At the risk of wishing one's life away, and why do that while England are on top of the world, last night's celebratory nod to the recent past also offered a glimpse of the future.
Clive Woodward, whom many of the Twickenham throng probably suspect of possessing magical powers, worked a three-card trick in his threequarters by furthering the education of the next generation while also toeing the line of the grumbling Zurich Premiership clubs. From 11 to 14 we saw England's blue-eyed boys who could line up in the same formation for the defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007.
The players' principal employers, the clubs, are fond of claiming that they create these young bearers of the red rose. It is, at best, a little disingenuous. The tender loving care of people like Pauline Simpson and Mike Daniel, whose son James is one of the hottest of the tips for the top, had something to do with it. So too sundry coaches and teachers who nursed Gloucester's lavishly talented wing through school.
At its worst, the tiresome, continuing antipathy between clubs and governing body rivals in its longevity, if not intensity, the spat between Manchester United and the Football Association. The chairman-owner of North-ampton, Keith Barwell, was the latest to wade in, adding his criticism of this match to that of Leicester's Dean Richards, who called it a "Mickey Mouse" affair.
Barwell's comments drew a hurt response yesterday from Francis Baron, the Rugby Football Union's chief executive. "Contrary to Keith's claim," said Baron, "all 12 of the Zurich Premiership clubs supported [this] game unanimously." That's not what Leicester, Gloucester and Northampton have been saying since the World Cup. Luckily there are accountants around to remind Barwell and co of the hefty contribution made to their coffers by HQ gate receipts.
Fortunately such muddled thinking seems happily absent from the minds of the likes of Simpson-Daniel, Ollie Smith, Stuart Abbott and Ben Cohen. If these twentysomethings play their cards right, or more accurately carry on catching the cross-kicks as Cohen did for England's first try, their earning potential for the next four years should nudge comfortably into seven figures. In past generations they might have been doctors, or lawyers, now they push weights and study playbooks.
Theirs is the inheritance of Sydney 2003, and on this evidence, and that of a sprinkling of caps to date for Abbott, Smith and "JSD", they are ready to handle the legacy. Cohen, as the senior partner with 35 Tests, filled his customary role as an occasional battering ram up the middle, but the two centres showed more than enough nous and guile to get by on their own.
Abbott's slashing break made Paul Grayson's first half try, albeit the Wasps man may have been guilty of ignoring a pass to Smith on his outside. Put it down to pragmatism on Abbott's part. Barbarian opposition or no, England's World Cup tiros have a cold-eyed disregard for excessive frippery. They are more admirable than lovable, if one is honest. But then, England have had enough lovable losers over the years.
Cohen stormed through from a tapped penalty for his second try, and batted another Grayson crosskick down just after the hour mark for the alert Simpson-Daniel to sweep up another score. But the sharp-eyed threequarter quartet - average age 23 - were unable to steer clear of some distinctly uncelebratory Barbarians biff. Abbott got clattered by a high tackle but played on, wiping the blood from his nose, until he was carried off. You could almost hear the grinding of teeth from Wasps.
Meanwhile, Mike Tindall, an England incumbent and still only 25 himself, announced his presence as a substitute with a try-saving tackle on Tanner Vili, and ran in the sixth and final try. The future's all white, all right.
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