Poms be grateful Roy and HG are Aussies without equal

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The Independent Online

As a player Clive Woodward scored four Test tries for England, a centre with an eye for the gap. These days the Red Rose coach is less subtle, a fan of the Samoan sidestep. "I lived here for five years, and 99.9 per cent of Australians are fantastic, but one or two idiots ruin it," he said, trampling over the critics in another week of Pom-bashing Down Under.

Could it be that Woodward was referring to H G Nelson and Roy Slaven as the "one or two idiots"? Probably. Messrs Slaven and Nelson might be virtual unknowns in Britain - though they did host 10 shows of Planet Norwich here in 1998 - but they have been drawing audiences of 900,000 during their nightly programme, The Cream, on Channel 7.

Viewers of ITV's evening highlights package were on Tuesday treated to a cameo from their show. Having seared themselves into the Australian consciousness since first appearing in This Sporting Life in 1986, Nelson and Slaven were shown living up to their motto: go in hard, often and hit hard.

They are full of Australian bias, but it's blatantly, crudely light-hearted, unlike that displayed by Nigel Starmer-Smith during England's sweat against Samoa. Jonny Wilkinson became "Wilkie", "Wilko" and "JW" as if he was everyone's mate, while the Islanders were given the full patronising treatment. It was reminiscent of a cricketing moment a few seasons back when the South African Daryll Cullinan faced an appeal for a Ricky Ponting bat-pad catch. "Got 'im, got 'im, that's out!" shrieked the ever one-eyed Bill Lawry. To which Tony Greig barked: "Oh sit down, shaddup, he's not out." And he wasn't. Greig alongside Starmer-Smith, there's a thought.

But I digress. Nelson and Slaven, whose show The Dream drew rave reviews during the last Olympics, will appeal to you if you don't take things too seriously. They are added value to television in a country where all sport is covered with rabid fascination. In Britain there is no equal. They Think It's All Over and A Question Of Sport are as close as it gets to people having fun in the studio, but these two manage to do it with a brand of base humour that appeals to the late-night patriot.

They will try to rub you up the wrong way if you're anything but Australian, and appear to have succeeded with Woodward. "Trust those bloody Poms, hey," opines Slaven. "They come here with a 15-man plan but they end up playing a 16-man game." His mate guffaws. "But what about the Scots, hey. They're playing stuff that we last saw in the 12th century," says Nelson. "Bloody right. But were you around to watch them in the 12th century?" adds Slaven. "Nah, but I have seen tapestries of it," comes the reply. The thud was those falling off the sofa Down Under.

Another few verbal jabs at the Poms, the South Africans and French, before settling down to the subject they do best: Australia. "Let's talk about the Wallabies now," gushes Nelson. "Did you see that? 142-0... go you good things. C'mon Australia." Cue Slaven: "I know it was at the Adelaide Oval, but they were playing rugby not cricket, hey."

Having seen The Dream most nights for a fortnight at Sydney 2000, I am a fan. As a duo they beat Ant and Dec, a slick combo whose goody-two-shoes image is the antithesis of HG and Roy - brash, rudely patriotic, juvenile, and funny in a not-so-funny way. It has to be remembered at all times that they are Australian, marinading in their own smugness brought on by myriad sporting successes. Their programme comes with a parental warning: by no means take them seriously. Especially you, Mr Woodward.

Back to the studio and the experts for the evening, François Pienaar, Ieuan Evans and Nigel Melville, were asked for their view. Pienaar, who as a South African will share an Antipodean sense of humour - but who knows who his paymasters are here - shook his head in mock disapproval, but the Welshman and Englishman were genuinely unimpressed. One could almost see The Cream team slapping themselves on their backs and heading off for a schooner. Job done, then. Off to work on upsetting a few more Poms next show.

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