David Flatman: Bloodthirsty fans support their nation then drink with the enemy. It's great

From the Front Row: Player's perspective on magical Six Nations

I remember watching Rory Underwood scoring against Wales just metres away from my father and me as we sat in the old wooden seats at Twickenham in 1990. The atmosphere was incredible and we just knew that we had seen, in action, the team that would inevitably win the Grand Slam.

Actually, Scotland rocked the rugby world (well, our front room at least) by beating England to take the title themselves. At 13-7, it was probably a rubbish game to watch when measured by the yardstick that is the modern, professional buzzword. Execution, defensive systems and attacking frameworks weren't really discussed then; it was more the battle up front acting as a medieval prelude to Scotland's attempts to contain Jeremy Guscott.

But rubbish or not, it was the most viscerally exciting afternoon of the year in our house. That we ended up on the losing side was, in truth, neither here nor there; we screamed and leaped at every half-break, every decision. It was naked drama.

Is it the same these days? No, it's actually very different, but this does not necessarily make it worse. I believe the passive patriotism still exists; fans will appear almost bloodthirsty in support of their nation between the whistles but will, no doubt, drink alongside the enemy as soon as the lights go off. This is really what matters, what makes our game so great.

As for the rugby, it could not have changed more. This year we will see the scrummage, breakdown and refereeing scrutinised like never before. Each missed tackle and resulting line-break will be analysed to within an inch of its life because it's not 1990 any more, the game has moved on. So who has moved on the furthest?

I think that, up until the autumn internationals when they were hammered by Australia, nobody would have bet too heavily against the French. However, with coach Marc Lièvremont appearing almost schizophrenic in his selection, who knows which team will turn up? One thing is for sure, though: experimentation is a process undertaken to garner information and reach conclusions, so he'd better decide what his team is pretty soon as the World Cup is coming and the French public will expect cohesion as a minimum.

Wales have lost their most valuable player. Yes, James Hook is their best player and Stephen Jones calls the shots but on the back foot they, like any three-quarters, are rendered next to useless. Adam Jones, the big tighthead with the funny hair, has for years now been the quiet cornerstone on which the Wales team have come to rely. He showed his power on the Lions tour to South Africa and has been doing so ever since both for the Ospreys and Wales. He may look a touch too well furnished for the modern game but do not be deceived; he is built for purpose. The forward momentum he achieves will, in his absence, show its true value.

I think England will win the Six Nations' Championship. I just don't see where on the field they will be overcome. I don't see who will outscrummage Sheridan and Cole. I don't see who will carve Tindall and Hape to pieces . The line-out, with Lawes and Croft missing, is an area that all-comers will target but England have the resources to simplify, adapt and overcome, of that I am sure. Behind the brick wall England have, in Ashton, Cueto and Foden, the competition's most incisive back three, so it's not all brute force. They will find a way to win and, in World Cup year, this is all that matters. Forget periods of building, forget trying different combinations and forget buzzwords. Winning is all that matters, all that ever mattered. England need to arrive at the World Cup with a wave of momentum, as they did in 2003. They need to be in the habit of winning, prettily or otherwise.

So never mind that the seats are now made of plastic, never mind that there are now as many cameras as there are fans, the goals remain the same as ever. This time around we just need the Scots to play ball.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform