Buggered ruggers, with the T-shirts to prove it

It seems this isn’t the best time to be an English rugby fan. For one thing, their team just seems to keep losing—even off the pitch!

This week the internet was awash with rugby shirts bearing the “036” logo after the English went down by that margin to South Africa last Sunday.

The logo is a caricature of the name of England’s official shirt sponsors, cellphone supplier 02.

That England also lost to South Africa in their Twenty20 cricket match only added insult to injury. And then South Africa defeated New Zealand’s Black Caps in the cricket tournament, ensuring that England were out of the other World Cup.

The English had banked on a New Zealand win to give their nation a sporting chance to reclaim some rapidly diminishing national pride.

England, the country that gave the world rugby as it is played today, play against Samoa on Saturday, hoping for a form that enables the players to wipe the derisory smiles off the faces of critics at home and abroad.

Fan and foe agree that a loss to Samoa would precipitate one of the most humiliating of sporting embarrassments that England, as the defending champion, has suffered in its history.

The English, scrambling to stave off total humiliation, would be hoping that the return of Jonny Wilkinson for his first start of the tournament, and that of Olly Barkley at inside centre, will make for a change in the team’s fortunes. The inclusion of the two is part of series of changes head coach Brian Ashton made to the team that played against the Unites States.

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