Settle back and enjoy Black stuff

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The Independent Online
I HAVE been perusing the computer analyses of the game at Murrayfield. The one in yesterday's Independent, which was by no means unique in this respect, allocated 52 per cent of line-out possession to the Scots and 48 per cent to the New Zealanders. From this I conclude that man is mightier than the machine.

For I do not believe it. True, I did not keep a count. I did not have to. Despite their average height advantage of an inch, Scotland were being comprehensively worsted in this area of play, as they were in all others.

They had a slight weight advantage, too. It made no difference. The Scottish forwards may have been taller and heavier, but the New Zealand forwards were better.

There is really little else for me to say, except to express contrition at my prediction of a week ago that the match would be decided by the boot. Though Gavin Hastings did almost everything that was asked of him, as did Matthew Cooper, the match was decided by tries.

One of them was questionable because Jeff Wilson did not seem to me to have applied downward pressure. Another one, Marc Ellis's second, was almost certainly not a try at all because the player was in touch before and after he grounded the ball.

But this is no time for quibbles, or for giving any impression of a lack of generosity. The New Zealanders were not only better but inhabiting a different rugby universe.

The most sensible advice for everyone except the players next Saturday is to sit back and enjoy it. In Martin Bayfield and Jeremy Guscott, England have lost two of their half-dozen or so world-class performers. It is unfair to expect one of the survivors, Ben Clarke, to turn out in the unfamiliar position of No 7.

This has nothing to do with the omission of Neil Back on heightist grounds, even though I would have played him myself. It is rather that, Zinzan Brooke's recent success notwithstanding, open-side flanker is a specialist position, unless the flankers play left and right, an increasingly unfashionable option.

The same goes for left and right centres. They likewise are on the way out. This brings me to Philip de Glanville. At Bath he plays inside Guscott. For England, Guscott plays outside Carling. England are accordingly fielding two inside centres.

This consideration apart, I am by no means convinced that de Glanville is the third-best centre in England. I should place Graham Childs and Damian Hopley, of Wasps, and Stuart Potter, of Leicester, ahead of him. Having said that, I wish him the best of luck after his astonishingly quick recovery from an appalling eye injury.

I am not claiming that this would have made the slightest difference to England's prospects on Saturday: but would it not have been a more enjoyable - and maybe a more instructive - build-up to the game if, instead of playing the divisional sides, New Zealand had met Bath, Harlequins, Leicester and Orrell? By chance, these top four clubs in the Courage First Division are representative of the four divisions, respectively the South-West, London, the Midlands and the North.

On form over the past five or so years, as distinct from current placings in the table, Wasps rather than Harlequins would have a claim to be the London club to take on the All Blacks. Alternatively a Wasps-Harlequins side might be put together, as a Neath-Aberavon side used to meet the touring side in Wales.

There the tourists have almost always met the clubs. Luckily, Cardiff, Llanelli and Swansea have stayed at or near the top, though Newport have declined sadly. So there is less argument than there might be in England over which clubs should meet the visiting side.

On the form they showed against Midlands and the South-West - rather than the form they showed against Scotland - the New Zealanders would have been given a close run by Leicester and Bath. On Saturday's showing, however, they would beat anyone in the world today.

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