Blessed by distance, the people of Australia have missed the full histrionics of the Brits. The Six Nations Championship generated a lot of hot air. One week it was talk of the Greatest Show on Earth; the next it was a bunch of clowns fumbling around without a big top to shield them from the freezing rods of rain.
At the death, though, the tournament came good. Wales and England put on a show to wake the weariest of union fans and everyone enjoyed the sight of the French frowning and gesticulating more than usual as they floundered at the foot of the table. Rugby has again stirred the passions up north.
A good thing, too. As unrelenting as the rain, speculation about the British and Irish Lions tour has dominated the discussion. Every round of the Six Nation generated tens of thousands of possible fifteens (except in Wales – no other home nations get a look-in on the other side of the Severn). Now these discussions finally achieve substance.
Perhaps we all become a bit insular at this stage. The sense-battering coverage of international rugby has meant that considerations of any Australian opponent have come in as a secondary concern, despite Super Rugby tootling along on the other side of the equator.
However, the rugby in the sodden hemisphere has meant there are several individuals that Robbie Deans and his staff will be concerned about.
In retaining the Six Nations trophy, Wales exorcised some of the demons of an eight-match losing streak and a World Cup draw more worrying than Donald Trump’s hair. They also exercised some big names.
Tighthead prop Adam Jones is most likely still being carried around the country, held aloft by thousands of gushing minions happy to express their undying devotion the man credited with destroying every other scrum in the tournament. Scrum-half Mike Phillips may be trailing just a little bit further behind, although probably carried by an all-female troupe.
Sam Warburton is considered back to his best, and in Justin Tipuric many believe the Lions finally have an out-and-out openside capable of taking on Michael Hooper, Liam Gill, George Smith or any other grunty snuffler Australia have in cold storage.
Second-rowers Ian Evans and Alun Wyn Jones were almost faultless. Behind them all is number 8 Toby Faletau, a man capable of posting Professor Hawking-defying numbers.
Oh, and in George North and Alex Cuthbert they have two beanstalk-dwelling wingers who can finish and in Leigh Halfpenny, the fullback, they have the stand-out player of the tournament.
As for the English, they may have been slapped like a lawsuit on a tabloid, but they have shown promise. Gold-clad fans will revel in the knowledge that nemesis Chris Ashton had a poor tournament, but in an inexperienced side, others have thrived.
Captain Chris Robshaw has shown that work rate and unending belief can carry a man forward, regardless of the number – more of a question mark, really – on his back. Geoff Parling has impressed as a straight-down-the-line second-rower. Owen Farrell has done enough to suggest that he can become a very influential stand-off. Youngsters Joe Launchbury and Manu Tuilagi have also put in good shifts, although Aussies would take heart from seeing this pair fade badly in the intensity of the final Test.
The Bog Trotters
As for the other nations, Ireland and Scotland, there are many who have staked a claim. Brian O’Driscoll will generate more speculation than most, particularly with rumours that he will call it a day for his country soon. However, if Warren Gatland was feeling particularly ruthless and was going for form over and above anything else, he could do the unthinkable and leave BOD with his young family this summer.
Away from the tittle-tattle, second-rower Donnacha Ryan has taken to lineouts well and flankers Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony have worked themselves into comas. Men at the back Rob Kearney and Craig Gilroy have buzzed as best they can.
The Sweaty Socks
For Scotland, scrum-half Greig Laidlaw has been an ice-cold killer with a kick percentage of 88% ,while in front of him lock Jim Hamilton, prop Ryan Grant and flanker Kelly Brown have ceaselessly grafted.
In the backs Scotland also have a centre, Matt Scott, who has surprised many with his footballing skills and a back-three, Stuart Hogg, Tim Visser and Sean Maitland, who have all demonstrated that they could do a job.
Even then, after looking at the Six Nations and those that have struggled, the Brits have been afforded the luxury of being able to look to men outside the international arena. In France’s Top 14 prop Andrew Sheridan, thumping lock Nathan Hines and talisman-cum-deity Jonny Wilkinson have all played to an exceptional standard and whispers of Gareth Delve’s name have drifted in from down south.
Names. They keep swirling with the squad due to be named next month. Sound like this is just a long, speculative list, doesn’t it?
That, I am afraid, is just British conditioning. You get used to it after a while. And you – you! – had better get used to it. The talk is only going to get louder and after a while we will start screaming across the water. The Isles are up for it and they will want you to know that.