MARTIN Johnson, you have officially used up one of your nine lives as England boss.
Despite an alarming run of three consecutive defeats which has seen England slip to sixth in the world rankings, an astonishingly kind World Cup draw has given his side a glimmer of hope that they barely deserve.
Having slipped into the second pool of seedings before the draw, the big worry was that England would be drawn against one of the big three of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Instead, Johnno can thank his lucky stars that the name that came out of the hat was, in fact, Argentina.
The fourth seeds, whose ‘talents’ include stamping, name-calling and sticking their tongues out at the ref behind his back, are light years behind the big three and represent the softest of soft options. Joining them in what looks set to be dubbed the ‘Everybody Hates England’ group will be Scotland and two unknown qualifiers.
“A lot of people may think we have got a good draw, but it will be tough.” said a stony-faced Johnson before retreating to his office and dancing a jig of delight in front of the mirror.
Even England can’t screw this up now. Can they?
• WE’RE sorry to malign Australia’s Billy Slater still further but we’re tempted to suggest whoever chose him as the Golden Boot winner for 2008 must have forgotten to bring their ultra-thick specs for the World Cup final.
For those of you who didn’t see his cock-up, Slater, on seeing the ball about to bounce over the right touchline at the expense of a scrum, launched himself Spiderman-style after it and hooked it straight to New Zealand’s Benji Marshall, who gratefully dived over the line for the crucial try. If he’s the world’s best player, we’d like to also nominate Gordon Brown for the ‘most charming smile’ award.
• WE might all love the end-of season play-off drama, but this is getting ridiculous. From this season onwards, it’s going to be possible to win the Super League title without even finishing in the top half of the table.
As it stands, the top six teams qualify for the play-offs, where they battle it out to determine who finishes as Champions.
This season, with Celtic Crusaders and Salford City Reds joining the top flight, you will only need to come 8th out of 14 to make it.
OK, we can live with that. If 1st place plays off against 8th, 2nd plays 7th and so on, it will be a David v Goliath style clash, but that might work. But no, instead they’ve chosen a solution so convoluted it makes Spaghetti Junction look straightforward. We don’t have enough space to explain it but at one point the highest ranked team actually gets given a choice over which team they play next.
We’re just hoping that the winner turns out to be someone so absurd and undeserving that the RFL scraps the play-offs altogether.
Wakefield Wildcats – destiny awaits you.