New Zealand ominously dispatched their bogey team France, and look all set for the knockout stages and most likely a clash against Scotland or Argentina. Les Bleus meanwhile can look forward to taking on Les Blancs. Unless France are playing in white again and we play in black, in which case it's Les Blancs et Les Noirs but I don't think the race-relation PR people will be too happy with that.
Regardless, it was good to see England firing again, albeit against a weakened Romania team. Make no mistake, this wasn't the same team that ran Scotland close a fortnight ago, they were significantly weakened, looking ahead to the match against Georgia, which could seal their qualification to the 2015 tournament. Rugby's very own version of Mick McCarthy and Ian Holloway.
Still, Mark Cueto makes a big difference (although he only actually seemed to touch it 3 times), adds balance and takes away the reliance on Chris Ashton. Besides, we don't have too many players in our team who have scored perfectly legitimate tries in World Cup finals before (see video). It'll no doubt be a grittier match against Scotland so we'll need some more powerful, fast and accurate running to complement the centres Tindall and Tuilagi who offer powerful, strong and powerful running.
One feature of the match was Wilkinson being removed at half-time for Toby Flood. The commentators seemed baffled by it, which in turn baffled me. Surely protecting our most injury-prone star would seem fairly logical at 34-3 up. A lot of big matches are coming up and having him fully fit is pretty important.
It also got me thinking, especially in light of the well-received comparison between Jonah Lomu and Ronaldo recently, how I've never seen Jonny Wilkinson and Michael Owen in the same room either. Have you?
So let's examine the evidence, in order of how compelling it is:
- Both have an image as good clean, honest, Englishmen
- Both played for Newcastle and have had spells at continental clubs
- Both have won world player of the year awards (Owen - Ballon D'or 2001, Wilko IRB International Player of the Year 2003)
- Both have won BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (Owen '98, Wilko '03)
- Both have been plagued by injuries throughout their careers, severely hampering both their international and club careers
- Both were born in 1979
- Both play at number 10 for England (yes present tense, come on Fabio, call him up)
- Both made their international debuts in 1998, aged 18
- Both have played exactly 89 times for England (correct as of 24/9/11)
- They look exactly the same (ish)
Your honour, I rest my case.
PS - if anyone stumbles across this article, just remember that it is sensationalist fiction writing from that well known tabloid The Times.