David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Europeans in RWC running? Not likely


So what chance do any of the Six Nations have of shaking the World Cup tree in September-October?

On the evidence of the past few weeks, there's about as much likelihood of a second European captain lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in October as New Zealand winning cricket's equivalent in Mumbai on April 2.

New Zealand audiences tend to get sniffy about Europe's big annual rugby bash - rubbish quality, all kick and clap and so on - but, within certain parameters, it occasionally has the capacity to thrill.

Just as the All Blacks matter to New Zealanders, so too do the Welsh, Scots, English, French, Irish and Italians matter to their fans.

There's a perception that for any of them beating the All Blacks represents a pinnacle achievement. Yes, up to a point. But I'd wager beating the Poms ranks at least as high, certainly for the Celts and the French.

Yesterday, England were a win away from a Grand Slam - a clean sweep of the championship - for the 13th time. They had already won the title, and because Wales, Ireland and France had won the slam in the past three years, this mattered.

Only the Irish stood in their way. The Irish in Dublin what's more, and in the rain too.

The mind raced back 21 years to another Grand Slam finale, England against Scotland at Murrayfield.

That occasion was slightly different in that both countries were aiming for the clean sweep; the Irish had already lost twice in this muddling campaign.

In 1990, England waltzed up north with a solid whiff of arrogance about them. Carling, Guscott, Underwood, Moore, Dooley, Richards and co gave an impression they only had to turn up for the Scots to turn their toes up.

As if. The Scots were well up for it and as their captain, David Sole, walked them on to Murrayfield the ground erupted.

The memory of hairs standing up on the neck remains vivid as Flower of Scotland reverberated around the stadium, this being the first season it was used as the national anthem.

The short story: Scotland 13 England 7, one of the great victories for that nation, and sealing a Grand Slam tied the bow, and a belting night on Princes St to follow.

What the currently pretty hopeless Scots wouldn't give for Gavin Hastings, Finlay Calder, Garry Armstrong, John Jeffrey and Sole right now.

Yesterday, Ireland hit the English from the off and scored a couple of fine tries - one by Brian O'Driscoll making him the championship's highest tryscorer with 25, one more than a Melbourne-born, Oxford University-educated wing, the "Flying Scotsman" Ian Smith in the 1920s and 1930s.

All great fun, unless you're English.

So England a chance at the World Cup? Not on this showing, by some stretch.

The Crusaders would clean them up - mind you, they'd be a fair chance against most international teams right now.

On them, the hope must be that the Highlanders' rousing start to the Super 15 isn't undone by the duffing they got at Carisbrook on Saturday.

Aside from England, there were two other notable losers at the weekend.

Australia were beaten for the first time in 35 World Cup games by Pakistan in Colombo yesterday. That run dates back over the past three tournaments that they've won since 1999.

Are Pakistan about to get on one of their irresistible rolls? You'd still never put your shirt on them on a given day but if they do hit top gear it will be worth a late night, or early morning, to see if they can replicate their famous 1992 triumph.

Then there's the Warriors.

Yes, it is only two rounds into a 24-game contest but this was a game for the taking against an ordinary Wests Tigers on Saturday night.

Next up they've got the Dragons at Mt Smart, so things aren't about to get any easier. If you fancy yourselves as top eight contenders - as a bare minimum - 0-from-3 has a grim ring to it.

And finally, klutz of the week can only go to Greg Somerville, late of the Crusaders and All Blacks, now trying to prop up (boom, boom) the distinctly unrebellious Melbourne Rebels.

Early on, Somerville was handed a super pass in a giant hole five metres from the Queensland Reds' tryline.

Dear old "Yoda" only had to hang on to the pill and fall over. Instead it got stuck round by his right hip and, try as he might, he couldn't roll it round and dropped it.

Somerville gave it the big double teapot as he trudged back. The overmatched Rebels are shaping as a tough gig for this old warhorse.


The Irish rugby team. Beating England any time at anything is a joy for the Emerald Isle. Be very sure a 24-8 duffing of England in Dublin was a hell of an excuse for a party.


Cricket's World Cup gets serious, with the four quarter-finals on successive nights, from Wednesday. New Zealand play South Africa. Tough.

- NZ Herald

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