Carling falls for the crassest of set-ups

Tim Glover says that ITV's coverage was as flawed as England's planning
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The Independent Online
On the eve of the big one, ITV's preview programme showed scenes from England's inner sanctum, the team room. And there, standing next to an easel upon which rested the All Whites plan to beat the All Blacks, is Will Carling. "We'll tear those boys apart," was the captain's message to his men.

Anybody who ever utters such a crass statement about the All Blacks needs his head read. So too does the coach, Jack Rowell, for allowing a camera into the room in the first place. On the back of England's quarter-final victory over Australia, ITV, who have spent a fortune in getting the World Cup, found themselves with a massive captive audience and doubtless felt they had to pull out all the stops, but this was an intrusion too far.

England made a big mistake in allowing it to happen and Carling's remark - this, of course, is not the first time he has said something he will regret - will undoubtedly have been fed back to the New Zealand camp. "We'll tear those boys apart?"

After Jonah Lomu had torn England apart it was put to Carling, by a shell-shocked television reporter: "There are millions of people back home who are shell-shocked."

"That's the way it goes," Carling replied, shell-shocked.

A month ago, after Lomu had spreadeagled the Irish, Noel Murphy, the Ireland manager, had the best solution and that was to mark the All Blacks leftwing with a bazooka. Geoff Cooke, the former England manager and one of ITV's pundits, described Lomu as a "human rhino" and added:"I wonder whether he'll stay in the game." He might have said game reserve. At the ground and in the studio, the ITV team could come up with only one word: blitzed.

Lomu may not exchange jerseys (why bother when about the only thing he could use his opponents' for is a hankerchief) but after he played Scotland, Craig Joiner, his opposite number, tried on the big man's shorts. It was as if he'd stepped into a black duvet.

Lomu arrived in South Africa as a novice - he still is but he has improved with every game. The even better news for New Zealand is that they have two or three more like him back home. One of them, aged 14, is not allowed to play schoolboy rugby in case somebody gets hurt.

Meanwhile, ITV were almost willing England to win, but they need not worry. Jonah Lomu will fill their screens in the final.