From the touchline

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 11 October 2007
By Mick Reid
From Paris
From the touchline
No sign of the deeds: John Eales staked his house on antipodean victory

PARIS, 11 October - Rugby legend John Eales could be out on the street after the world cup, while Jonny Wilkinson is the king of the swingers according to the boffins back in Blighty.

Put your house on Pumas (not mine)

Rugby legends John Eales and Martin Johnson were left squirming at a press conference on Thursday when their pre-tournament predictions were replayed to the gathered throng.

Former Wallabies captain Eales had jokingly bet his house on Australia or New Zealand taking home the Webb Ellis Cup, while former England skipper Martin Johnson backed Ireland.

Surprisingly, both were still prepared to stick their necks out with their tips for this weekend's semi-finals.

Of the five official legends acting as rugby ambassadors at RWC 2007 - Springbok Joel Stransky, Frenchman Philippe Sella and All Black Zinzan Brooke are the others - only Johnson believed England would prevail over France at Stade de France.

Likewise, though impressed with Argentina's performances, the panel thought South Africa would progress to the final - with the exception of Eales.

"I think the Latino dream will continue for another couple of weeks. The basics of the team are good, they have frustrated many teams so far," he said.

Eales, however, said he would not be offering his house this time on Argentina winning. "I only have one."

Armed and dangerous

French sports daily L'Equipe this week ran a cartoon hinting at the strategy needed to nullify the threat of England sharpshooter Jonny Wilkinson. The image 
featured a Wilkinson voodoo doll with nasty-looking pins sticking into the right foot that drop-kicked his country to world cup glory in Sydney four years ago.

But a university study suggests it is the fly half's right arm Bernard Laporte's team should be hoping to hex. Researchers from Bath University in England 
found in a trial involving experienced university first-team kickers that those who swung their non-kicking-side arm across their chest - for Wilkinson, a natural 
leftie, that means his right arm - as their boot makes contact with the ball are nearly twice as accurate as those whose arm swing is less pronounced.

Paws for thought

The Pumas-Springboks semi-final confrontation brings back memories of Argentina's 1965 world tour that included a stop in South Africa.

The Argentines, who played with the image of a jaguar on their jersey chest, beat the Junior Springboks 11-6 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg that June, and were 
labelled the 'Pumas' by the South African press - a misnomer that has stood to this day.

And though the Pumas have never beaten the Springboks in a full international in 11 attempts, they will conjure the spirit of Aitor Otaño's 1965 'Jaguars' when 
they run out at Stade de France on Sunday night and try to claw their way to victory.

Screen idyll 

The outdoor fan parks showing live matches on the big screen, such as the one at the Hotel de Ville in Paris, have been a big hit at RWC 2007. This weekend, folk on both sides of the channel will be able to curl up in their local cinema to watch the drama  of Saturday's semi-final between France and England unfold.

The RFU's Go Play Rugby promotion is offering free entry to 20 Odeon cinemas around England, while several cincemas in Paris are also opening their doors for the big game.

Number of the day

7 - Years since England have won in Paris, when that man Jonny Wilkinson kicked all his side's points in a 15-9 Six Nations win.

Quote of the day

"Even the taxi drivers who know nothing about rugby ask about things like 'you make a bonus point today?'"
- Argentina second row Carlos Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe on the building 'Pumas-mania' back home.

RNS mr/pr