Nigel Starmer-Smith and Bill Beaumont in tandem are a disgrace because of the tone of unremitting English chauvinism

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Re-reading Jack Rowell's comments before and after Saturday's match, I am beginning to wonder whether he is the man for the job. This is not, I should make clear at the outset, primarily a question of England's performance under his stewardship - though that certainly comes into it. It is more a matter of the way in which he regards his post.

He seems to think of himself as running an amateur team for the love of it, and to want to be judged accordingly. He wishes the team to be judged similarly. Paradoxically, his predecessor Geoff Cooke fitted more comfortably into the mould of a professional manager: somewhat taciturn; very much a players' man; unemotional, at any rate on the surface.

Rowell gives the impression of being an altogether more sensitive soul. "Love me" he seems to cry. "Or, if you cannot bring yourselves to do that, then at least try to understand."

It would not be much good to anybody if a surgeon, say, carried on in this way. We should not place great trust in an airline pilot who sent out a similar message to his passengers in mid-flight. Rowell himself would not have expected charity in those assessing the commercial performance of Dalgety Foods when he was part of the higher direction of that enterprise.

Rugby union football is not like a commercial firm. But it is more like one than it was at the beginning of the season. It is not entitled to automatic loyalty if it does not produce the goods.

Rowell complained about the booing of Paul Grayson when he was about to take his umpteenth penalty kick at goal. But it was not Grayson that was being booed. Nor was it - as some commentators have suggested - the whole England performance thus far, disappointing though this had been. It was rather the correct decision, which was Will Carling's responsibility, to take a kick at goal rather than a tapped penalty.

I have heard booing at Twickenham in the same circumstances on previous occasions, notably when Japan played an England XV some years ago. In that match the sound, accompanied by idiotic cries of "run it", derived from a contempt for the visiting side. On Saturday the booers' hope was that they would see something of what they had paid for. In this sense the English performance was indeed being booed.

Rowell had better become used to the noise. It will recur, even if England play better than they did against Western Samoa. For one thing, the audience are as entitled to express their dissatisfaction as they are at La Scala, Milan. And, for another, the crowds who now assemble at Twickenham to belt out God Save The Queen and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - more convincingly, it must be said, than my fellow-countrymen now render their own half- remembered hymns - seem to have only the haziest acquaintance with the game. Just as they do not realise that it is criminal to throw away three points, so they cannot understand the new put-in law.

But, whether the sport is professional or not, one has always been entitled to expect professional standards from television commentators, and to criticise them accordingly. They are being paid for their work, even if they do not make their entire livings through it.

Nigel Starmer-Smith and Bill Beaumont in tandem are a disgrace. They are so not because of technical errors on their part, whether to do with rugby or broadcasting skills - and there are certainly a few of these - but, rather, because of the tone of unremitting English chauvinism which they feel constrained to adopt. They are reminiscent of British Movietone or Pathe newsreaders of the 1940s and early 1950s.

No one watching Saturday afternoon's broadcasts who was uninformed about rugby, as many viewers were, would have understood from the two commentators just how badly England were performing. "He'll be a bit disappointed with that one," was the furthest Beaumont was prepared to go in adverse criticism.

Nor am I at all happy about the use of Rob Andrew as a summariser. Not only is he yet a third English voice. He is up to his eyeballs in the contemporary game, both as a player and as a manager.

Andrew is a nice chap, a distinguished player and - let there be no doubt about it - a person of the utmost integrity. That is not the point. The point is that someone employed by the BBC to do his kind of job must not only be above the present battle, over payments, contracts, player-poaching and the rest of it. He must manifestly be seen to be above the battle.

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