David Flatman: Bloodthirsty fans support their nation then drink with the enemy. It's great - News & Comment - Rugby Union - The Independent

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
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week