As the whole of Europe holds its breath in the run up to Euro 2016, amid a new French Revolution, some of us look forward to a summer of rugby instead.
There is lots of talk about Wales playing in New Zealand, though few reckon they will win, some talk about Ireland’s tour of South Africa, which is more keenly anticipated and nobody is really bothered about Scotland’s tour of Japan.
Instead, all eyes are on England’s tour of Australia, which kicks off in Brisbane on Saturday.
The news in the Netherlands, where this writer hails from, has been all about the New Zealand Ambassadors who will play against Castricum RC that same day. But the other news from Castricum has been the anger over the new F-35 JSF fighter jet not flying over on its sighting lap around the country. It seems the thing ran out of kerosine over Amsterdam and cut its lap short.
The JSF is a brilliant piece of equipment on paper. But it costs far too much and now it turns out it is not nearly the triumph that it was reckoned it would be. It is lacking a number of things it was supposed to have, and while these were being built their main rivals were renewed and are performing incredibly well.
And for those of us who watched the schoolboys game played between England and Wales at Twickenham just over a week ago, the comparison cannot be lost.
The RFU is the richest union in the northern hemisphere, perhaps the world. They have a huge player base, again probably the biggest in the world. And yet they have underperformed for a long time now. They won the World Cup in 2003, but since then it has been rather lacklustre. They came close to success at the World Cup in France, but lost out to the Springboks. And ever since they have slumped away. It was clear they needed a new generation.
We all thought they would have been ready last autumn. We keenly anticipated their triumphant sighting lap. Instead they were a dud during their own World Cup.
And then the Six Nations happened. They won, rather impressively, under the expert engineering supervision of Eddie Jones, and everyone was enthusiastic about their chances in Australia. This was the new generation England. This was the RFU’s F-35 JSF moment.
Then we saw them against Wales. Both of the teams were a shambles. England carried the day, but they were far from impressive.
The big problem with the JSF right now is that its Gatling gun will not be ready until 2019, which means that while it is, strictly speaking, operational, it lacks serious firepower. And that was probably true for England as well. The guys from Saracens had played in the Premiership final the day before, and they missed that firepower. They missed that striking ability. With them back though, they should have that cannon ready to fire at the Wallabies.
And yet, there has to be doubts. While the engineer’s skills cannot be doubted, the support staff is great, and the pilots themselves well trained, with skills honed in battle, England have not been tested in earnest.
The JSF has not faced the Russian SU-45 or the Swedish Grippen, or the French Raffalle in combat. The English team has not faced the top of the range since their dismal World Cup. This year’s Six Nations gave us a surprisingly good Scotland, a strong but powerless Ireland and a below par Wales, not to mention a crashed French airliner and an Italian two decker prop plane.
This English team lack some crucial components. They are encumbered by different ideas on how to play the game.
The potential is huge however, and Eddie Jones is one of the greatest engineers of teams there is. But with all that is going on, not just around the team itself, but throughout the organisation, it is a miracle the whole thing is even airborne.
Paul Peerdeman, Pundit Arena