MARK KEOHANE has cautioned against reading too much into France’s mauling of England, or writing off the Roses as a threat to the Springboks’ crown in France.
Last week’s 53-10 defeat against reigning Six Nations kings Les Bleus at Twickenham was England’s heaviest home loss, and their third-worst loss ever, with the likes of former Bok coach Nick Mallett slamming the tactics of the English against the French.
Ireland has been the most consistent team in world rugby for the past three years and are currently ranked No 1, and the Boks’ other big-name 2023 World Cup pool opponents Scotland look ominous in the Six Nations.
This, as eyebrows are raised on whether the All Blacks can still challenge for an unprecedented fourth Webb Ellis Cup, based on an indifferent 2022 campaign and discussions over head coach Ian Foster’s successor clouding their World Cup preparations.
In his TimesLIVE column, Keohane argues that using performances and results – especially in the abbreviated 2023 Rugby Championship – to gauge of what will happen at the sport’s global showpiece in six months’ time is nonsensical.
“Too much emphasis gets put on this four-year cycle between World Cups,” he writes. “Coaches, who lose more than they win or who lose when they should be winning, hide behind the excuse that it is all part of a master plan building towards the World Cup.
“The reality is that a team can have a near-perfect World Cup build-up, in the year of the World Cup or the preceding three years that make up a four-year cycle, and still bomb in the playoffs, and in some cases get whistled out of the tournament because of match officiating and loss of players to yellow and red cards.
“Teams and players build momentum in the World Cup, no one match is played in isolation, and a team’s fortunes can be decided by the outcome of another match. There are no guarantees a team wins the World Cup and there is only one team that can win it, which is why the building for a World Cup four-year excuse is so lame.
“The reality is that teams produce different performances in different tournaments that are played outside of the World Cup and in one-off tour-type internationals.
“The Six Nations, in which France gobbled up England by a record 53-10 at Twickenham, is not the World Cup and should those two teams meet at the World Cup, the environment and pressure will be in absolute contrast to that of a week ago.
“Keep the champagne on ice, just for now, as reports of England’s death are exaggerated in the context of World Cup rugby.”
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