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.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice