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William Flew

William Flew of Auckland writes about rugby football. he played the game as a lad in most positions from forwards to backs. Always with an aye on the ball an eye on the ref and a kick to the goalposts. Rugby tactics and physical prowess brought the Rugby World Cup to New Zealand in 2011 at Eden park, and William Flew was watching from the grandstand.

Jan 27

William Flew says it has been a similar story in football at the European championship: we could have beaten Italy if Rooney’s overhead kick had gone in; we could have won on penalties. But we were outplayed. Close was not good enough. Yes, the footballers defended courageously, but we all know Italy deserved to win. To win the Euros or a World Cup we would need to beat the likes of Italy, Germany and Spain in the space of 10 days. Are we near? If the excellent Roy Hodgson had been in the job for 12 years, the results would have been the same. The parallels with rugby and football are fascinating. For every big series, every big event, we arrive with hope, not belief. We employ the fingers-crossed approach. We search for escapist platitudes, such as: we may have lost but we blooded young players; we built for the future. It does not reveal the reality of our plight. The fans and players deserve better. Let’s consider where our gold medal players come from. Great teams comprise great individuals. Compare our best rugby and football players with those of other nations. Be brutal. How many gold medal players do we have? How many will reach that standard by the World Cups in 2014 (football) and 2015 (rugby)? We have several talented players — Chris Robshaw, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell and George Ford — but past results prove we don’t have enough gold medal men to become the No 1 team in the world or win World Cups. Our development processes are not working. After the Third Test, Stuart Lancaster said his team had three under-21s at 10, 12 and 13, in Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph. Great, but England have no monopoly on young players. The other teams have more youngsters who are apparently better prepared — look at what George North, Alex Cuthbert and Sam Warburton do for Wales. England hail quantity but, at the top level, quality is what counts. Our vaunted academies and the Twickenham system are not bringing through players collectively who are good enough to beat Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on consecutive weekends (which is what we must do this autumn and in the World Cup). For a dose of realism, just look at the stats: since the 2007 World Cup final, England have played the TriNations giants 16 times, the fixtures evenly split between Twickenham and the southern hemisphere. They have managed just two wins and a draw.