When I started thinking about my column, about a week ago, it looked like I would have to talk about Lance Armstrong. His face dominated every back page, and his serialised interview with Oprah Winfrey was covered in print and media. However, more than enough has already been said about him, and I refuse to give any more attention to a cheat and a liar.
Instead, I wanted to talk about some of the good parts of sport. This week, David Beckham joined Paris St Germain, to take his number of top leagues participated in to five, where he will be paid a reported £150,000 per week. In an act of generosity, he has elected to donate his entire salary to a children’s charity in Paris. Cynics will regard this as a PR stunt by a man who doesn’t need the £7 million pounds he is being paid, but for me, it restored a little of my faith in football. It is rare to come across feel good stories in sport outside of Goal or Friday Night Lights. Brief perusal of Youtube will produce endless videos of Derek Redmond, who tore his hamstring during the Olympic 400m semi-final and was helped over the line by his father, or Maria Sharapova phoning her mum on centre court after winning at Wimbledon, or even now, the odd Andy Murray clip. However, it was nice to see an act of genuine human kindness from a man who commands such respect throughout the sporting world.
Away from the thrills and spills of the transfer window, the Six Nations kicked off in quite remarkable style. Hugo Porter and Nathaniel Breakwell sum up for us, but the excitement of the opening weekend certainly set us up for an incredible championship. I talked online after the Autumn Internationals about how difficult it would be to pick a winner, and indeed a loser. After this weekend, England and Ireland have certainly confirmed their credentials, but in the second half Wales reminded us of just what they are capable.
Despite the disruption to their pack, their backline remains relatively unchanged, and the combination of Roberts, Halfpenny, and North makes them a very real danger to any Grand Slam challenge. England also demonstrated their abilities; perhaps the most terrifying aspect to their squad is its depth. They brought Courtney Lawes and the monster that is James Haskell off the bench, both of whom are world-class players, and both of whom muscled Scotland out of the game entirely.
With Italy’s shock on Sunday, in Nathaniel’s words, this has been the greatest weekend of Six Nations rugby in history. It is no overstatement, and if it continues in this vein, then things could get very interesting indeed. In Andrew McQuillan’s online preview of the tournament, he refused to make a prediction; as usual, I am going to be less sensible.
On today’s showing, Ireland look incredibly strong, and if other teams take their lead from Italy’s approach to their game against France, then France are very beatable. Ireland versus England looks to be the decider of the tournament, although what England have actually proved by beating a Scotland side who looked afraid to make a tackle is anyone’s guess. A prediction? England to win on points difference. Here we go…