Wizards Of Oz On Yellow Bricking-it Road
Published on Thursday 20 November 2003
This article appeared in The Cambridge Student on 20 November 2003 (two days before the Rugby World Cup final) and was written by Rory Smith, the sports editor.
It makes even better reading now that we have beaten the Aussies in three of the last four World Cups..!
England's fine victory over the French last Sunday set up the Rugby World Cup final that every English rugby fan has been secretly hoping for ever since the start of this, at times, insipid competition.
On the surface, of course, we wanted to face the All Blacks, who had been on spectacular form throughout the tournament: that clash would have been a direct head-to-head between the two best teams in the world.
Maybe France themselves would have made good opponents; there's nothing the English like more than beating the French. Ditto the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.
But the Aussies are the big one, the true derby of international rugby. Yes, there are England against France and Scotland, and when the Wallabies and the All Blacks meet there is a certain frission of excitement in the air.
But England against Australia is the greatest game of all, and only partically because the Australians are basically a bunch of cheeky upstarts who have taken at least two of our national games without asking nicely and now insist on being perpetually good at them whilst doing no work, sitting by a swimming pool all day drinking Castlemaine XXXX, watching Pugwall, making everything sound like a question and enjoying the sunshine.
This is a legitimate reason to dislike Australians. Heartbreak high is another, while Craig McLachlan and Peter Andre are excuse enough for a mass cull.
But the real reason we dislike the Australians is that we are so similar.
We see them as overly competitive in everything they do, but this is a trait they inherit from us. It is this nation, after all, that turned suburban BMW waxing into a Sunday afternoon sport.
We see them as lazy, but only because we are at heart, and because we envy them for having a climate conducive to laziness.
We see them as inherently criminal, if only because of their genealogy, but it is this country where the cream of the social elite regards theft as acceptable as long as you do it while wearing a suit in another college's formal hall.
Indeed, similarity underlies all great derbies, whether they are at an international, club or even college level.
Cambridge want to beat Oxford because they are like us, and we resent them for it, while no one cares about APU, despite their greater proximity. John's hate Trinity because, traditionally, they were both full of people called Rupert who wore tweed underpants and walked around thinking about how much money they had.
The similarity between the two nations is why beating Australia on Sunday will be so much sweeter than beating the Kiwis, or even the French. We don't even have a pretend rivalry with New Zealand, while we only dislike the French because everyone else does.
Beating the Australians will feel good because they're just like us - except betting at rugby, cricket and calling things 'sangers' for no apparent reason - and we don't like that.
Only the English should be like the English, and foreigners should have the common decency to do distinctly un-English things, like eating their dead, having emotions and not being able to read.
Our forefathers didn't waltz around the world building the greatest empire man has ever known to have our sports stolen and amerliorated by a bunch of work-dodgers with blond highlights and manufactured pop production line that puts Stock, Aitken and Waterman to shame.
They build the empire so that we could put prisoners in desolate wastelands for committing the crime of being conspicuously working-class after dark.
Australia had no right to go and make the wasteland a functioning country with centres of sporting excellence and suchlike.
In all seriousness, though, Sunday's game will be the best possible final: the hosts and holders against the, official, best team in the world - and it's not often you can say that about England, unless you're talking about competitive aristocrat-buggery.
May the best team win...
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