There is something bitter sweet about winning a world title once, coming second in the next tournament and then bombing out in the last. They say “better a one hit wonder than a never was” but then again even the greatest of victories tend to fade into history if they aren’t repeated within a decade or two. Of all the teams in world rugby, England always promises so much but delivers so little.
2015 is shaping up as England’s year for a number of reasons. Of course all of the rugby gods will have to align in their favour but why wouldn’t they if the RFU achieve their goal by making Twickenham the most uncomfortable place for every team playing England.
Anyone who believes that the best teams win world cups need only to look at the All Blacks World Cup record to see that this definitely is not the case. Winning world cups is about politics, psychology, timing, taking your chances and large doses of luck.
The other factor that will spur England on is the “jubilation to humiliation” affect that has a way of galvanising the troops to make a greater effort. England’s diabolical 2011 flop in NZ and the fear-factor of failing at home should be enough to pull them through. Throw in home ground advantage and they are halfway there without having played a game.
Just think about the psychological damage that the long suffering All Blacks and their fans had to endure for nearly a quarter of a century. The best team in the world year in and year out yet castigated on every corner as a one off one trick pony at home. 2011 was always going to be the ABs year and the end of 24 years of cruel choker taunts. Fans can be cruel and unforgiving, but an England victory in 2015 will wipe away the disappointments of past campaigns.
True to form and the World Rugby rankings, the All Blacks will most likely be the best team in London with England, unlike the 2003 model, nowhere near the top of the pecking order. This year’s 6 Nations championship is unequivocal proof that England are a team of good players, neither mediocre nor great. They can win well but lose badly just as easily. Inconsistency is their curse but hometown advantage will drive them to higher endeavour come September and October 2015.
What is it that will come to bear on the rugby teams from outside of the UK?
The first aspect that will feature in the 2015 Rugby World Cup is that the politics will flow in favour of the local teams. 50/50 calls, debatable penalties and all the fine details will favour the locals. You only need to see how New Zealand got the rub of the green in the 2011 final to know this… But London will be above the nationalism of seeing the white jersey at home televised to the rugby world from their lush hallowed grounds in England. It will be about past failures, faded glories but most of all the near misses and the fear of another failure. It will also be about being the landlord and making sure the visitors know their status and who is running the show
The England team of 2015 are in the invidious position of having something to prove now or never. They always promise so much, have all the talent and razzmatazz but have invariably failed to deliver. They are the biggest and richest of rugby nations and they know they need to bring home the bacon for Queen and country. A single point victory will be good enough as it was for Ritchie McCaw in 2011 but any victory will do, especially if prestige, careers and reputations are on the line. England won’t stand for a minor antipodean outpost like NZ stealing their glory in the middle of London. They certainly do not want the Irish (least of all those from the south) nor Wales, Australia or South Africa stealing their thunder just down the road from Buckingham Palace. Conspiracy theories aside, let the games begin in the hope that they won’t be ruined by some overzealous official out to prove a point.