Rugby Union: Postbag packs a punch

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The Independent Online
I HAVE received several interesting letters since the beginning of the international season. Norman Shepherd, of London SE24, points out that, had Jonathan Webb kicked better, England would have drawn with instead of beating France. This would have been a fairer result, though still not fair enough.

The England full-back also comes in for criticism from John Inston, of Stansted. This time it concerns the try which Ian Hunter failed to score in the same match.

Mr Inston writes: 'In approaching the French defence, Webb ran perfectly straight and delivered the pass early which ensured the pass reached Hunter. It was, however, predictable and the French cover went straight across to smother Hunter. Had Webb angled his run back into the defence he would have committed at least one to the tackle and probably slowed the others down with momentary indecision. A longer pass to Hunter would have then given him two or three yards extra space - enough for him with his strength and speed to force over.' There seems to be greater disappointment with England's performance against France and Wales than with Wales's against Scotland. For the first time in many seasons, I have not been accused by correspondents of being either insufficiently appreciative of England's qualities or over-indulgent towards my native land. Perhaps this is because I, too, thought Dewi Morris scored a perfectly legitimate try against Wales.

D G Trelford, of London N1, however, claims that my parallel between Morris's disallowed try against Wales and Hunter's try against Canada is invalid. I maintained that, if Hunter was held to have scored in that match, so must Morris also be permitted to have scored in the later international. Not so, says Mr Trelford: Morris was held, whereas Hunter was not.

J T K Bain, of Chipping Norton, agrees, but writes: 'Now that I begin to understand the law, I do not like it.' He adds: 'I wish as much television and newspaper time had been given to Derek Stark's interception and try (against France) which looked perfectly good.' Mr Bain wants Dean Richards to be at No 8 for the Lions, and presumably for England, too.

Chris Walker, of Bedford, would also like to see the Leicester policemen back in white. He writes: 'In my time there have been three great No 8s: Mervyn Davies, Richards and Wayne Shelford.'

Mr Walker agrees with me about the new breed of England supporters: 'They are, I imagine, England supporters rather than rugby men. I mean I don't see many of them at Goldington Road, or Franklin's Gardens.'

A different view is taken by Stuart Hicks, of Weymouth: 'You seem to be of the opinion that rugby union should remain the sacred and hallowed domain of Oxbridge toffs and City gents sipping champagne while gathered around their Range Rovers. It is this type of antiquated snobbery that has held back the development of the game in England.'

Mr Hicks, though of English birth, was brought up in Neath. 'Learning to love the game at a grass-roots level,' he writes, 'I find such archetypal English snobbery even harder to take from a Welshman who seems to be so far out of touch with the genuine feeling for the game on the terraces.'

Not content with accusing me of English snobbery, Mr Hicks accuses me of the Welsh variety as well. 'You also seem to believe that you can only find intelligent supporters with a sound understanding of the new laws and a certain amount of rugby etiquette to the west of the River Neath. This is yet another example of narrow-minded snobbery that has existed in Welsh rugby for far too long. I fear, Mr Watkins, it is time to drag yourself out of the dark ages and into the real world.'

Some of my correspondents, however, fondly remember those dark ages, too. Frank Dawes, of Maes-y-Cwmmer, agrees with me about the decline in the standards of singing at Cardiff Arms Park.

He writes: 'Maybe the old quality of the singing would be revived if the North Enclosure of the good, old days was still with us, together with the St Alban's Band, whose conductor, often in monsoon conditions, up to his ankles in mud, would stir the North Enclosure choir to great heights of choral excellence.'

Please carry on writing.