x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ashton's "idiotic" dive shows a worrying sense of fun

One of sport's deepest-rooted cliches was turned on it head last weekend when, with delicious irony, an Italian threw a strop after an Englishman took a dive.

One of sport's deepest-rooted cliches was turned on its head last weekend when, with delicious irony, an Italian threw a strop after an Englishman took a dive.

"He's an idiot," was the general consensus of Italy's back division after Chris Ashton's spectacular swallow-dive try celebration at Twickenham.

Just to confirm the world had gone mad, a smile then cracked the granite face of Martin Johnson, England's manager, and he said: "You are allowed to have fun." No one saw that coming.

With an attitude like that, England have got no chance at the World Cup later this year.

In the past, when they have attempted to break with their traditional, stick-it-up-the-jumper then let the No 10 kick it game plan, and have fun instead, it has usually ended in tears. Perhaps today's skin-tight rugby jumpers make that method impossible.

Or perhaps an attacking running game is their best chance with the personnel England have at their disposal in crowd-pleasers like Ashton, Ben Foden and Ben Youngs.

They still have some catching up to do to match the game's entertainer nonpareil, Quade Cooper, the Australia fly-half, however.

The walking highlights reel returns to action this weekend when his Queensland Reds side meet the Western Force in the opening round of the Super 15.

With such high-spirited bonhomie pervading the game at present, the coming World Cup in New Zealand could prove to be one of the most open and entertaining to date.