Rugby Fantasies #5


I’ll never make it on the Apprentice.

I’m just not management material, even coming up to a Christmas sales rush at Sheets and Things, I shouldn’t get the nod.

I’m not tough enough – too soft, too worried about hurting people’s feelings, too blindingly optimisticly hopeful that things can change and people can grow.

But here’s the truth. I need to stop trying to make Flood happen, he’s not going to happen.

All week my hand has been hovering over the fantasy Six Nations bookmark, readying myself to make team changes. But I couldn’t do it. Not only did I not want to make the one change that actually needed making, I came up with the ingenius plan of making three others instead that seemed like they might be shinier versions of what I already have in Big Gay Beards. That way, I’ll not be able to cull my Tiger from his 10 spot or I’d be down to only one transfer for the whole rest of the campaign. And that would just be lunacy!

So I carried my plan all the way through to my old friends Wikipedia and BBC Sport and came up with a list. I watched the matches last weekend, I know who scored and who didn’t, I know who’s injured and who isn’t and I know who’s back from injury and who’s now on the bench instead. I even checked the stats of the new guys against the old ones. And I made a list.

A list based on exactly none of the things mentioned above.

It's so curly!

I decided around teatime on Tuesday I think, that I don’t like Ryan Jones anymore. I’m not sure he should be in Big Gay Beards, he just hasn’t impacted on the team the way he should, even for a Taff. Adam Jones though, well have you seen that hair? Change #1 I wanted. Completely unnecessary, but I need to add to the complement of big beards, Castro can’t carry the whole team on his hairy chin.

Then there’s Jamie Roberts. I read somewhere that he’s supposed to be the best in the Northern Hemisphere, it was probably The Guardian though, and what would they know? Well, lots probably. But I have Lee Byrne. Do I want Lee Byrne? I only really picked him because I’d seen him play for Ospreys, and I already know he can’t count to 15 right. That’s change #2.

Then there’s my lovely back line, and poor old Mathew one t Tait. He wasn’t particularly wanted in the first place, but Riki no c’s leg died and I needed a replacement. Also what is with the England team omitting intrinsic letters of their names? Mathew scored well last week too, and he has lovely hair. But he’s no Riki no c. Change #3.

And therein lies the crux of my problem. I don’t need any of these new players, what I do need is a fly-half who’s actually playing. But pressing that little red ‘x’ on Toby and slotting in Wilko is much harder than it seems. I’m just not ruthless enough to be a successful international rugby union manager. Maybe I should become a league convert, do they have these sorts of crises of faith?

Of course I’ve been pretending that it could all work out for the best, some alignment of the stars, co-inciding with a solar flare at the moment of kick-off that would mean Jonny Wilkinson will be out of phase with our reality for approximately an hour on Sunday. Dr Sam Beckett would probably turn up and try to fix that though, interfering tit that he was.

No, the quantum physics idea was definitely out. The only other option was to hope really, really hard that Jonny would have some dodgy linguine and take to his chambers.

So I began checking the BBC Sport website for England team updates. Not much at first, just a couple of times a day. It’s not like I needed it, I just dabbled when I felt like it. By day two I’d added a bookmark, but that didn’t mean anything, it was just a more efficient method – safer too, who knows what I could have typed? I had it under control, it was totally fine. But I didn’t have it under control – I never had. It was always controlling me. I was on a downward spiral –  leaving the page open all the time and occasionally pressing refresh – I wanted the news, I craved it, nothing would ever feel as good as seeing the words “Wilkinson out” in tiny pixels. And sports news is the worst kind of addictive, because it tricks you into thinking it’s giving you something back. “What’s that you say, a stomach bug in the England camp? Oh how terrible! Which of them has it? Is it Jonny? Let it be Jonny, go on please, say it’s Jonny!”

Then on Wednesday all my wishes came true. The England fly-half was sick – caught the same stomach bug as the others in the camp. In that moment I knew how it must feel to climb Croagh Patrick, feel the elation of pushing through the pain barrier to reach your ultimate goal. Only to have the carpet cruelly ripped from under you when on scrolling down you realise it was your fly-half that was sick and not the other one. Yes Toby the Tiger had fallen ill while Jonny was most definitely alive and, worst of all, kicking. Karma’s a bitch.

Ah he’s grand like, still going to be on the bench on Sunday, but I realised it was probably time to stop wishing illness upon others and just suck it up. So this morning I made my team change – just one, because for all his hair Adam Jones has only ever scored one try for Wales unlike Ryan. And even though Lee Byrne can’t count, he scores more points than Jamie Roberts has so far. And I do actually like Mathew Tait, he really has got the most precious hair and the rest of the Beards are very fond of him.

So that was that. Just the one change to Big Gay Beards in an effort to score more points than last week and haul myself to the top of the table. But I swear Jonny, if you and your dodgy knees let me down today, I’m going to start thinking not very nice things about you again…