By Alan Dymock
LIKE THE one belligerent guest at a wedding, shouting over the dancefloor at midnight, Jim Telfer has today shuffled out and labelled England “arrogant” and Wales “lazy”.
Needless to say, the forthright and frank attack by one of Scotland’s living legends printed in the Daily Mail, on the day of England and Wales’ opponents naming their teams for the first Six Nations clashes, has reverberated through the rugby community this morning, with a mixture of anger and glee, and don’t we just love it!
The former Lions coach is no stranger to a gibe. He is famous for his blunt honesty. However, with the Six Nations finally upon us, he is not the only one bearing arms in the war of words.
Already today, former Wales head coach and current Ireland under-20s coach Mike Ruddock has said he “fully expects” Wales to succumb to the Irish this weekend, without Warren Gatland.
A few days ago Scott Johnson sarcastically said of his English counterparts and their injury concerns regarding Manu Tuilagi, “That just leaves you with another 40,000 players to pick from, it’s a sad story”. Ouch.
Indeed, Scotland’s coaches perennially feel the urge to aim criticisms at the English, with even Johnson’s former boss Andy Robinson – born in Taunton – pushing himself to talk of English arrogance in the past.The Scots can be seen as a bit of a soft target themselves, of course. Often there is plenty to nail to the changing room wall for motivation.
In 2009 French Grande Fromage Marc Lievremont described potential defeat to Scotland in Paris as “true humiliation”, just one example of the French enjoying an opportunity to wade in. Perhaps most famously, in recent times at least, Imanol Harinorduqoy said in 2003: “As far as the English are concerned, I have decided to adopt the same attitude as them: I despise them as much as they despise everybody else. And as long as we beat England, I wouldn’t mind if we lost every other game in the Six Nations.” Sacrebleu!
One year later, Brian O’Driscoll spoke candidly of meeting up with England at Twickenham and giving “the prawn sandwich brigade something to choke on”.
Harrumphing ahead of all the others, though, is Gatland himself: the grand master of the tactical grenade into opposition territory.
In 2010 the Irish Independent’s Vincent Hogan described the current Lions head coach as a “menopausal warthog”, one year after Gatland declared the Welsh disliked the Irish more than any other nation they regularly faced off against. He has singled out England hooker Dylan Hartley for special treatment in 2011, pulling apart the Saint’s throwing technique. He even drew the ire of a famously calm and calculated Paul O’Connell, who once described the coach as believing himself to be like ‘the Special One’ Jose Mourinho.
Without him in the mix Ruddock may be right and the Welsh may struggle. However, the game may also miss Gatland’s acerbic press conferences. Rob Howley is not the type to spit insults at top international players. Mind you, Shaun Edwards is not one to shy away from a cutting barb.
Let battle commence!