World Cup Diary: King Henry VIII edges out 'king' Cole by whisker

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There should always be a strong sense of history about World Cup tournaments, so it was reassuring to see a King Henry VIII lookalike ambling around the England team hotel. Dan Cole, the Leicester prop, has long boasted the physical dimensions necessary to impersonate that uniquely substantial monarch, and if Holbein's great portrait of 1536 was at all accurate, he also has the colouring. Now that he has the beard too – and it is one hell of a beard – comparisons are inevitable. Asked whether he started growing it during one of the endless "touch, pause, kiss, exchange phone numbers, engage" routines that have made the simple act of scrummaging so ludicrously long-winded, His Royal Highness graciously acknowledged that it might be the case.

Green shoots at Otago Stadium

At first glance, the brand spanking new Otago Stadium, which has cost the best part of £100m to construct and put the local populace in hock for the next God-knows-how-many years, has an Eden Project look about it – partly because of its greenhouse-like transparent roof and partly because strange things grow inside it. Like grass. This will come as a shock to the good people of Wales, who are under the impression that fully enclosed venues like the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff are the sporting equivalents of the Gobi Desert. Amazing what a little sunlight can do.

Blow me down, bombs are banned

How satisfying to see the tournament organisers avoiding all unnecessary rules and regulations governing the behaviour of supporters attending the forthcoming 48 matches. There are only 28 categories of prohibited items on the current list, which helpfully points out that weapons, including knives, are not allowed in any of the 12 stadiums. Who would have believed it? Among other banned articles are loudhailers, vuvuzelas, pushchairs, laser lights, smoke bombs, aerosols and compressed gas containers. Strangely, no mention is made of Sherman tanks. There again, they'd need more than a security man in a yellow jacket to stop one of those, let alone confiscate it.

Sober times as Fiji stay off the firewater

Are England taking this competition entirely seriously? Martin Johnson's decision not to impose an alcohol ban on his players for the duration of the tournament is, on the face of it, in stark contrast to the approach of those paragons of internal discipline, Fiji. "It wasn't an easy decision," admitted their captain, Deacon Manu, when news emerged that he and his players had voluntarily agreed to stay off the kava, that staple firewater of the Pacific Islands. "But we have to look at what's best for the team and what's going to get us into the quarter-finals." On reflection, we must be fair to Johnson. What harm could there possibly be in the occasional glass or five of New Zealand beer? It wouldn't intoxicate a gnat.