Saturday 5 pm
Live on RTE2 and BBC1
If Chris Ashton scores a try and performs a ‘Swallow Dive’ in this match, Paddy Power will refund all losing Try Scorer and Winning Margin bets on the match.
See site for conditions.
In our experience Martin Johnson isn’t a man to be messed with.
‘The sense of humour of a grieving widow’ is one way we’d describe him.
‘As much craic as a night out in Fritzel’s dungeon’ is another.
Throughout his tenure in charge of England, the times when Jonno has cracked a smile have been rarer than Brian Moore’s real teeth. To be fair to him, having to watch dour England performance after dour England performance will do that to ya. Lately however, it’s been a more enjoyable experience. The discovery that the rugby ball isn’t a grenade with the pin pulled that doesn’t need to be kicked as far away as possible every single time you have it has led to some interesting results. England are now good to watch. Well, ‘good’ might be over-egging the pudding a little, but certainly better to watch than the repeats of Come Dine With Morons being shown on certain other channels at around the same time.
A large part of it has to do with the emergence of Chris Ashton. He’s like the unruly teenager to Johnson’s fuddy-duddy parent. Living up to that label, Johnson has been barking the orders at the youngster.
‘Tidy your room’, ‘No wanking in the bathroom before school’ and ‘stop doing those bloody swallow dives’ are some of the orders Johnson has [possibly] angrily been spitting at his flying winger in recent weeks for fear of Ashton spilling the ball before securing the try – and going blind. Somewhat undermining our Swallow Dive related Money-Back Special, Johnson has claimed victory on the Swallow Dive issue. “I’ve had a chat with Chris about the issue. All we said was, ‘Let’s get the ball down safely'” the boss explained, perfectly teeing up a vintage sitcom style moment when Ashton swallow dives for a try against France moments before the camera cuts to a furious looking Johnson in the stands.
Such is the importance of Ashton, Johnson should be well advised to let it slide. With his prodigious youngster in the side, the Sweet Chariot has a much greater cutting edge. It’s not all down to one player, but having Ashton gives some of the other players the chance to play a more expansive brand of rugby. For a long time, the main advantage of picking Ben Foden was it dramatically increased the chances of the Saturdays turning up for the post-match socialising, but alongside the considerable attacking threat of Ashton and not quite as considerable attacking threat of Mark Cueto, the full back is now part of a creative trio the type of which England hasn’t seen since 911. Rather than worrying about 6 destroyers and 1 flair player amongst the England backs, Les Bleus will have to deal with several players capable of line breaks. And – as the game with Ireland showed – France aren’t the most accomplished at containing high speed attacking play.
Hopes were high that the Scots may finally be on the road to being a power once again after their spirited performance against France in Paris, but that optimism evaporated with a dismal showing against Wales. What made it worse was the fact we had started to think they’d turned the corner, but in the end we’ve not been that disappointed by a performance in Scotland since Ted Danson in Loch Ness. They’ll need to be on guard, because some day soon, the Irish players are going to start catching the ball and when they do, other teams had better watch out.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Italy when they host Wales. After a commendable performance to almost beat Ireland, they got a sound trashing at Twickenham. The final scoreline didn’t tell the whole story, because the Azzurri actually started the game quite well, but after they gifted England a couple of soft tries the heads dropped quicker than an underage prostitute’s knickers when Silvio Burlusconi is in town. Leaving out the word ‘underage’ wouldn’t have made that joke any less funny and would almost certainly avoided any possibility of legal action from the Italian president – but what the hey – Silvio, you can drop us a mail at email@example.com if you fancy making something of it. Speaking of underage prostitutes, that takes us to Warren Gatland … no, no .. we’re only joking – there is no connection between Warren Gatland and underage prostitutes. He has however been whoring James Hook around the back line so far in the Championship. After playing full back against England and out-half against the Scots, he starts at centre for the trip to Rome. We would make a joke about him willing to try any position, but we’re in enough trouble as it is.