In the words of a very famous song: "To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe..."
These words could not have rang any truer, than for England during their 2007 Rugby World Cup run.
The results leading up to the World Cup were less than impressive. A couple of wins here or there, quite a few defeats, a change of management—the future of the England team looked dim to say the least.
Then came the World Cup....
Most fans were highly pessimistic going into this World Cup. England were the reigning title-holders, but it was difficult to see that continuing.
England were drawn in a group together with South Africa, U.S.A, Tonga, and Samoa. The English team was comprised of:
N. Abendanon, O. Barkley, S. Borthwick, M. Catt, G. Chuter, M. Corry, M. Cueto, L. Dallaglio, N. Easter, A. Farrell, T. Flood, P. Freshwater, A. Gomarsall, D. Hipkiss, B. Kay, J. Lewsey, L. Mears, L. Moody, J. Noon, S. Perry, T. Rees, M. Regan, P. Richards, J. Robinson, P. Sackey, S. Shaw, A. Sheridan, M. Stevens, M. Tait, P. Vickery, J. Wilkinson, J. Worsley.
Was this going to be the squad to take England all the way? Well, to listen to the media, with iconic talisman Johnny Wilkinson injured and unavailable for the first two matches, there was not a hope in hell.
In their first match, England took on the U.S.A—surely this the match to show everyone just what potential winners they were, right? Hmmmm...not quite!
The Americans were everything England weren't—organised and confident. England, by contrast, looked nervous and out of sorts, but still managed to run out 28-10 winners in a stern test for the defending champions.
Then came South Africa. The papers were certain that England were going to stand toe to toe with them, and sneak a win. Not quite!
A clinical South Africa ended the eight-match Rugby World Cup winning streak of England in emphatic style, keeping the holders scoreless at the Stade de France, by a score of 36-0—yes, you read that right!
The shock and horror felt at home was tangible, and the doom and gloom merchants went into over drive. This loss was the end of the world, apparently. Lock your doors, people!, Armageddon—not the movie—is on the way!
In the midst of their overreaction, the media decided that the manager Brian Ashton had to go, as he was to blame for everything!
Thankfully, England won their next two matches pretty comfortably, beating both Tonga and Samoa. Johnny Wilkinson was back, and scoring vital points. Then came the quarter-final, and their mortal enemy—Australia.
TV pundits said England had no chance, and were going to get embarrassed. Had they never seen this England team before? Don't say things like that—it just gets them annoyed, and they play better.
England defeated Australia, 12-10 in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final...yes you read it right...go on, take your time...read it again if you need to...Ready? Right, we'll carry on then...
It was a massive effort by England that nullified Australia's attacking edge, limited their scoring opportunities, slowed their possession, and allowed fly half Jonny Wilkinson to kick penalties when chances arose.
The mood suddenly changed—of course England were going to retain the World Cup! Hmm, funny that...
Then came the semi-final against France. I was quietly confident about a victory—I crossed my fingers and toes, and prayed to anyone that would listen for England to win!
Jonny Wilkinson performed more World Cup heroics to steer England to a 14-9 victory over France, and send them into their second consecutive World Cup final.
Then came the World Cup Final—against South Africa! England supporters wanted blood for the embarrassment they had suffered. I, personally, never wanted to feel pain like that again.
Unfortunately, England were unable to find a way through a disciplined Springboks outfit who were miserly in defence, dominated the line-outs, and kicked five penalties.
England fly half Jonny Wilkinson, the hero of their 2003 triumph in Sydney, was unable to turn on the magic this time, missing two drop goal attempts and given little chance to impose himself on the match.
South Africa defeated England 15-6 in the World Cup Final. Ah, right...so, that didn't quite go to plan—but in all honesty, the lads did themselves proud, and almost achieved the "Impossible Dream."
As for England's future, well...Brian Ashton is still the manager, and a few players have retired, but things are not looking that bad. Maybe next World Cup?