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Image by MykReeve on Wikimedia CommonsThe weekend just passed saw the occasion of the one hundred and sixty third University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the Tideway in London. Long having been a follower of the event (at which for entirely spurious reasons I always cheer for Oxford) this year’s late start – determined naturally by the tides – meant that I was able to watch the BBC coverage of the race live from the other side of the world. It was a good tight race which Oxford deservedly won, but they were pushed all the way by the heavier Cambridge crew.

I must confess to a twinge of nostalgia whilst viewing the race. The school by which I was employed immediately prior to retirement lies on the banks of the Thames on the Surrey side of the boat race course. Reference thereto is made habitually during the BBC race commentary, particularly in years in which some alumnus of the establishment is himself taking part in the contest.

The TV coverage this time around afforded a fleeting glance of the ongoing building works at the School, showing it already to have been transformed from the place that I knew to somewhere considerably more remote. Such things are – of course – ever thus…

The best way to watch the Boat Race – by the by – is probably by staying at home and following the TV coverage. An event that takes place at reasonably high speed over a four mile course gives little opportunity for involvement on the part of the spectators who are actually present – and unless they have had the foresight to have provided themselves with some means of following the commentary (by radio or on the InterWebNet) they stand little chance of knowing what transpires whilst the competitors are out of their sight.

Those of good fortune might find themselves invited to a gathering in one of the buildings that flank the river. Should the hosts have provided large screen TVs, a copious supply of ‘Harry Champers‘ and what Canadians call ‘Appies‘, one can amuse oneself by getting gently plastered whilst following the build up to the main event – rush out onto the balcony to watch the eights fly past – then back in again to see how it all turns out in the end.

My best viewing experience – however – came about back in the late 80s through having a dear friend whose sister was that year the cox of the Oxford boat. My friend – being a lady of ferociously single mind – determined that we would watch the race from beyond the finish line – in the boathouse at which the Oxford crew would disembark after the event. She swept past the security proclaiming that she was the cox’s sister and we camp-followers stumbled along behind crying “We’re with her…!”. We watched on the big screen as our friend’s equally ferocious sister bullied the Cambridge cox out of the race before rushing down to the foreshore to cheer crew and cox as they landed in triumph.

Happy days!

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Image from Pixabay…say nowt!

Way back in the mists of time – around the midpoint of the 1990s – I was invited by a supplier to attend a grand gala charity dinner somewhere in the centre of England. The guest of honour at this sizable gathering was a very senior male member of the royal family who has something of a reputation for speaking his mind! Jolly good value he was too.

As it happened the event coincided exactly with the semi-final of a major football tournament; though not being a follower of the sport I don’t recall which. The major surprise on this occasion was that England was one of the combatants. I will hazard that the other was Germany. To the consternation of many of the male guests at the gala event the match started at around the same time as did the dinner.

For a period the Master of Ceremonies – who was keeping everybody informed as to the evening’s proceedings – also regularly briefed those assembled with progress reports on the match, leading to a huge cheer when England scored a goal. A while later – however – after announcing that the opposition had equalized all such reporting ceased abruptly, to the consternation of many of those present who started to fidget nervously. Word went around that the royal personage had let it be known that he did not want to hear reports of England losing to the Germans!

The event proceeded much as would be expected until some time later when I looked around the grand ballroom in which it was being held and realised – to my surprise – that I was one of the very few males still in the room, the which seemed now to be populated solely by members of the fairer sex. A short while later there was a loud groan from some distance outside and a crowd of dejected dinner-jacketed alpha-males trudged back into the hall. It turned out that a large screen TV had been installed in the kitchens so that the chefs might watch the game and all those who just couldn’t survive without knowing the score had slipped out to join them.

It also transpired, of course, that England had – as usual – contrived to lose on penalties!

Now – you may be wondering why I have chosen this particular moment to share this ancient anecdote. Well – I promised a few weeks back that I would not be giving a running commentary on Scotland’s progress in this year’s Six Nations championship. In homage to the Duke it is safe to say that if Scotland are losing you will almost certainly hear nothing about it from me.

If – on the other hand – they are winning, as they did yesterday at Murrayfield for the first time in a decade against the Welsh… then mighty congratulations are in order, a wee glass of good cheer may be raised and radio silence might be broken so that I can pass on my congratulations to my countrymen and all concerned.

Of course, things may then go quiet again for a while…

 

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1280px-PandemoniumA little under four years ago the United Kingdom was picking its gingerly way through the mongrel days of the final run up to the 2012 London Olympics. It is fair to say that a great mood of cynicism – even pessimism – hung heavy in the air. The world financial crisis was at its height and it seemed somehow perverse to be spending a fortune on a festival of sport in such straightened times.

Perhaps worse, there was a very real fear that the country would wake the morning after the opening of the Olympiad to find itself the object of ridicule and derision for what many people believed was going to be – particularly by comparison with the lavish state-devised extravaganza from Beijing four years earlier – an amateurish and embarrassing debacle. On the night of the opening ceremony at least one UK journalist – submitting copy to catch the early editions before the event had started – penned a devastating critique along just such lines.

It took less than ten minutes for the great majority of those watching to change their minds utterly.

My post to this journal of the following morning included this:

As you may have deduced – I spend Friday evening watching Danny Boyle’s bizarre, amateurish (in the best sense), messy, insanely brilliant opening ceremony. I fell off the sofa laughing. I howled like a baby – at some points so hard that I could scarce catch my breath. In the kaleidoscopic whirl of layered references (oh what delight – an Olympic opening ceremony incorporating subtlety and ambiguity, whilst at the same time displaying complete self-confidence!) I repeatedly heard and saw images and ideas in the magical musical and visual smorgasbord that made me cry out, “Yes – that’s us… and that… and that…”

The gentle reader is most probably by this point scratching his (or her) head and wondering what could have triggered this brief exercise in nostalgia. The answer is – of course – the recent BBC documentary in the ‘Imagine’ strand entitled “One Night in 2012“. I am not ashamed to report that viewing this one hundred minute documentary – for which pretty much the entire creative team for the ceremony had been re-united – rendered me helpless all over again. On this occasion I was moved not only be the heart string-tugging moments from the show itself (though that did indeed happen) but by the stories of its genesis and evolution.

Confirming once again my view of Danny Boyle’s genius, we heard how the very impossibility of competing with the huge sums of money and military organisation that the Chinese had thrown at the Beijing ceremony had led to the decision being taken very early on that this show would not only be about ordinary people, but that it would feature them as the main element of the performance itself. To that end a huge army of volunteer performers was auditioned and cast as actors, dancers, musicians and stagehands.

I was touched deeply to see how the artistic team set about moulding such a vast company of amateurs with widely varying skill sets into well-drilled teams who not only put on the performance of their lives but also clearly loved every precious moment of it. The producers and directors, community choreographers, composers, drum tutors, costumers and technicians who helped to give this gift, not only to those involved in the show but also to the 80,000 in the stadium as well as to the billions watching on TV, were truly inspirational – in every sense of the word – and I doff my toque to them.

One delighted performer described how he had taken part in the show expecting to spend the evening applauding others – the athletes, dignitaries and so forth – but instead found himself part of a team that were themselves being widely and rightly lauded.

After watching the documentary I was moved once again to search out the film of the ceremony on the InterWebNet. I simply cannot get through it without dissolving. The climax of the opening Pandemonium sequence (which is, I think, exquisite in its entirety) as the newly forged Olympic rings come together above the stadium and burst into fire – leaves me gutted and gasping for breath every single time!

Kudos once again to all involved – and it still is not too late for the knighthoods!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidYour hair may be brushed, but your mind’s untidy.
You’ve had about seven hours of sleep since Friday.
No wonder you feel that lost sensation.
You’re sunk from a riot of relaxation.

Ogden Nash

To Vancouver for a weekend’s worth of hedonism!

The primary reason for the trip was the first of this year’s summer rugby internationals – between Canada and Japan. This match had the added interest of being the first ever game of XVs rugby at BC Place – a stadium more familiar with Canadian football and soccer.

We stayed in an old haunt – the YWCA Hotel – which is within a stone’s throw of the arena. As you can see from the accompanying photos (which were taken from our room on the ninth floor) it seemed almost possible to lean out and touch the ‘place’.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is nothing fancy about the ‘Y’ but it is a most effective place to rest one’s head at a very reasonable rate if the object of the exercise is to live lavishly out and about in Vancouver rather than to treat the accommodation itself as the destination.

As for the rugby, the game was most enjoyable – for the Kickass Canada Girl and I as well as for the other 10,250 odd who turned out to see the spectacle. Rugby is still only just starting to grow as a sport in Canada and as much of the attention is focused on the VIIs game – particularly with the Rio Olympics (now featuring, as it does, 7-a-side rugby) on the near horizon – this was a pretty good crowd.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidHere are Canada warming up before the masses arrive for the match.

Japan are considerably higher than Canada in the world rankings and – having registered a famous victory over South Africa in last year’s World Cup – they might have been expected to record a straightforward win. As things turned out Canada would have had them beaten had they within their ranks possessed a decent kicker. They succeeded, however, in only one out of six attempts at the posts and that is no-where near good enough at this level.

The final five minutes of the match provided a fitting climax and – regardless of what had gone before – almost led to a Canadian victory. Needing two scores to win they camped out on the Japanese line and finally drove over with about a minute left on the clock. They wasted no time with the attempted conversion but set about winning the ball from the restart. They then kept the final move alive deep into injury time, driving further and further into Japanese territory until the whitewash was within reach.

The crowd – cheering itself hoarse by this point – believed for a moment that a famous comeback had been effected and the match taken, but the referee judged that the ball had been held up over the line and Japan won by two points.Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Phew!

After the efforts of our vigorous supporting – and having had a post-match drink with a Kiwi rugby friend in an extremely noisy hostelry thereafter – our tender vocal chords needed soothing treatment from a nearby ‘nitro’ ice cream bar after the game.

At this fascinating establishment ice creams are made on demand on the spot, using copious quantities of liquid nitrogen. Sauces to top the resultant concoctions are presented in plastic syringes embedded into the ice cream.

Cool!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Image by Nheise at en.wikibooksI found myself the other day musing on the subject of false memory. I will explain momentarily why I should have been so doing, but I should first clarify that I am referring to false memories themselves and not to ‘false memory syndrome’ – which is rather different. On the latter Wikipedia offers:

False memory syndrome is a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships center on a memory of a traumatic experience that is objectively false but that the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have inaccurate memories. Rather, the syndrome is diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual’s entire personality and lifestyle—disrupting other adaptive behavior.

Nothing disruptive in my case – just ‘inaccurate memories’. In a 2013 article for ‘Time‘ Tara Thean wrote:

The phenomenon of false memories is common to everybody — the party you’re certain you attended in high school, say, when you were actually home with the flu, but so many people have told you about it over the years that it’s made its way into your own memory cache. False memories can sometimes be a mere curiosity, but other times they have real implications. Innocent people have gone to jail when well-intentioned eyewitnesses testify to events that actually unfolded an entirely different way.

I have long been aware that certain memories from my very early childhood are demonstrably false. Having spent the first six years of my life in what is now very definitely a suburb of the London metropolis I am convinced that I can recall the infamous ‘pea-soupers’ – those sometime lethal London smogs. That the ‘Great Smog‘ of 1952 – as a result of which some four thousand people are thought to have died – led in the ‘Clean Air Act of 1956‘ to the banning of the burning of all but smokeless fuels within the capital, suggests that any memories that I have of such events are probably incorrect, particularly as I – born as I was in 1954 – have no other clear memories before the ages of four or five.

Much the same must apply to my ‘memory’ of having seen horse-drawn milk floats ‘when I were a nipper’! As far as I can work out they pretty much all disappeared shortly after the war to be replaced by electric floats. It may have been that there were still horse-drawn rag and bone carts when I was young, but I’m not sure why I would transmute one into the other.

The reason for my recent reverie concerns a slightly later – and in many ways more puzzling – false memory. I was watching – a few days ago – a BBC documentary on the 1966 Football World Cup. (Now – who won that? Gosh – it is so hard to recall!) The reason for the broadcast was – of course – the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of that momentous occasion.

Now – I didn’t watch the 1966 final. It would be yet a good half decade before my parents agreed that we could have a TV, though I could – of course – have watched it elsewhere. I was instead, however, otherwise engaged on the day.

My memory is that I was attending a combined boy scout/girl guide camp at a local campsite that particular weekend. The memory – in which others present were listening to the match on transistor radios – has been quite clear in my mind across the intervening years. I can even vaguely recall the celebrations when the game was won.

Except that – none of that was true! Whilst watching the documentary it quite suddenly – after all this time – occurred to me that I would have been only twelve years old that summer. Those joint scout/guide camps were – understandably in view of the the mores of the time – only for boys and girls at least three or four years older than I then was. I was obviously at some scouting event, but it clearly wasn’t that one…

Odd to think that, whereas as one grows older one expects childhood memories to become less clear, in cases such as this it is the past memory that proves to have been faulty.

Maybe there is hope for us old farts yet…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good lawn must be in want of a croquet set

Oh dear! Not only should I apologise for carelessly bastardising the sainted Jane, but very definitely also for choosing such a tired and inappropriate gambit with which to open this post in the first place. In my defence (should such be possible) it is a blazingly sunny early June day and I am simmering gently the summer’s cauldron (thereby also misappropriating XTC!) that is our glorious garden (yard – whatever!) and frankly it is just too damned hot to come up with anything better!

Where was I?

Oh, yes! Croquet!

For reasons that are simply too tiresome to go into now we arrived from England last year in possession of a box of composite croquet balls. No mallets! No hoops! No stake… In fact none of the other essentials of the noble game whatever.

Having – however – a lawn of appropriate dimensions (albeit one that has a distinct slope to one side and whose surface comprises rather more moss than it does grass) meant that the urge to be able to play a round or two grew slowly but steadily to the point at which it could no longer be denied.

Warned off by the (occasionally) helpful pundits on the InterWebNet I chose not to purchase a cheapie croquet set from Canadian Tyre, but instead did my research and located a source of ‘decent’ (if expensive) mallets and other accessories. Forthwith did we then invite friends from near and far to spend the day with us, with a view to engaging in a little light barbecuing and the christening of our croquet lawn.

The gentle reader will hardly need me to report that when came the day in question we were subjected to the one twenty four hour period of foul weather that has been experienced in these parts for the last several months. Rains deluged upon the lawns – winds whisked detritus from the trees and deposited same all over my lovingly prepared greensward.

“Ah!” – you cry (particularly should you hail from merrie England) – “But surely you didn’t let a little thing like the weather put you off?”

Of course not – don’t be silly! Croquet was played and – at the risk of immodestly blowing one’s own brass instrument – the honour of the home team was well and truly upheld.

The following day the sun returned to its rightful place in the cloudless skies and all was again well.

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Image by Superbfc at the English language WikipediaYou might have thought that my recent post regarding the outcome of the second inquest into the causes of the deaths of the ninety six victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster would be my last word on the subject. I suspect, however, that there will be yet more to come as the saga continues to unfold over the years.

This truth was brought home yet again last night in harrowing fashion as I watched Daniel Gordon’s two hour documentary – ‘Hillsborough‘ – made for the BBC and ESPN. The first version of this brilliantly judged work was completed nearly two years ago and shown in the US and – subsequently – in New Zealand. It could not at that time be shown in the UK for legal reasons; for fear that it might prejudice the outcome of the second inquest which had then just begun.

The film has now been extended in the light of the outcome of that inquiry and can now finally be seen in the UK and elsewhere. Should you yet feel uncertain as to the import of these recent events – or should you even perchance still harbour some misconceptions as to the truth of what really happened on that dreadful day and throughout the intervening twenty seven years – I urge you to take the time to watch this chilling memorial to the suffering of the families whose loved ones did not return home from that intended day of celebration.

Though I have been reading about the tragedy since the day that it happened, even so I learned things from this film that I had not previously known. This merely demonstrates anew just how much the authorities tried to keep hidden over the past two decades and more.

For example, I did not know that there had been another not dissimilar crowd control problem at an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough – some eight years earlier. On that occasion the crowd at the Leppings Lane end had been allowed to spill out of the stands onto the border of the pitch itself to avoid the crush. When – during the post mortem to that event – it was suggested that there had been a lucky escape and that modifications might be required to prevent future injuries or deaths, the ground’s owners and engineers dismissed the suggestion and did nothing.

Indeed – in the intervening years matters were made very much worse as a result of the FA’s misguided attempt to combat the hooliganism which seemed endemic to the game during the 1980s. The standing room terraces at the Leppings Lane end of the ground were turned into pens by the construction around them of fences of spiked iron railings. When lightening did indeed strike a second time the supporters were unable either to escape onto the pitch or sideways along the terracing as had previously been possible.

In another unfortunate circumstance the vastly experienced police superintendent, Brian Mole, who should have been in charge of the crowd control operation on the day of the disaster, was moved to another district a couple of weeks prior to the event. This followed a ‘hazing’ incident some months before in which a young police constable was one night subjected to a mock abduction by masked gunmen posing as armed robbers but who were in fact colleagues from the constabulary. Those concerned were disciplined firmly and Mole – though having no involvement himself – was moved.

His place was taken – at two weeks’ notice – by a man who not only had little experience of supervising such major events but also clearly had little understanding of football or of the habits and motivations of its followers. David Duckenfield was responsible for the two key actions that shaped the tragedy that followed and the appalling campaign that succeeded it.

First, he took the decision – when the crush of Liverpool supporters trying to get through the totally inadequate number of turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end looked to be getting out of hand – to open one of the exit gates to allow a large body of fans through to relieve the pressure outside. This was done without first having either sealed off the immediate entrance to the two already packed pens which was directly in front of the exit gate, or of ensuring that there were an adequate number of stewards or police inside the ground to direct fans to the still mostly empty pens to either side.

Then – as the inevitable tragedy was still being played out immediately beneath the windows of the control box in which he was located – Duckenfield lied to Graham Kelly (the FA representative at the ground) telling him that drunken ticket-less Liverpool supporters had broken down the very exit gate that he had himself ordered to be opened. Kelly naturally believed what he was told by the senior police official present and wasted no time passing the information on TV commentators and journalists. Thus was born the false myth that the supporters were to blame for the deaths of the ninety six, which was then seized upon by those in charge of all of the authorities concerned as a means of covering up the truth as to the multiple liabilities for the fatalities.

Daniel Gordon’s documentary is not an easy watch but it is an essential one if we are to fully comprehend this recent period in our history, for it has implications far wider simply than those for game of football or for this one appalling, tragic, but completely avoidable incident.

 

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justice-collectiveThis day – twenty seven years after the event – the second inquest into the Hillsborough disaster – having been convened after the findings of the original inquest were quashed following the report of an independent panel four years ago – finally declared that the ninety six Liverpool Football Club supporters who lost their lives on that terrible day were killed unlawfully.

Though this is far from the end of the process – the Crown Prosecution Service may now decide to commence criminal proceedings against those deemed to have been culpable – it is to be hoped that the relatives and friends of those whose lives were lost can now finally grieve them properly and that – for their sakes – a line can be drawn. The shameful treatment to which they and others were subjected throughout this outrageous miscarriage of justice must, however, never be forgotten.

It is now clear that terrible mistakes and lapses of judgement were made both on the day and beforehand by those charged with ensuring the safety of the fans attending the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest that was to be played at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

Terrible as were the events of the day itself, however, what followed was in some ways even more awful. The twenty five year campaign of obfuscation and misinformation that was waged by executives of all of the key agencies – the aim of which was to draw attention away from those actually responsible for the disaster, in large part by pushing the blame on to the supporters themselves – should of itself in any just world give rise to criminal proceedings.

That these attempts at evasion found support through the active or passive collusion of other forces of the ‘establishment’ leaves a stain which may not be removed in our lifetimes. The then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary – Bernard Ingham – wrote a letter to one of the Hillsborough campaigners in the mid 90s blaming the tragedy on “tanked up yobs“, a slander for which he still refuses to apologise in spite of the new inquest’s complete exoneration of the supporters’ behaviour.

The divisions in English society that have been increasingly actively fostered from the 1980s onward must surely in part be to blame for such reprehensible attitudes. As long as a monied and powerful elite – puffed up with its own sense of entitlement and residing primarily in the south east of the country – determinedly sets itself apart from humbler mortals throughout the rest of the land, the notion that the latter belong to some lesser order that can be traduced as desired will – though unspoken – continue to prevail.

It seems to me inevitable that – unless the growing inequality that blights modern society can be reversed – such travesties on the part of those in authority are likely to continue.

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photo by Gary Henderson on FlickrBy 4 o’clock (UK time) in the afternoon on Sunday last three of the four quarter-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup were already done and dusted…

…as was northern hemisphere involvement in the tournament!

Almost!

The English were not present, having a pressing engagement elsewhere for the start of the Aviva Premiership season.

The Welsh had fought valiantly against the English, against the Australians and against the human frailties that had robbed them of an in-feasible number of their stars. In the quarters the South Africans were just too strong – too wily – and found the means to shut them out at the last.

The fancied Irish also ran out of steam and out of their characteristic good luck, but in a rather more dramatic and emphatic fashion, being well beaten by an Argentine side that suddenly looks as though it does after all belong in the top-tier.

The French came up against the All Blacks. The latter – who had throughout the pool stages looked far from being themselves – mindful maybe of their embarrassing and uncharacteristic defeats at Gallic hands in the 1999 and 2007 competitions, now suddenly switched into overdrive, burying the French in a manner (63 – 13!) from which recovery will take some considerable time.

The remaining quarter-final pitched the form team of the World Cup to date – the Australians – against the lowly Scots. For those of the Scottish diaspora the omens – let alone the odds – looked anything but propitious. Before the game the bookies were offering 9 to 1 against a Scottish win, with the Australians as favourites to score the first try – the last try – to be leading at 20 minutes – at half time – at 60 minutes and at full-time. The minimum anticipated margin of victory was 11 to 15 points, with some suggesting that the Aussies might even better the total achieved by the All Blacks the previous day.

Had one of such a mind switched to the coverage of the match with a little over five minutes remaining he or she would have been quite taken aback to observe the Scots running in an interception try – and making the subsequent conversion – to take the lead – 34 – 32! For four magical minutes it looked as though the Scots might actually maintain this slender advantage, until an outrageous refereeing decision (and we rugger fans really don’t like to complain about match officiation) by South African Craig Joubert handed the men in yellow an undeserved penalty which gifted them a one point victory with less than a minute to go. Joubert further incensed the Scottish fans and commentators alike by sprinting from the arena immediately after blowing the final whistle, eschewing the customary hand-shake with the captains. This does all rather smack of an altogether different sport and is to be firmly deprecated.

No matter. What’s done is done. The Scots actually exceeded their own expectations of the campaign, and there is no small irony to the 6 Nations’ Wooden Spoon holders being the side to get closest to a semi-final berth. It is no secret that many Scots are well and truly sick to death of having to wear the ‘plucky loser’ tag. On this occasion – however – I think that it may be borne with considerable pride.

Bravo the Scots!

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imageStreaming coverage of the Rugby World Cup matches from ITV in the UK to the enormous TV that the previous owners of our new house very kindly donated to the cause has proved a big success.

Rather too much of a success, perhaps, since some of that which has been on display has not made for comfortable viewing. The less said the better concerning England’s ingnominious departure from their own tournament before the end of the pool stages – though in my humble view some frankly bizarre selectorial decisions contributed in no small measure to their untimely demise. There is no small irony in the fact that only in the last dead-rubber game against minnows Uruguay were my preferred half back combination of Ford, Joseph and Slade seen in action together.

That Canada fared no better is – of course – mitigated by the fact that they were not expected so to do. It would have been good had they managed at least one win, but sadly their best opportunity – against Romania – saw them squander a 15 – 0 lead well into the second half – eventually losing 17 – 15.

Wales and Ireland both did well to get into the quarter finals – Ireland in particular gaining a convincing victory over the French and thus avoiding an unpleasant encounter, at this early stage of the knockouts, with the All Blacks. Unfortunately both teams have suffered injuries to key personnel which may count heavily against them as the tournament proceeds.

The Scots achieved their prime objective of a quarter final berth losing only to the Boks – though they had to work pretty hard against a Samoan side with nothing to lose to come out ahead of the brightest lights of the tournament thus far – Japan. The Japanese – who host the next World Cup in four years’ time – not only beat the feared South Africans but also became the first side in the competition to win three out of four pool games and still not make the quarters.

The Scots’ reward is an outing next weekend against the form side of the tournament thus far – the Australians – who have turned around several years of lacklustre performances to peak at the right moment.

Do the Scots believe that they can overcome the rampant Aussies? Of course they do? Is that likely to happen? Er – no!

Though I would not be caught putting money on that particular outcome I might we’ll be tempted to a flutter – if I were a betting man – on the final featuring the Australians and the All Blacks.

Hmmmmm!

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