The Great English Rugby World Cup Deception

Martin JohnsonIf you were watching the debacle unfold at the Millennium Stadium with your head in your hands and your optimism fading away, fear not. It’s all part of Martin Johnson’s World Cup masterplan, we can exclusively reveal.

Did you really think that England could train for two months at Pennyhill Park and then fail to score a try – or even run a backs move – against Wales, despite enjoying approximately 99% of possession?

England’s pack was utterly dominant, walking through the Welsh scrum on a number of occasions, and they set up camp in Welsh territory for large periods in the game. Fans were tearing their hair out at the fact they couldn’t create any space for a try, but why would they want to reveal their hand in a friendly warm-up match?

Video analysts in enemy camps will be poring over these warm-up games ahead of the World Cup, and Johnno should be hailed as a genius for giving them absolutely nothing to work with. When Graham Henry, Robbie Deans and other rival coaches ask their team whether there is anything they should worry about with England, the response will be an emphatic ‘no’. If they were still awake at the end of the footage, they’ll have been given no insight into England’s real attacking prowess.

One or two of the analysts might have written down ‘Flood, inside ball’ as a move. And then put a x2, x3, x4, x5 and so on as the same move was repeated over and over. Attack coach Brian Smith has had weeks with these international players, and if you think that’s the best they can come up with, you have been fooled – just as they want you to be.

How else do you explain the defeat? England didn’t really want to win the game.

Captain Mike Tindall turned down several shots at goal in the first half, preferring to keep the scores level rather than to build an unassailable lead. They kicked for the corner, exerted their forward dominance – everyone knows they are big up front, so no harm in declaring that hand – and then only showed one dimension to their back line.

The 7’3″ Matt Banahan was one-on-one with the 4’10” Shane Williams with plenty of space. ‘Oh no, I can’t fail to score here,’ thought Banners, ‘and then we’ll take the lead.’ Following the team instructions to the letter, he ran straight at the little man, dropped the ball and there was a sigh of relief that they’d got away with it.

When Wales finally got hold of the ball and James Hook scored in the second half, England were right where they wanted to be. Seven points down with 15 minutes to go, they just wanted to wind the clock down, and get back to camp – who better to bring on in that situation than Charlie Hodgson? He kicked beautifully out of hand, keeping Wales back in their own territory, with no intention of keeping the ball in hand, just in case instincts kicked in and they actually made a break.

When the final whistle went, it was a job well done for England. They maintained a straight face as the Welsh side jumped up and down in celebration, although Johnno nearly gave the game away with a smirk in his post-match interview.

So England fans, fear not. What you saw on Saturday was not the real England, and they’ll be ready to unleash the full potential of their gym-honed talents against Argentina in a few weeks’ time. The Webb Ellis Cup will return, and Johnno will be knighted as a genius.

Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James

37 thoughts on “The Great English Rugby World Cup Deception

  1. After last week’s selection and this week’s performance one has to hope that this is entirely true. It was my conclusion 20 minutes in to last week’s game that Johnno’s plan was simply to confuse the rugby world and lull the competition in to a false sense of security.
    We can rely on the All Blacks bowing to the psychological pressure of having to win the world cup on home turf so we can conclude that they won’t make the final.
    It really comes down to the first match against Argentina and then the Quarter final, get through those on top and we can look forward to a repeat of the 2007 final but with a different score line that will see little Bill on his way home again for a while.
    The last question remaining – should we wear the black shirts in the Final to make the locals feel like they might want to watch it?

  2. Hutch, your comments look spot-on. I don’t think England ran a single planned move, not even Foden joining the line. I think we’ve seen this before – they were pretty careful not to show too many moves in the pool stages of the 2007 World Cup, gradually unveiling them as they got to the serious matches – the knock-out.

  3. Excellently written. I just hope it’s true. And looking back on what was most of the time, absolute rubbish, I am starting to believe you. We would not normally try the same move over and over in the vain hope that it might pay off. At the same time I find it hard to believe that Hape could play that bad, even if he was trying to.

  4. Very amusing article, God I hope you’re right!

    I’m not quite sure what we have learnt from these warm matches to be honest. I couldn’t care less about results against Wales and Ireland or any other 2nd tier team. As any respectable England fan will tell you, you either win the world cup or you don’t. Thinking that a semi-final finish being ‘acceptable’ is the type of goal Wales would be setting themselves. But not England. The only question I care about answering is, can we beat New Zealand if we are on our A game? Let’s face it, the answer is a big fat ‘NO’.
    Quarter final? Semi final? Who cares really???

  5. Give Hape a few weeks at London Irish and he’ll learn, if not, the message board will destroy him. cf Ryan Lamb.

  6. Hutch – hot off the press , i have back up for your theory.

    Before Banahan fluffed his try(on purpose)Tindall threw an accurate, flat, 30 metre spiral pass off his left hand.

    As we all know, tindall cant do that, so he was fooling people into thinking that he is international quality centre.

    When he plays in the RWC, he will be flinging left handed passes over peoples heads and into touch and people will over estimate his abilities.

    cleverer than a bag of weasles.

  7. It would be interesting to know the basis on which Mj originally decided to select Hape to play for England. Was it the fact that he’s from New Zealand and played Rugby League, therefore he must be a great player. If so what a mistake. In my view there are other players much more creative, with more pace, and naturally more talented 12’s than Hape or Flutey. Allen, Barritt, Barkley to name just a few.

  8. Jimmymc1 – well spotted. I’ve never seen Tindall try to pass the ball before, he usually just holds on to it waiting for someone to tackle him so he has an excuse to knock on.

    1. i know dazza,i was so surprised i nearly dropped my beer.

      how shite is banahan tho? people are harping on about Bath and how he is mrope effectively used by them.

      how do they use him? do they use him to change light bulbs that are really high?

      how do you use someone the size of a super tanker (but with less speed and larger turning circle) from the wing?

  9. whinging aside, Tom Wood looks handy doesnt he.
    Courtnety lawes is getting back to fitness.
    ive griped about Easter in the past but he does make hard yards / tackles and somehow is good in the air for a fat bloke.

    1. Good to see Lawes back, and yes, big fan of Tom Wood. Not quite convinced by Fourie, and England still don’t have a proper 7 like Warburton or Pocock.

      Back row of like Croft, Wood and Easter?

      1. Croft, Wood, Easter i think would be a fantastic back row and if i had a open choice i would have 12trees and Tuilagi in the centre but alas that is not possible… so i would put Tindall and Tuilagi

    2. Easter, Fat? talk to the players he runs through week on week, this is a No.8 better than most, any hoo, if this were RWC we would have kicked goals built a lead and had at least 1 Penalty try, we had Rolland with the whistle and he is shockingly bad referee

      1. had a penalty try ?? since when do refs give penalty tries for 2 penalty infringements against wales, in a scrum that was reset twice as no fault and had never looked like there would have been a try scored if not for the infringements. delusional much ?

  10. Hutch,

    Many thanks for that very amusing article, I have been in complete denial about last saturday ever happening!

    I propose that we send a petition to MJ to get Sharples, Manu and Robshaw on the plane! They can’t possibly send Tinds & Hape, can they?

  11. jimmymc1 – apparently they play him at 12 mostly. But for England all he seems to do is get tackled a lot and knock on. By now, as a winger he should have learnt a side step, and a decent hand off. I think my two year old son could have handed Shane Williams off to score that try.

  12. Can anyone tell me the point of having Sharples, Robshaw, Simpson, and to some degree Botha, on the training squad if you’re going to give them no opportunity at all, or very little. Why wasn’t Sharples put on the bench for the Wales game when they new Ashton wasn’t playing. And why does Cueto get selected for both games, when he was rubbish in the first game. Give these guys a chance, or we will never know how good they are in a full test match. Unfortunatley we will probably have to wait for the next World Cup to find out, as it looks as though most of them will be left out.

    I could go on and on about guys who should have been in the training squad, and at least given a chance. I just hope that after the World Cup (however far we get), MJ realises he needs to cull some of the old bulls, and bring in some fresh blood.

    1. Dazza – you are not alone dont worry.

      I am now really wondering what team MJ will put out against Ireland.

      I assume our starting 20?

      who do you think it will be?

  13. england deffo need a 7, tindall and hape will not be dropped johnson loves them, and for banahan, you cant use him 5 times coming off floods shoulder!

  14. jimmymc1 – who do I think our starting 20 will be? Good question. One thing for sure, who I would like it to be, and who it will be will be two largely different teams. But this is who I think Mj will pick as his starting line up and replacements, and who I think should be playing. This is providing everyone on the list is fit.

    2. Hartley
    3. Stevens (vice captain)
    4. Lawes
    5. Palmer
    6. Croft
    7. Moody (Captain)
    9. Youngs
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Ashton
    12. Hape (Flutey, Armitage, Tindall. Basically anyone except Hape)
    13. Tindall (Tuilagi. Yes I would give him a run, because we need someone who can provide a bit of flair, and spark something.
    14. Cueto (Armitage)
    15. Foden

    16. Thompson
    17. Cole
    18. Botha (a better ball carrier than Deacon, and needs to be brought in before it’s too late. Shaw should be left at home to ponder his retirement)
    19. Haskell (still better than Fourie)
    20. Care
    21. Flood
    22. Armitage (a great bench man, as he can cover centre, wing and full back)

    My reason for making Stevens vice captain, is because he has shown more passion since his return, than almost the whole of the rest of the team put together. He is just so happy to be back in an England shirt, and he just wants to win.

  15. Just after I made the list, I thought maybe Wood for Haskell. But Haskell is a totally different player, and Wood is probably more similar to Croft.

    As for Tuilagi and Tindall. I’m sure Tindall played his early England career at 12, with Greenwood outside him, but I could be wrong. Tindall does provide a certain stability in the backs, and we need Tuilagi or maybe Armitage in that back line, or we will see more displays like last weekend.

  16. Still need an openside who can steal ball though and Moody certainly isn’t it. Although Johnson wouldn’t agree, I think Fourie has to start

    I’ll accept Woods instead of Fourie though

    Re inside centre – play Tindall there. Just don’t give him the ball if you want it to go further down the line. Just use him for the crash ball


  17. I’m Irish but I must say that I have to admire England. Even when they have a crap team and are playing crap they still believe they can win the world cup. On the other hand Ireland currently have a great team with some outstanding players but seem to lack the belief when it matters.

        1. I’ll have to get back to you on that…I’ve been giving it some thought.

          In fact, here you go:

          1. Sheridan
          2. Hartley
          3. Stevens
          4. Lawes
          5. Palmer
          6. Croft
          7. Haskell
          8. Easter

          9. Youngs
          10. Wilkinson
          11. Sharples
          12. Flutey
          13. Tuilagi
          14. Ashton
          15. Foden


          1. Like it. id rather have wood than haskell.

            My only real issue is Sheridan.

            never seems to quite dominate.

            will be interesting to see how he gets on against a decent irish front row.

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