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Tuesday 29 July 2014

French laissez-faire a huge worry for Six Nations

Sean Diffley

Published 17/03/2012|05:00

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The English rugby team bad losers? Arrogant? All I can say is that the perpetrators of those particular descriptions clearly haven't had much contact with the Welsh and the French.

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Mind you, it's not that the English suffer from having an underwhelming humble opinion of themselves. The American poet Ogden Nash aptly summed it up: "Every Englishman is convinced of one thing, viz / To be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is."

But an arrogant rugby team? The No 1 gladiator of the Irish team, Stephen Ferris, doesn't think so.

Speaking to the Irish Independent's David Kelly, he refers to his experience on the Lions tour in 2009 where he got to know a few of them.

"I've a lot of respect for all of them. I got on well with all of them and became good friends with some of them."

Down the years I have been on a few Lions tours, at the typewriter side of the operations, and in my reporting duties have found English players among the most helpful and gentlemanly.

The likes of Bill Beaumont, Fran Cotton, Peter Wheeler, Mike Slemen, Paul Dodge and Tony Neary would never be termed arrogant.

Of course, the media pressure on English players is immense -- much greater than on their counterparts from the other countries.

Certain tabloids across-channel are dedicated to discovering off-field shenanigans and are not much concerned about reporting mere matches.

Which means that the Irish, the Scots and, to a lesser extent, the Welsh, can conduct their playing careers without the fear that Poirot is looking over their shoulders

And as we head into this last weekend of the Six Nations it must be admitted that so far it has not been a championship that will rank high in terms of entertainment.

The Welsh, Irish and the English deserve merit marks. The Scots and Italians have been awful and the French seem not to be even mildly interested.

This attitude of the French could be damaging to the championship, which has been lauded as the best annual international competition.

Sport tends to be popular in cycles. Remember the times when showjumping and snooker were top of the ratings on TV? They are now prime examples of dying interests.

The trouble with the French is that the sugar-daddies with unending cash supplies are dominating the club scene, willing to pay millions to the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter.

So, the tendency of many French players is to consider club loyalties more important than playing for France.

It's a similar situation to the English soccer team, where it has become obvious that certain top stars on six-figure weekly salaries find playing for their country something of an unwelcome chore.

As for Twickenham today, I suspect that, with both sides gifted with steadfast defences, there will a scarcity of tries and the match may be won by penalty goals.

So, Ireland please, keep the penalty count down -- 14 were awarded against Declan Kidney's men in the Scotland match. Ridiculous. And Nigel Owens is the referee today...

Irish Independent

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