It’s February, and the people of Wales are throwing themselves into our annual feast of bi-polarism with all their usual outspoken joie de vivre. In the pubs and bars of Cardiff, on the streets of Swansea, in the crèches of Llanelli, and even in some places north of the M4 corridor the usual merry optimism of the Welsh is in full flow. In several small towns, admissions to casualty for self-inflicted injuries have actually increased by a lower percentage than predicted. In a futile attempt to pour some of the cold water of realism onto this raging fire of Assembly-sponsored happy-clappiness, Gwlad contacted a spokesman for True Wales to run his eye over the lines up ahead of the England game.
He told us that Wales should be grateful to lose, that English people are simply more intelligent and inventive than the Welsh, and that if we revealed his name, he would be mown down in cold blood by Welsh-speaking killing machines from the Assembly.
Once we’d got rid of him, we decided that we could count on our own pessimists to provide the necessary calm counterbalance.
Wales vs England (inspired but not sponsored by Turks are Infidels)
Obviously enough, we don’t need to discuss whether or not Wales will win – we just need to put a ball-park figure on how badly we will lose, and what the most embarrassing moments will be. Forwards win matches, and backs decide by how much. In this case, the result was decided when Adam Jones joined Gethin Jenkins on the injury list, but the actual score will depend on how many generous interception passes James Hook decides to throw.
Our front row, of course, is decimated. Actually, if it had only been decimated, we’d be understandably happy – but since we’ve been two-out-of-three-imated, it’s got the potential to be like a re-run of the Keystone Cops. The two replacement props will be invisible around the park, Dylan Hartley will prove Gatland wrong by successfully gouging Matthew Rees when nobody is watching, and our scrummaging will make grown men cry. Unfortunately, they won’t be English.
The lineout, of course, we can depend on. It will be as much of a lottery as ever, and England will steal our ball any time we actually happen to find ourselves in their 22. We’ll throw optimistic balls to the tail of the line whenever we’re under pressure, and we’ll take the safe ball to 2 if England are down to 14 men at any point.
The all-important contact zone will be enthusiastically contested (we really have improved in this area) for at least the first half an hour. After that, Sam Warburton will go down with a groin injury that will keep him out of the rest of the championship, and we will start to produce more turnovers than a Breton crêperie. The score will begin to look stomach-churning at about this point, and weaker souls may well vomit over your shoulder and into your pint.
The backs, meanwhile, having been touted as the most dangerous unit in the northern hemisphere in the run-up to the game (in the Wasting Mule, anyway), will have been giving every single piece of possession they get to Jamie Roberts on the crash ball (apart from when they have a two-man overlap, at which point Stephen Jones will kick for Halfpenny to chase, Cueto will take the high ball and Foden will score under the sticks). If he doesn’t start, Jonathan Davies will come on at the 60 minute mark having been told to give it a lash on the off-chance we can get back to within 40 points; he will produce four bullocking runs which create overlaps, all of which will be wasted by little chips ahead from other players, and he will then try his own little chip ahead which will go straight into the hands of Chris Ashton. Foden will score under the sticks again.
With 15 minutes to go, the English supporters will break out into a four-part rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and we’ll have to listen to them for at least five minutes. You’d be well-advised to take an iPod along with you to get you through this stage of the match – although the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) say it will probably make you deaf. No, really. With ten minutes to go, however, you’ll be given a level of temporary relief when Shane Williams scores two spectacular solo tries. The second of them will bring Wales back to within only 45 points, and convince the nation that we are, and I don’t quote, ‘going in the right direction’.
Warren Gatland will tell us after the game that Wales have shown they can be competitive with the best in the world for 15 minutes, and only need to keep that up for the other 65. The WRU will promptly offer him a contract extension and a holiday home in the Gurnos.
England will move on to their second Grand Slam in the professional age, while Wales look forward to facing Scotland at Murrayfield on the back of news that Matthew Rees will be out for the rest of the championship, and that Stephen Jones has an ingrowing toenail which will prevent him from travelling to Edinburgh. Some Welsh supporters will think this is a good thing, but they will be proven tragically wrong in the worst result for Wales since Llywelyn the Last took on Edward the Bastard.
Disclaimer: this article apologises for not having mentioned Gavin Henson. He will be injured at an autograph-signing session in Soho during the England game, and will spend the rest of his rugby career trying to break into the Saracens 2nd XV.