hemisphere / Southern Hemisphere arguement is starting to lose relevance. At least with regards to playing styles!

    1. Ha! Don’t think we’re going to forget that whole “White orcs on Steroids” headlines from 2003 in a hurry, although the apology from the Sydney morning herald (or something like that) did go some way to repairing the damage! Next you’ll be wanting me to jump around singing waltzing matilda with a blow up kangaroo – it isn’t going to happen (and I hate Fosters). I reckon I can just about get out the chorus to delilah though! :-)

      Just livening up the debate!! but seriously I think there is still a fairly wide north south divide in playing, supporting and reffing. We won’t mention Bryce Lawrence’s interpretation of the laws.

      1. On the subject of beer (and that is a separate article) – did you know that Fosters isn’t served in Australia? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some absolutely spectacular beers since moving to Aus from England. Just last night i tried Nine Tales from the James Squire brewery – a cracking amber ale! So…let that be known…Australians do great beer (if you like it fizzy).

        1. Yeah, we do brew it on the bubbly side. Coopers sparkling, now that’s a good drop. They serve it at the Porterhouse in covent garden.

      2. Ha! You’re the chap jumping on the welsh bandwagon!

        As Sean Connery said in that timeless classic ‘losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f*ck the prom queen.’ I don’t give a shit if anyone from Pomgolia would rather the wallabies beat the darkness.

        My sentiments are with Pontylad, there’s no such thing as a second team. It’s just refreshing to see the ‘home nations’ bandwagonism align to decent rugby for the first time in a long time.

        Do you really reckon there is a NH/SH divide re playing style? South Africa play like England did in 2003 (or wish they did), Wales are playing in a similar style to the darkness and the Wallabies and who knows what the French are doing!

        Forget the bandwagon and get stuck into the clowns running the RFU. This great competitive nation of White orcs have four years to develop a team to justify the support of the largest rugby nation on earth. Now that the millstone of 2003 has finally been loosened, the rugby may even meet that criteria you mentioned above!

        1. I thought that might get things going!! The reality is that I’m looking forward to two cracking games of rugby with the four best teams in the tournament. I’ll probably be rooting for the Aussies as well as they’re underdogs in their game – but whoever wins and I’ll be fairly relaxed as to who does, I hope it’s the teams that play the best rugby. Surely none of you can argue with that!

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