The Calvin Report: No contest as ultimate warrior tames beast

Bloodied and bandaged, Tuilagi triumphs over Bastareaud in heavyweight clash that highlights the modern game's obsession with collisions and brute force

The blood stained the left side of his shirt from neck to breast. His biceps bulged, his head was swathed in a bandage and his socks lolled around his ankles. Manu Tuilagi presented the image of a warrior and the Twickenham crowd duly fell at his feet.

Men like him populate the mythology of international rugby. They are tribal totems, symbols of virility, resilience and fortitude. Their reputation goes before them and reveals the character flaws of opponents in pivotal passages of play. Tuilagi scored the only try of another remorseless England performance.

It was another demonstration of the strength in depth that makes a first English Grand Slam for a decade a probability, rather than a possibility. He also won the game within the game.

Mathieu Bastareaud, a squat, brooding figure with the taut shoulders of a weightlifter, had been billed as his nemesis. So much for all the predictions and macho posturing.

The Toulon centre, supposedly Mike Tyson reincarnate, was closer in spirit to Audley Harrison. He failed to punch anywhere near his considerable weight and was substituted, without acclamation, seven minutes from the end.

The Beast was brushed aside contemptuously, and even upstaged by a moment of beauty from his partner Wesley Fofana, a man he could break in two and use as a toothpick. France were given a moment of hope by Fofana's frolic through a series of missed tackles, but ended the game in familiar disarray.

Size matters, these boys would give the Incredible Hulk an inferiority complex. They are a cross between gym bunnies and lab rats, hugely powerful creatures whose muscular frames are a testament to nuanced nutrition and the subtleties of sports science.

It was instructive, in the build-up to the most eagerly anticipated of Six Nations contests, to watch that timeless try by the French coach, Philippe Saint-André, against England at a pre-corporate Twickenham in 1991. The fluidity, imagination and sheer nerve of the move was mesmeric, but the body shape of the players was equally striking.

They were recognisable as normal human beings, strong and sinewy rather than the hulking, heavy-duty athletes on show yesterday. The 1990s featured lighthouses, rather than brick outhouses. Fitness and physical durability has already been identified as an area of potential advantage in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup.

There is no point in being coy about it. The collisions between behemoths like Tuilagi and Bastareaud generate an almost primeval excitement. The impact of human missiles, meeting in midfield, causes a collective intake of breath.

The crowd had to wait 22 minutes for its first trial of strength. There was a murmur of anticipation as spectators were two steps ahead of a move which climaxed with Tuilagi ploughing through Bastareaud and two other Frenchmen. A second run through the gain-line, legs pumping and eyes ablaze, was wasted.

The crowd were not impressed by the weakness which allowed France to eke out a narrow half-time lead, but growled their satisfaction as Tuilagi swooped, with surprising suppleness, to collect a low, bouncing ball some 40 metres from the French line. His acceleration was instant and decisive.

His domination of Bastareaud was completed when he bullocked through and over him a second time. The Frenchman was taken off immediately after conceding the penalty which enabled Toby Flood to make the game safe.

Twickenham is all the better for being annexed from the Nanny state. Its visitors imbibe a month's worth of alcoholic units in an afternoon and totter home replete, anaesthetised. The violence is theatrical and, since it is all reserved for the pitch, delivered by proxy. The thrill of combat is vicarious.

Yet there is a darker side to the game's thirst for individual confrontations, those bone-juddering, brain-shuddering hits. Concussion rates have been rising and the insecurities of professional sport mean some players are tempted to play down the consequences.

The Rugby Football Union, to their credit, seek to educate, especially at junior level. Coaching resources include guidance on potential concussion, with 10 symptoms and a series of questions to be asked of anyone who appears groggy.

These are: Which ground are we at? Which team are we playing today? Which half is it? Who are you marking? Which team scored last? Which team did we play last week? Did we win last week?

 



Victory, in sport can come at a forbidding price. American Football is convulsed by the long term implications of physical duress. Persistent head impacts increase the risk of a specific form of dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It can lead to other forms of dementia including Alzheimer's. Evidence from other physically challenging sports is accumulating.

In Australia tonight, a TV programme presented by the former Wallaby, Peter Fitzsimmons, will present evidence of widespread problems in Aussie Rules football and both rugby codes.

Doctors warn of the long-term damage inflicted by "sub-concussive impacts". These are the hits which sting and stun but don't knock the victim out. They are an occupational hazard for people like Tuilagi.

Truth be told, the blood yesterday, which seeped from his wound, was less dramatic than it looked. He had earned the right to live for the moment and took full advantage of it.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones