Today is the start of the Six Nations tournament, and it's the first time that a certain England player who has not had an international start since 2003 will be having a run-out. Having been ravaged by injuries for so long, some are concerned that throwing Wilkinson straight into the bear-pit exposes him to unnecessary risks both to him as an individual and the team due to his lack of match practice.
Wilkinson however is the consummate professional and as long as Scotland do not go out to deliberately injure him, I believe he will be more than capable of holding up his end of the bargain. If anything the risks come from him throwing himself into the game with the same level as gusto and reinjuring himself rather than being a liability on the pitch.
The England Rugby squad do have a number of World Cup veterans who have not seen much International game time since 2003. The one I most delighted to see is the return of Jason Robinson. He scored a fantastic try in the World Cup final, and has an amazing ability to jink his way around a defensive line. Bringing him out of International retirement is great for us in the short-term, but we need to look to the future.
And on Wednesday, the England football play a friendly at Old Trafford against Spain. Hmm, an underperforming team playing against an underperforming team. I am a paid-up member of the England Fan Club, and to be frank I am not entirely convinced that I am getting value for money. There are players in the England squad that I have the utmost respect for, but England are constantly coming up short. As I said earlier, I do not believe that we are likely to qualify for the Europe, although if we do, it will be a struggle. We have (and have had for a long time) a problem with at the management level. Sven was risk averse to the detriment of the England game, and when he did take risks it was illogical ones such as taking Walcott, rather than adopting aggressive formations. If he seriously believed that a 4-5-1 formation was going to get England through to the finals of the World Cup, then he was misguided at best.
Despite my pessimism, I would have gone and seen the game if it was either a) not at Old Trafford or b) not on a Wednesday night. As it is, I am going to have to take my England regalia to work and find a pub showing it before kick off. And Wednesday is meant to be a gym night...
The players that I have the most respect for are:
- Paul Robinson: the stick he got after the Croatia game from the gutter press was a disgrace. The team are responsible for the result - not one man.
- Jamie Carragher: should be the first-choice right-back for both club and country.
- Steve Gerrard: this guy is the best midfielder in England bar none, but carries himself off the pitch with humility.
- Owen Hargreaves: I am not a bandwaggon jumper - I voted for SG as the fan's player of 2006 - however, Owen Hargreaves gained my respect a long time ago for no other reason than the abuse that was levelled at him by "fans" and he continued to put on the England shirt and play the game.