At last the gusto, chatting and mind games can finally come to an end as we find ourselves on the eve of the start of the Rugby World Cup. This is not any ordinary World Cup being hosted in England. You feel a repeat of their run to the final in 1991, the last time the tournament was played on home soil, represents the bare minimum most fans, players and pundits expect. We at Bark.com have been as guilty as anyone in getting excited and with friends across the Severn Bridge becoming sworn enemies over the next couple of weeks; it promises to be a tasty pool stage.
The plan is that much like the class of 2003 and the Ashes Winning side of 2005 and the football team of…oh wait… this side has the ability to inspire a nation. It may lead to younger children looking for coaching or perhaps for those already playing and seeing the size of those on the field, regular trips to the gym or hiring a personal trainer may be on the cards. It could well be the flexibility of the players that has you in awe and in that case don’t be afraid to do a Ryan Giggs and hire a yoga instructor or find a Pilates experts but there is always the far more appealing option of finding a hiring a massage therapist to ease those muscle aches and pains.
If participating isn’t for you then there is still plenty to do as a spectator and a number of ways to enjoy the experience. While most would have been unable to get their hands on tickets or flat out refuse to pay the extortionate fees, the TV at home or pub with friends represents a decent alternative. You may want to host a rugby-related event for friends and family, or you could leave the barbecuing to the expert and let the good times flow. If you’re really going to get in to the tournament, you may also be keen to look the part and get the shirt of your choice to help support your team; you will not be struggling to find Rugby World Cup memorabilia for the next six weeks.
Hope can often be one of the worst human emotions but hope is exactly what this English team represents. If a tricky group containing fellow heavyweights Australia and Wales can be negotiated and South Africa can be avoided in the quarter-finals then England can expect to go pretty close to claiming the Webb Ellis Trophy which they last won down under in 2003. An encouraging Six Nations performance, much-improved display against Ireland in their final warm-up and a patriotic Twickenham crowd who will be present throughout has given renewed confidence to this mercurial but inexperienced England side. The likes of Jonathan Joseph, George Ford and Andre Watson all have the ability to be match winners on their day but none have ever played so far as a minute in a World Cup match. Be bold, courageous and back your skills should surely be the advice to let these young flyers flourish.
You only have to look back to 1995 and the victory for the Rainbow Nation and the iconic image of Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar to see the enormous unifying nature that the tournament can offer. Let’s hope the country can take heed from that competition as well as the feel-good factor of the 2012 London Olympics and get behind the home nations and give the whole country a lift.