Only the most optimistic England supporters expect any other result at Twickenham today except a routine All Blacks victory over the Red Rose. So few are the talking points that captains Chris Robshaw and Richie McCaw spent most of their pre-match press conferences discussing events of the past rather than the future — namely Robshaw’s leadership whoopsies against South Africa and Australia.
We shouldn’t be too surprised, therefore, that the juiciest stuff is emerging in the phoney wars of the opinion columns.
They too are still more focused on last weekend’s events rather than today’s shakedown in London, as New Zealand take great offence to how the British press have dissected Andrew Hore knocking out Welsh lock Bradley Davies with a swinging arm, copping a five-week ban in the process.
Yesterday’s New Zealand Herald’s editorial none-too-pointedly cried foul at the notion that the All Blacks, as well as being world beaters, are also naughty boys.
“Hore’s reputation in this country will forever be blighted by a seal-shooting incident. That was given another wearisome, and irrelevant, trip around the block this week. So, too, was the British media’s tiresome contention that the All Blacks are repeatedly guilty of dirty deeds.
“Fewer than a handful of examples in more than a century of international rugby hardly offers convincing evidence. Hore’s offence was as much to do with committing it in their backyard as the act itself.”
Herald columnist Paul Thomas gritted his teeth loudly in explaining why there was no grovelling public apology from Hore.
“Because Hore promptly apologised to Davies privately, rather than publicly, because the All Blacks gave him a bollocking behind closed doors and put process before PR, (outspoken rugby journalist) Mark Reason wonders ‘if New Zealand rugby will ever learn how decent society behaves’.
His claim ‘many good men and women in England are ashamed’ implies that New Zealanders who don’t happen to see it his way are somehow morally defective.
“In 2005, Brian O’Driscoll’s dislocated shoulder generated a sewage pond of this sort of stuff from Reason’s former colleagues in the British media, including analogies with Japan’s failure to apologise for war crimes and quasi-racist garbage about what a dour, uncultured, widely despised lot we are.
“Then as now, the irony is that those who accuse us of being so blinkered and provincial that it deprives us of our moral compass are the ones who are lacking any sense of proportion.”
For all this posturing in print, the AB’s still have a job to do on the pitch tomorrow as they play their 14th Test of 2012. But McCaw says thoughts aren’t yet turning to their impending holidays.
“From a mental point of view this year hasn’t been a drag, it’s been a challenge that I’ve enjoyed.
“The guys realise that if we get the job right on Saturday, it will reflect on a pretty good year.
“If we don’t then all the hard work we’ve done we’ll look at through a slightly different lens.
“There’s no doubt I’m excited about having some time off, but I haven’t thought too much about it because I want to make sure I perform well this week, both personally and as a team.”