Leicester's club-record run of 22 victories came to an end yesterday but were they downhearted? Not a bit, not with pounds 50,000 in the kitty from the sponsors and a share of around pounds 450,000 from a gate of 31,700 who were given a sun-kissed exhibition of devil-may-care rugby.
Precisely. Yesterday's proceedings were of no intrinsic consequence, and the very fact that the Tigers should have been willing to jeopardise their chance of winning the league reflects the new imperative of the game.
It is money, as we were obliquely reminded by the presence of Cliff Brittle and Peter Wheeler within spitting distance of each other, separated by a row of seats and a buffer-zone that included Prince Michael of Kent. As the club v country contretemps goes on, Brittle, chairman of the Rugby Football Union, and Wheeler, chief executive of Leicester, are not on each other's Christmas-card list.
Indeed it had been more or less forgotten by the time of the match that one of the reasons for the match was to help mark the RFU's 125 years. Right now, Wheeler and the rest of the First Division clubs - all of whom are supposed to share in yesterday's proceeds once the union has taken its cut - would not care to celebrate anything which had a Brittle involvement.
The deal with Sanyo, whose cup was received from the Prince by the future Saracen Philippe Sella, extends to three years, though whoever are next season's English champions will have to wait until October or November of the following season if the best-quality "World" XV are to be assembled. This presumes that Leicester, Bath etc are still in the RFU at that time.
Yesterday's motley collection comprised 21 players from 11 countries, the bewildering to-ing and fro-ing of replacements being almost as hard to fathom as much of the rugby. Leicester had built an 18-point advantage by early in the second half but then wilted.
Steve Hackney scored Leicester's first try after three minutes followed by Chris Tarbuck seven minutes later, Dean Richards and Stuart Potter before half-time and finally Tarbuck again just after. Waisale Serevi and Laurent Cabannes replied.
The men of the World then amassed 28 unanswered points in 22 minutes during which Leicester minds seemed to be straying to this week's more exigent matters - the concluding First Division fixtures at Welford Road against Gloucester on Wednesday and Harlequins on Saturday.
They went on to concede tries by Sella, Agustin Pichot and Tsutomu Matsuda and Jamie Joseph on his first return to Twickenham since his gratuitous attack on Kyran Bracken's ankle when the All Blacks lost to England in 1993. Even on a day like this, there are some things you can't forget.
Leicester: Tries Tarbuck 2, Hackney, Richards, Potter; Conversions Liley 3. World XV: Tries Serevi, Cabannes, Sella, Joseph, Pichot, Matsuda; Conversions Serevi 5.
Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, S Potter, R Robinson, R Underwood; N Malone, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, C Tarbuck, D Richards (capt), N Back. Replacements: J Hamilton for Kardooni, h-t; D West for Cockerill, h-t; J Wells for Richards, 60; J Harris for Liley, 61; A McAdam for Hackney, 63; D Jelley for Garforth, 71.
WORLD XV: W Serevi (Fiji); T Underwood (England), P Sella (capt), T Lacroix (France), Y Yoshida (Japan); G Townsend (Scotland), G Bachop (New Zealand); N Popplewell (Ireland), J Humphreys (Wales), P Fatialofa (Western Samoa), G Llewellyn, D Jones (Wales), I Macdonald (South Africa), J Joseph (New Zealand), L Cabannes (France). Replacements: G Johnson (South Africa) for Lacroix, 29; T Matsuda (Japan) for Yoshida, h-t; A Pichot (Argentina) for Bachop, h-t; S Latu (Japan) for Macdonald, h-t; R Martin (Argentina) for Cabannes, h-t; M Regan (England) for Humphreys, 76; Macdonald for Latu, 76.
Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).Reuse content