Reflections On England v Ireland Match.

With apologies to the poet Robert Browning and the opening lines to his poem, Home Thoughts from Abroad.

"Oh to be at Moss Lane, Now that April's here", can I reflect on my afternoon spent in front of the club's television watching the recent England v Ireland match at Twickenham and observing LSH 3rdXV qualifying for their Cup Final clash against their local rivals, the Ruskin Park 1st XV. Oh yes, and also receiving news that the club's 2ndXV too had qualified for the final of their own local cup competition against the Chorley 1stXV. Rugby worlds so wide apart and leaving impressions even wider on me, all captured in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

To say that the style of rugby offered by the England team was programmed and mechanical must be an understatement. Save for the final ten minutes England offered little flair, innovation, running and handling skills for the 80,000 plus crowd to enjoy. The forwards, and even the midfield backs, constantly hurled themselves at the opposition without any thoughts of attempting to beat a man by passing the ball, a sidestep, a swerve, a burst of pace, or a well worked move. Size, strength, and bulk appear to be the only components needed whether a player is a forward or a back. The average weight of the whole England team was around the 16 stones mark. A far cry from my own playing days at Twickenham when I packed down in front of a back row of 'Budge' Rodgers ,Derek Morgan, and Lawrie Rimmer who certainly didn't average 16 stones per man and lacked the height of the modern backrower. But they could all handle a ball on attack, run, link up with any back movements, and inspire open play. And, along with the likes of Dickie Jeeps, Bev Risman, Richard Sharp, Malcom Phillips, Peter Jackson and company - not a one meeting the average 16 stones weight criteria and height of the modern player -they could provide entertaining running and handling for the spectators. Will we ever see their like in weight and height making up the bulk of any future England XV again? Highly unlikely.

Back then to Liverpool St.Helens' and other clubs' Seconds' and  Thirds' teams, filled with a mix of ambitious youngsters seeking recognition, seasoned veterans, and even the occasional pensioner. A mix of players of all ages and abilities playing to the utmost of their abilities, enjoying the experience, and conscious that the result will have little effect on their futures. Am I alone in saying that I seem to get more enjoyment and entertainment today from watching the efforts of the LSH 2nd or 3rd team teams than those of the current England team?

Ray French (March 2018)