RWC 2011: A Nation Rises (To Watch Television).
I suppose there are lots of things that we might say ‘only in Wales’ about, but for want of accidentally insulting people, I’ll avoid listing some of the more stereotypical examples for the moment. Yet, only in Wales, surely only in Wales, would a statistically significant proportion of the nation get up early on a Saturday morning, drag themselves down to Cardiff on a day when no international rugby is on in the country, to then watch television. Really, without wanting to undersell the significance of tomorrows gathering, it really can be boiled down to an occasion where over 60,000 people will convene in one place to watch television…at 9am! You could picture it happening in other nations, were it not for the start time, really, 9am, on a Saturday, people in Wales who have jobs to go to at 9am on a Saturday, don’t wake up at 9am on a Saturday!
Truly, Saturday morning will be a remarkable day, and I suppose win or lose, the occasion will be a great one. Whatever result may be provided to greet or punish those hardy souls who make it down into the capital, they will at least be comforted that they go there in the knowledge that it will be shared by thousands. Not thousands down the motorway, or thousands overseas, but thousands sitting to the left, right, in-front and behind – the Millennium Stadium will be a very special place to be tomorrow morning.
I suppose the question that all will be pondering is will Wales win? Will those 60,000 have a second chance to pile into the stadium for the final the following week? Well, as with Ireland before, this blog can only conclude that there is nothing to fear for Wales from this French team. That being said, the assembled ranks of the French media are naturally saying the exact opposite, that France, with the form and weight of recent history on their side, will breeze past the Welsh…memories of south pacific horror stories are short lives in Paris.
Looking over the England v France game again, and with the whatever loyalties viewers might have had put to one side, it is very difficult to see how France secured victory over England. Yes, English defence was shambolic in the first half, yet England created, yes, that word ‘created’ is being used in reference to England, chance after chance. France were either stretched or broken through the middle repeatedly, and it is only for want of confidence and a finishing touch that cost England. Now, without wanting to be too churlish, England are not the fittest team in New Zealand, and they do not have the best attacking ability, by a long shot, yet they opened up the French line with what must be alarming ease for the French coaching team to consider.
Put simply, Wales will offer the French much, much more to deal with in attack. Hook might offer less direction as a 10 than Priestland, but he more than makes up for that with his individual ability to walk through the very best of defences. Wales can score tries against this French defensive lineup, and France will need to show a defensive grit not seen so far in this tournament. They will also need to find an extra reserve of energy, their flagging against England was almost their ruin, and Wales will be running at them harder and for longer. In short, and as with Ireland, France have to lead Wales by 8 points with 20 minutes to go, or Wales will win this game, any less and, if we base things on form and current ability, Wales should have far too much in the tank for a French team that can score tries, but is all too generous when it comes to giving them back to the opposition.
Whatever happens, tomorrow in Cardiff will be an amazing place to be, and one can only hope that the Welsh form displayed so far, carries us on to make this not a morning of support in Cardiff, but a day of celebration – if Wales do win, let’s hope the Brains brewery has stocked the city well, a win tomorrow for Wales could well see the city run dry.
Best of luck boys.