TV View: Twickenham on war footing as wheels come off England’s chariot

Trying to drown out the All Blacks’ Haka is not a good idea – it’ll only upset them

New Zealand players perform the Haka on the pitch before the England. It would be best not to sing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ when they come to Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

New Zealand players perform the Haka on the pitch before the England. It would be best not to sing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ when they come to Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

 

You couldn’t but fear for England when Twickenham attempted to drown out the Haka with that Chariot tune; the one thing you really don’t need to be doing before taking on the All Blacks is upsetting them. But pre-match emotions were running high, what with all the war-commemorating in the stadium and the appearance of a humongous poppy on the pitch. Saturday afternoon was possibly a good time to invade Britain if you were so inclined, because most of its military seemed to be at the game.

“The English crowd taking on the Haka with a spiritual from the deep south,” said Sky’s Stuart Barnes, and he wasn’t talking about Dorset, not even the torrential rain dampening his patriotic fervour. And in no time at all, after England had gone 15-0 up, he was bursting with hope and sensing no little glory: “A white wave has just swamped the shores of New Zealand! England are rampant!”

And when the camera zoomed in on a bloodied Sam Underhill: “Underhill has a cut at the moment, but it is New Zealand who are bruised and battered!”

And when the camera zoomed in again on a bloodied Underhill: “Underhill has a cut at the moment, but New Zealand are bleeding!”

And then New Zealand won, the wheels coming off Barnsie’s chariot.

Not without controversy, mind, Underhill’s late try ruled out by the TMO Marius Jonker, and not Jean-Claude Juncker as some aggrieved England fans might have suspected, prompting a debate about offside rear feet that left the uninitiated asking “pardon?”

Front feet

All Black Brodie Retallick wasn’t too bothered by the fuss when he plonked his rear and front feet in the winner’s enclosure for a chat with Will Greenwood before accepting his man of the match award.

“Fitzy says well done, Guzzler,” Will told him, Alex Payne asking the Fitzy in question, former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick, why the player had been given such a nickname. “It’s something to do with his brother,” he explained, “he’s very tall.” Brodie is 6ft 8in so if he’s the pint-sized Retallick, his brother should be called Eiffel.

Over in Dublin, meanwhile, Ireland were having a dress rehearsal for their own tussle with the All Blacks, Argentina obliging by coming to town, the game on both RTÉ and in a slot usually reserved for repeats of Come Dine With Me on Channel 4.

And who was in the commentary box for Channel 4 only Ryle Nugent, him having been tied up of late redefining our expectations of the Mazda 6. And beside him was “Hi I’m Jamie Heaslip”, who has been on radio almost as much as Ryle, offering to fund our business ideas.

Such has been the confidence levels around Irish rugby in the last while, Jamie might have been tempted to finance the production of “Ireland: 2019 World Cup Winners” scarves for this Christmas’s market, but Saturday’s glitchy display might have redefined his expectations – temporarily, at least.

No clue

Ireland got there in the end, 28-17, as did Jamie, cutting down in the second half on his references to “Sexto”, “Bestie”, “Hendie” and “Pete”, which made Ireland sound a little like Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, Channel 4 possibly informing him at the break that their English audience had absolutely no clue who he was talking about.

Over on RTÉ, Stephen Ferris and Eddie O’Sullivan had made up by full-time, Stephen having reminisced earlier about his Ireland days when, he said, he was one of the calm, quiet lads in the dressing room. This drew a chuckle and a shake of the head from Eddie. “What are you talking about?” asked Stephen, “you never picked me, how would you know?”

The mood was, though, a little gloomy, Eddie reckoning Ireland had “got out of jail”, Brent Pope trying to persuade him to look on the bright side: winning when you’re not quite at it is no bad thing.

Plenty to ponder, then, ahead of next Saturday, the main lesson picked up over the weekend being that it would be best not to sing The Fields of Athenry during the Haka. We should be grand then. Unless, of course, Eiffel Retallick is in their lineout.

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