Tomorrow England play Australia in the Rugby World Cup final. Yesterday in Sydney, the world cup was very much in evidence, and there was at least one reference to it in every meeting I went to. Back in Melbourne, the fever has died again (the team sport they care about here is the footie: Australian Rules Football).
There has been one interesting side story that has struck me. Australia beat New Zealand last Saturday in the first semi-final game. The Kiwis are apparently in mourning (rugby means absolutely everything in NZ). But in all reports, the New Zealand players and public will be supporting Australia, their neighbours across the Tasman Sea, tomorrow night.
Contrast this with England’s neighbours, Scotland. I was speaking to the manager of my hotel this morning. It turns out he is originally from Aberdeen (his family moved when he was a bairn). He spoke yesterday to his aunt in Aberdeen, commiserating about Scotland’s 6-0 loss to the Netherlands in football. His aunt told him, “Oh well, just you make sure you beat England on Saturday night. That will make everyone here happy.”
Last year, during the World Cup in Korea and Japan, Scotland was the same. I had a friend who had business in Glasgow on the day of the England-Argentina match. His office up there was decorated with Argentinean flags and everyone was wearing blue and white.
I know there are centuries of animosity to overcome, but this detestation of any England representative team strikes me as sad and foolish. If the roles were reversed, just about everyone in England would be cheering on Scotland. Shouldn’t the Scots grow up?