Whatever the shape of the ball nothing aggravates an Englishman more than a defeat by Australia. It is sport’s equivalent of haemorrhoids.
Conversely victories over the men from Down Under are arguably the sweetest of all.
Step forward Gary Pratt whose reduction of Ricky Ponting to a volcanic madman when he ran out the Baggy Green captain in the 2005 Ashes series, was the work of a genius.
Yet even given the relative demise of Australian cricket such moments are rare and we were given a reminder of that nation’s peculiar sporting prowess at Twickenham on Saturday. What were supposed to be beleaguered Wallabies turned up in London for what was supposed to be a scrummaging lesson and what was supposed to be a double-digit defeat.
Instead it was the visitors who handed out the lessons and the defeats and the hosts who ended up beleaguered amid much gnashing of teeth about spurned kicks at goal.
Where hysteria reigns we should apply a little context and acknowledge the fact that since the Rugby World Cup final in November 2003 the sides have met on 12 occasions and England have won on just four.
Half of those matches have come at Twickenham where the Wallabies have prevailed four times compared to England’s two.
We should not be surprised. Neither should we be react with baby-and-bath-water type calls to change this player, that player, this combination or that combination to make it all better. It won’t get better by doing that.
Which is why I was so pleased to see Stuart Lancaster defend Chris Robshaw’s right to stay in his team. No-one was questioning the back rower’s right to lead the side when England were scrapping their way through the Six Nations and no-one suggested he was the problem when he was winning the turnover battle in South Africa in the summer, so calls to move him to the blindside – or even drop him, are ludicrous.
Yet there are probably half-a-dozen other players who are also having their places questioned. To some Manu Tuilagi is a failure at outside centre, Dan Cole’s future is compromised, Geoff Parling is under threat and Thomas Waldrom is apparently not good enough.
No-one is denying they should have done better against Australia but it is simply not practical to drop everyone whenever England lose or they have a bad game. Players and teams have to grow and evolve not change every second game. Thankfully Lancaster is a teacher and by definition appreciates the value of a good lesson learned and continuity and minimised variables are so far the guiding principles to his reign.
And just to pre-empt this weekend’s clash with South Africa. England haven’t beaten them in ten attempts. We should be surprised if they do this time.