Do or Dyer
As Nye Bevan famously put it:”… no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for Clive Woodward.”
So, when Lord Bald popped up on the radio during my morning commute earlier this week, opining that Wales wouldn’t be able to handle the roar from the Twickenham crowd, it put paid to any hope, however remote, of my assuming tea-making duties at the office.
Roar? Twickenham? Even when England are ascendant the place still sounds like a house cat with indigestion.
My expectations for this Six Nations were so low that I’m not feeling the usual gut-wrenching jeopardy before games. I mean, it’s all over, isn’t it? Well, not if you’re Rio Dyer it isn’t.
Before today’s kick-off, JPR and Barry were honoured with genuine affection and reverence. The pull of that era has lasted my entire life. It was glorious and something that will always exist in our collective imagination as a beacon of how great this nation can be when the conditions are right.
When Barry John retired, it set the stage for Phil Bennett and I felt echoes of that in Wales’ performance today. Dyer was everywhere, on the end of passes, in the way of English attacks, and chasing up kicks as if his life depended on it.
The obvious story of our campaign this year was Louis Rees Zammit’s exit for helmeted ambition. Best of luck to him, it’s a bold gamble. Nature abhors a vacuum, though, and Rio Dyer has the same kind of insane desire to achieve for Wales that reached its Platonic ideal in Ray Gravell and recently found a conduit in Dan Biggar.
He isn’t the only player sweeping away the past, either. Keiron Assiratti is shaping up to be a front-row nightmare for any team.
But, here in the Station pub, stumbling distance from Wattstown RFC, where Assiratti started out, it’s all a bit subdued. Nobody is expectant, or lairy. Piss and vinegar are missing from the atmosphere.
I’m the same: resigned as I edge my way past the pool-players to a seat with a view away from the gossip. Nobody thinks we’ll win this, it’s obvious.
So, going in ahead at half-time was cool, but pregnant with dread, wasn’t it? We’re at a low ebb and ‘Twickers’, ‘HQ’, ‘TW1’ is a good venue for smoked salmon but a dreadful place to mount a resurgence of Welsh rugby.
Once England held the lead, I gave up in my heart, been there too often. You can tell when it’s all going to hell and there’s no dignity in praying for miracles. Next to me though, were two wise youngsters, and their energy reflected the team.
‘Ferrchristsakes, what are you kicking for?’
And when Dafydd Jenkins, our Captain, was interviewed after the game, looking for all the world like a young king from antiquity, you could sense the possibilities that could unfold.
This team only lost in England because they don’t yet know how to deliver a coup de grace.
The skill, grunt, and daring are there already, pushing us within a couple of points already.
The WRU have a side that could shock the world if it keeps them. It’s time to look forwards.
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