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Reason's Round-Up Posted about 5 years ago

Toby Flood or Jonny Wilkinson?

Who would you trust going into a big World Cup match, Toby Flood or Jonny Wilkinson? On Saturday against Wales Wilkinson dropped a goal off each foot and set up a try with a sublime piece of timing. Wilkinson is still rated by Mr Carter as one of the two best fly-halves he has played against.

The first point to make is that England’s pool is a far from foregone conclusion. The second is that pragmatists win World Cups. There was no more pragmatic soul as a player than Martin Johnson but, ignoring his apparent desire to wipe centre three quarter play off the face of the planet, I suspect that the gruff one is capable of romantic flights of fancy. And that means Flood.

Johnson said at the weekend: “Jonny doesn’t have to prove anything to me. We know he can start a test match. It’s just a question of which way we want to go.” Apologies for wasting your time with yet another worthless soundbite. Much sometimes talks like the minister of communications for a totalitarian regime.

If Johnson really wants to represent the people, I suspect he needs to start with Jonny.

Who is going to lead England?

The fly-half question is not Johnson’s only major issue ahead of the World Cup. Who is going to lead England? Johnson’s first choice – Steve Borthwick – has already been a very predictable faller. Lewis Moody is injury prone. Mike Tindall is not sure of his place. Nick Easter can rub some up the wrong way. It’s a problem without an obvious solution.

Feeling fit in Wales

Jamie Roberts, the Wales centre, said after the England game: “We were certainly the fitter team come the end of the match. To come back from where we did and almost clinch it showed we are a strong side.”

I am not sure what Serge Blanco and John Kirwan, men who liked a long smoke after the match, might make of such a boast. Or the survivors of the South African boot camp in 2003. Or Barry John, a Welsh genius who preferred to make others run around and look foolish.

Plumbing Scottish depths

Scotland coach Andy Robinson has defended his team’s abbreviated preparation for the World Cup by saying: “I find when you’re playing tests that you’re out of control with some of the hits that are going on so I’m very happy with just having two games.” He might have added that Scotland are not blessed with the depth of squad cover that other nations have.

Dwyer get stuck in

1991 World Cup winning coach Bob Dwyer has panned the Wallabies for their performance against the All Backs. Dwyer described Quade Cooper as New Zealand’s best defender, criticised Australia’s lateral running lines and wondered why only one team were up for the big hits in the opening 20 minutes. Dwyer demanded more enthusiasm, commitment and urgency and some decent running lines in the backs.

It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white

It seems that the only things the All Blacks have to worry about at the moment are their shirts. The ridiculous price of the new strip – which can be purchased at half the cost online in America – has prompted one major store into threatening to return them to the manufacturers. They may be super skin tight, but that hasn’t stopped them being a rip off.

Maybe prime minister Key would be better off questioning such commercial opportunism, rather than accusing England of being a bunch of wannabes for wearing black. It was an extraordinarily demeaning statement for a prime minister to make. Such is the modern political clamour to be populist. Does Mr Key not know that the All Blacks away strip is white?

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Mark Reason has been a sports journalist for over 25 years. He currently works for Fairfax Media and will also be part of the Telegraph's World Cup team and a regular panellist on Radio New Zealand during the World Cup. He has covered every Rugby World Cup since 1991, the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, over 40 golf major championships, the FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a lot of other stuff he can't remember. Mark emigrated to New Zealand in 2010 having spent over 20 years covering sport for the Telegraph and Sunday Times in Britain.

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