Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Once more unto the Beeb, dear friends, once more

You have to hand it to the BBC — no-one quite does pompous jingoism quite like them.

Picture the scene. England are playing Germany and Gary Lineker is at the Somme, shouting obscenities about Herr Flick and goading them with a copy of the fallen Madonna with the big boobies.

It could never happen, I hear you cry. Don’t be so sure as on Saturday the Six Nations clash with France began with a history lesson from John Inverdale in a foreign field far away.

“The most famous Anglo-French confrontation of them all came on Friday, October 25, 1415 and 596 years on, a hint of Agincourt still hangs in the air in the biggest day so far in the Six Nations,” hinted Inversoft.

And so it began. Before you could cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' one appeared in the carrot-topped HRH, bedecked in a hat that made him look like Mr You-Don't-Wanna-Do-It-Like-That, or Brian Moore as we all know and loathe him.

The Prince wasn’t alone, he was taking no chances with those pesky French around, so he had brought along some cavalry support in the shape of Zara Phillips.

Alongside Inversoft we had Jeremy Guscott and Laurence Dallaglio and a few words, most of them incomprehensible, from French legend, Serge Betsen.

No room for bias at the Beeb, it’s straight down the middle impartiality that’s the name of the game. Or rather, it isn’t.

“Let’s hope the England team today can play to their potential and put the French away,” said Brian, before sticking pins into his life-size Rene Artois doll.

Of course, no battle between two old enemies would be complete without some blood-boiling renditions of the anthems but someone obviously thought hiring the St Winifred’s School Choir was a better idea.

I couldn’t believe in when the Marseillaise, one of the world’s great toe-tappers, started and suddenly there was a high-pitched screaming we haven’t heard the like of since Joe Pasquale caught something in his zip.

And so back to Moore. After the blood and thunder of the earlier build-up, I half expected when the ref’s blast of war blew in our ears, that everyone’s favourite Englishman would imitate the action of the tiger.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, he was a big pussycat all day, even with Eddie Butler trying to prod him with a big pointy stick as Marc ‘We ‘ate ze Inglish’ Lievremont appeared on screen.

“He’s had a few interesting soundbites this week. Don’t start, Brian, it’s too early,” he chortled.

Brian muttered something about it being a ‘sign of insecurity’, before waving his fist and shouting ‘I hate you Butler’. Not often you hear hard-favour’d rage disguised with fair nature.

The game itself was gripping in a gritty way and you knew that Jonny Wilkinson would come lately and be the hero but there were other highlights such as French winger Rougerie’s yelp of ‘merde’ when he missed a touchdown and the cameraman going cul ser coude on the sidelines.

I’d love to have heard Serge’s views on it all but despite Inversoft speaking loudly and slowly to him, we were none the wiser.

Still, at least RTE can be relied upon for impartiality and no finer man than George Hook for the job, who admitted England were the best team but looking ahead to the World Cup added that ‘I don’t think Australia or New Zealand will be quaking in their boots’.

George, touch, pause and engage brain in future.

Belfast Telegraph

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