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England to beat France by a foot?

Excited? You should be. France and England go head to head in tomorrow’s Rugby World Cup semi-final. Life or death? It’s much more serious than that. Ok, it’s not football – it’s not that serious – but it is about beating the French.

Much, we fancy, will hang on the way dear Jonny kicks. He missed a few sitters by his standards in the quarters against Australia, prompting suggestions that the ball had been over-inflated. Or was it under-inflated? Either way, we like the idea that Jonny is a divine conversion machine and only an external factor such as the referee’s bicycle pump could have been responsible for any errors.

Wilkinson, of course, professes total confidence in his foot. “Do I worry about the balls? Three or four years ago I’m sure I would have been different,” he says. “And if someone had said, ‘You’ve not kicked this many, your percentage is this or that’, then I’d probably be thinking about that. But my confidence hasn’t changed.”

Let’s just pretend he didn’t say this next bit. “I’ve got no idea in terms of what happens when the ball leaves my foot. On game day there have been a few that surprised me, just as there have been a few that have surprised me because they have gone over when it looked as though they were missing.” Or that both French kickers have a higher kicking percentage for the tournament.

Cometh the hour, England expects, and all that.

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