James Lawton: Unlike England, Moody deserves praise for leaving the party early

 

Something extremely odd happened at the end of the World Cup of rugby that Richie McCaw and Thierry Dusautoir turned into a personal issue of epic proportions. It was that England's captain Lewis Moody, as best he could given his team's performance here, joined on the list of tournament heroes his counterparts of New Zealand and France. Well, sort of.

He did it with his resignation speech, which was hardly the platform for glory granted him at the Telstra stadium in Sydney eight years ago when as replacement for the great Richard Hill he won the line-out ball that launched the move that finished with Jonny Wilkinson's winning drop goal. But, yes, it did require a kind of heroism and Moody produced it when he became the first member of the England squad to admit publicly that arguably the worst, most unprofessional campaign of a major nation in the tournament's recent history had causes other than some destructive media campaign.

Moody's courage, such as it was, went beyond this mere statement of the obvious. It also included a degree of self-criticism. He revealed that he sensed the potential for disaster, felt extreme discomfort when he left the bar at 10pm on the evening of Dwarfgate, even as some of his team-mates, including vice-captain Mike Tindall, were displaying the party mood.

It has to be noted that some in English rugby are less than overwhelmed by Moody's mea culpa even while allowing that he is a conspicuously decent character. They say it has come a good month too late and that it may not be totally separate from the need to publicise a forthcoming autobiography.

However, it is maybe worth recognising that the result is the first dent in the appalling suspicion that one of the English problems is not so much the denial of fault but a failure to understand, just about completely, the nature of it.

The retiring captain's statement has already been given an airing but the crucial segments are worth recalling in what they tell us about the pressures that were allowed to build after manager Martin Johnson's decision not to impose any kind of curbs on the public behaviour of his players, a mistake that was compounded by his failure to make any kind of significant response, as in sending the most egregious offenders back on the first plane. Crucially, and after admitting his regrets that as captain he did not order the players back to the team hotel, Moody said: "We talked about conduct, about what was acceptable and what was not. But you can only make people aware, tell them and tell them. Some people have to get burned before they understand. It is the most bitterly annoying thing imaginable."

It cannot have been easy for Moody to say these things, partly because of the implications for the regime of his former World Cup-winning team-mate Johnson, partly because it required a total contradicting of the self-serving stream of euphemisms pouring from the lips of his team-mates.

For whatever reason, Moody has done what, sooner or later, all self-respecting professionals must do. First he looked in the mirror and was not entirely pleased with what he saw. He then assessed the performance of those players who in a perfect world might have been expected to follow his lead. When the All Black stars Cory Jane and Israel Dagg got drunk, senior colleague Piri Weepu dragged them out of the bar. On reflection, Moody concludes that he might have done the same to some of his men.

That he didn't is plainly a regret that will linger down the years. However, he said what he had to say. This may not make him Richie McCaw or Thierry Dusautoir but it does establish him as an England rugby player with the nerve to note the difference between right and wrong. After the last few weeks, it is surely a parting gift of incalculable value – and perhaps a focal point for new leadership perhaps provided by someone like Sir Clive Woodward or Nick Mallett.

 

 

Lawton's heroes of the World Cup

There were enough of them to make this World Cup memorable and never a time when you feared there might be too few to mention.

The Welsh had a small division of outstanding candidates and nothing was more moving than the testimony of Leigh Halfpenny, who came to the tournament straight from a perilous foot operation and on the eve of the semi-final misadventure against France spoke of his debt to his grandfather, a former Swansea player, who met him after school and took him for kicking practice. When Halfpenny's long penalty attempt, which might have carried Wales to the final, fell a metre short you knew the extent of his sadness – you knew it was an ache that would never go away.

It was something then to see Halfpenny close the Welsh campaign in the third-place match against the Wallabies with a try that came at the end of 30 phases. It was a reminder of what this young, ultimately ill-fated team had achieved and what might be ahead.

On the international field there is nothing ahead now for 36-year-old Brad Thorn but if in the end the title of player of the tournament became a dispute between such remarkable back-row performers as McCaw and Dusautoir, Imanol Harinordoquy and Jerome Kaino, the gnarled old second-rower won himself a special place. It was as maybe the defining representative of both his team and his nation.

Thorn normally eschews showy sentiment but in the end, with the trophy gathered in, the immense All Black wept unashamedly. He did so in his pride for the country he had served so well, one which had kept its head and its courage in some desperate times.

Yes, he knew that winning the World Cup would not bring back one victim of the Canterbury earthquakes, or make any more optimistic a farmer who had seen his land ruined, or diminish the loss of those loved ones of the miners who died in the Pike River disaster, but it had brought, no doubt, some lightening of the national mood. As he put, "it's good to be able to do a little bit for your people".

 

 

Lawton's Villains

The England squad who didn't understand what they should have been about.

The International Rugby Board who imposed a cruel burden on the second-tier nations who were required to play at twice the rate of the major teams – a TV-friendly compromise that may have jacked up revenue but was ruinous to the idea that teams like Georgia and Russia could get anything like a true measurement of their progress.

Irish referee Alain Rolland who gave a red card to Wales's Sam Warburton with hardly a moment's pause for reflection or consultation and ruined one of the most important matches of the tournament. No one disputed the need for vigilance in the matter of dangerous tackling, no one said that Warburton didn't have a case to answer. However, a consensus formed by some extremely experienced rugby men, including former All Black captain Wayne Shelford, who works for a foundation which helps the most severe victims of rugby injury, was emphatic. A yellow card, followed by a review, would have been most sensible – and just.

 

 

And the slightly villainous...

Casting by the New Zealand Herald for an updated All Black version of the film Invictus, the Matt Damon movie based on the story of the Springbok triumph over New Zealand in 1995. The recommendation for the part of Cory Jane, caught out in a drinking spree, is Robert Downey Jr.

The theory is that the actor, having once been caught in possession of a bag of cocaine and a .357 Magnum while naked behind the wheel of his Porsche, would bring a certain empathy to the role, if not a whole lot to the prospect of catching a high ball in a state of extreme calm and concentration.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
News
An Apple iPhone 6 stands on display at the Apple Store
businessRegulators give iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the green light
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Britain's internet habits have been revealed in a new survey
tech
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
film
News
news
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

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style