Su­pe­rior, pompous and a sense of en­ti­tle­ment – yes, it is al­ways a great feel­ing beat­ing the Poms

I am be­ing wheeled out again to say how sweet vic­tory would be. Well, I won’t lie. It would be

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport: Rugby World Cup 2015 - DAVID CAM­PESE

What does it mean to beat Eng­land? Is it the scalp Aus­tralian sports­men and women prize above all oth­ers? Was that 1991 World Cup fi­nal vic­tory all the sweeter be­cause it was against Eng­land at Twick­en­ham? Why do the rest of the world love to beat the English?

These are ques­tions I get asked a lot, prob­a­bly be­cause I have a rep­u­ta­tion as a bit of a Pom­miebasher and peo­ple ex­pect me to say in­flam­ma­tory things, es­pe­cially about Eng­land. I have earned that rep­u­ta­tion, though. It has got to the point where I have be­come a bit of a pan­tomime vil­lain.

A lot of the time I play up to it, so if some­one asks me a straight ques­tion I will say what I think, even if I know they are fish­ing for a sound bite. I am out­spo­ken on lots of sub­jects, but com­ments about the old en­emy tend to get blown out of all pro­por­tion. Or land me in trou­ble. That sand­wich board ‘walk of shame’ down Ox­ford Street af­ter Eng­land’s World Cup win in 2003 is a good ex­am­ple.

Peo­ple need to re­alise that I have be­come more pas­sion­ate about the game as I have got older. I was mainly into rugby league in my youth. These days I speak out in frus­tra­tion at what I see hap­pen­ing to the game I have grown to love. I can’t help it. It is the same with Will Car­ling. He got in trou­ble this week for hav­ing a go at Eng­land, but he is pas­sion­ate, like me. We may be ex-play­ers but we love the game. How bor­ing would it be if we all just shut up?

Any­way, the re­la­tion­ship with the English could get pretty ag­gres­sive back in the day. I re­mem­ber be­fore the 1991 fi­nal some Bri­tish jour­nal­ists went to my home town of Quean­beyan in New South Wales and started snoop­ing around, look­ing for ex-girl­friends, up­set­ting my mum. And a few times at Twick­en­ham, with the crowd so close you can hear ev­ery word they say, the sledg­ing was pretty per­sonal. Some­times jour­nal­ists just made stuff up. That old story about me say­ing I be­came rugby’s first mil­lion­aire five years be­fore Car­ling? The truth is I was over­heard by a jour­nal­ist jok­ing at a func­tion and he de­cided to re­port it as fact. It made for a good story.

Or the com­ment I made about Eng­land play­ing bor­ing 10-man rugby be­fore the 1991 fi­nal, which sup­pos­edly led Eng­land to change their tac­tics for the fi­nal. Non­sense. Teams do not change their tac­tics based on off-the-cuff com­ments.

With Aus­tralia fac­ing off against Eng­land tonight in a clash which could spell the end of Eng­land’s World Cup hopes, nat­u­rally I am be­ing wheeled out again to say how sweet it would be to beat the Poms. Well, I will not lie. It would be sweet! Of course it would. Who am I kid­ding? The ri­valry be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia – whether in cricket, rugby league, union, you name it – is huge and steeped in tra­di­tion, go­ing on for cen­turies.

It cer­tainly made an im­pres­sion on me grow­ing up. I can re­mem­ber the old GB rugby league teams com­ing out to tour. I re­mem­ber the Ashes se­ries of my youth, the sides of Den­nis Lillee and Jeff Thom­son. Later on the Eng­land teams with Ian Botham and David Gower. Some great char­ac­ters. Beat­ing the English was a huge source of na­tional pride. A unique ri­valry. Some might think it is deep-rooted

Eng­land have the most re­sources, the fan base. They should win. Only mostly they don’t

in the psy­che of Aus­tralians; the young in­de­pen­dent coun­try try­ing to get one over on the moth­er­land.

There is all the ban­ter about the con­victs and the SDs [shackle drag­gers – a term my mate Brian Moore likes to em­ploy]. I don’t think it is so much that. At least it isn’t for me. My dad was from Italy and that his­toric re­la­tion­ship with Eng­land did not mean any­thing to him. For me I think it is more ba­sic, to do with cul­tural dif­fer­ences. I will get my­self in trou­ble again here but, what the hell, let’s get some stereo­types go­ing. Whether you in­tend to project it or not, there is an air of su­pe­ri­or­ity about Eng­land when it comes to sport. A sense of en­ti­tle­ment. That at­ti­tude of “We gave the world this or this sport – we are its true guardians”. The English also have a ten­dency to gloat in vic­tory. Maybe it is just the me­dia. Eng­land have the most re­sources, the largest pool of play­ers, the big­gest fan base. They should win. Only mostly they don’t. You build them up like there is no to­mor­row. It is the same with foot­ball. All that money and hype.

And when Eng­land do get a big win, why can’t you just be a bit more gra­cious? Like when you beat the All Blacks in 2012, when they were at the end of a long tour, sud­denly you are the best in the world. It is the same with the Ashes. We just think, “Right, en­joy it while it lasts,” and then win 5-0 in the next se­ries.

So yes, it is spe­cial beat­ing Eng­land. Is it the most sat­is­fy­ing scalp? I am not sure. Beat­ing the All Blacks was spe­cial be­cause you knew you were fac­ing the best in the world. I played them 29 times in my ca­reer and only won eight of them and they are very spe­cial mem­o­ries in­deed. South Africa, you al­ways knew you were in for a big phys­i­cal chal­lenge, so a win against them was a test of nerve.

But yes, Eng­land is dif­fer­ent. Of course, stok­ing the flames, the ban­ter be­fore­hand, the build-up in the press, the sledg­ing on the field, is all part of the game. You guys think we are brash and un­re­con­structed. We think you are su­pe­rior and pompous in your lily­white shirts.

There is a deep un­der­ly­ing re­spect, though. Some of my best mem­o­ries are of wins over Eng­land, and I have be­come firm friends with many I com­peted against. My first north­ern­hemi­sphere tour was the Grand Slam tour of 1984. The match against Eng­land was Rory Un­der­wood’s first in­ter­na­tional cap. We won but I didn’t see much of the ball. And typ­i­cal of many Eng­land games at the time, Rory didn’t see much of the ball ei­ther!

The ca­ma­raderie, the sledg­ing, has maybe changed a bit in the pro­fes­sional age. It is all very in­tense now. Test matches take place at night and the play­ers prob­a­bly go back to their ho­tels for an ice bath rather than to the bar with their op­po­nents. But hope­fully we will never lose that spe­cial re­la­tion­ship; the friendly ban­ter, the re­spect.

Ul­ti­mately, though, all this stok­ing of the flames, it is all noise. I saw Clive Wood­ward come out this week and say Aus­tralia would panic un­der the pres­sure. We can all say what we like off the field. It makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence. It will be two teams putting their bod­ies on the line at Twick­en­ham tonight. I just hope the best team win. Just as long as it’s Aus­tralia.

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