France seem the team to watch out for


For the Five Nations' Championship, the bookmakers are offering evens on France, England 11-8, Scotland 10-1, and both Ireland and Wales 14-1. I think England are poor value, Scotland and Ireland are good value, while France and Wales are about right. It follows from this that the prudent punter - what the bookmakers, for all the world as if they were the Abbey National, like to call the investor - will put his money on France. Anyone looking for a bit of excitement should choose Ireland.

As we know, neither in rugby nor in betting does anything necessarily follow from anything else. That is what makes them, in their differing ways, such interesting activities. In the coming season, however, we have more to go on than in others. We have had the World Cup. The four British Isles countries have played Western Samoa. England have played South Africa once and France have played New Zealand twice. After being beaten in the first match at Toulouse, New Zealand came back in Paris. This was described afterwards as one of the best matches ever played.

Alas, I did not see it. With numerous others, I saw only a brief excerpt the next day on Rugby Special. John Inverdale, the presenter, said that it had been one of the best matches ever played, or words to this effect. I sat forward in my chair in anticipation of the delights to come. Unfortunately, Inverdale went on, the programme was unable to show any more of this apparently scintillating encounter. What we had already seen was all we were going to get.

Certainly England had played South Africa on the same Saturday at Twickenham. It was an uninspiring encounter, won by a South Africa. Rugby Special duly devoted virtually the entire programme to the Twickenham match.

Many followers of the game blame Inverdale for decisions of this kind, which is unfair. Presenters of programmes are the virtual slaves to the producer and his or her assistants. Even Sir Robin Day, when he was presiding over Question Time, had only the most limited say in who was invited on to the programme. Inverdale is merely the man who has the assortment of jerseys.

Admittedly the producers of the programme could not have foreseen that the Twickenham match would be so drab, the Paris match so glittering. But they should have budgeted for both and given them roughly equal time on the show.

Even the most spectacular game between England and South Africa would not have justified a whole programme. For those who had not seen it on the spot would have watched it live on television. A high proportion, irrespective of whether they had been at the ground or at home, would have taped the match. Those at the ground would have recorded it - as I did - to check their impressions and gain a different perspective, while those at home would have done likewise for future reference.

Here is a further criticism, directed not at the producers but at the panjandrums at BBC2 who arrange our viewing. Last Saturday was the most important day for the Pilkington Cup in 1995/96. The old lags, Bath, Harlequins, Leicester and Wasps, all came through. London Irish beat London Welsh in the Sunbury game.

There was nothing of this on Rugby Special, for the very good reason that there was no Rugby Special for it to be on. The space normally occupied by the programme was filled by Christmas in Vienna, which started at 4.30, and by Space Precinct, which finished at 6.15. Quite why the schedules need to go haywire at Christmas time and on our numerous public holidays is something I have never been able to understand. Even so, was it completely impossible to fit Rugby Special in somewhere on Sunday 24 December?

Let us end by looking back to the summer. The teams to emerge from South Africa with credit were France, Scotland and Ireland. France might have beaten South Africa if the match had not - to please television and the sponsors - been played on a mill pond of a pitch instead of being rescheduled. Scotland and Ireland showed a spirit that was lacking in England and Wales.

Since then, there have been the matches against Western Samoa. I am tempted to repeat the old joke that it was a good thing they were not playing the whole of Samoa. There was one exception: Ireland. My regret is that John Gallagher seems to have relinquished his international ambitions - or to have had them relinquished on his behalf - and is to play for Blackheath instead of Harlequins.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Qualified NVQ Assessors

£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - £80k - Javascript / MEAN

£45000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ambitious, entrepreneurial busi...

Recruitment Genius: Fitter - Plant / Tool

£20000 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fitter is required to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sage 200 Consultant

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have a unique reputation f...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food