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Tour Diary
Throwing dud a lifeline
Tom Hamilton in Auckland
June 2, 2014
The <I>Herald on Sunday</I>piles into Danny Cipriani, June 1, 2014
The Herald on Sundaypiles into Danny Cipriani © Scrum.com

It was all going so well. The flight from Heathrow to Singapore passed without any incident, apart from turbulence - or truthfully incompetence - resulting in roughly half of the 16 baked beans the aeroplane breakfast consisted of ending up on my freshly ironed shirt.

Then came the transfer from Singapore to Auckland. It was tight with the fog, or smog, engulfing Changi causing a slight delay, but no bother. Auckland awaited, England were installed and the first few days had seemingly passed without incident and all was good in the world.

The walk from gate to plane in Singapore had a slight waft of body odour as is inevitable after sitting one 12-hour flight and then transferring to a 10-hour continuation. But armed with promised 24-hour anti-persperent protection, which in reality when under the stresses of travel lasts closer to 5% of that, that could be easily solved on a personal level.

Walking towards the plane there were the usual newspapers to pick up and peruse. The Herald on Sunday seemed the obvious choice and they even had the front page mocked up with Union Jack attire in celebration of the Queen's Birthday Weekend.

Across the header was emblazoned the three Rs - Rugby, Royalty and Roasts which broke down into the Duchess of Cambridge being ordered to put some pants on by one of the newspaper's columnists, a declaration that Richie's men are ready to take down England and recipes for roasts were hidden within the depths of one of the newspaper's supplements with chef Sean Connolly giving the tips on how to mix up some perfect Yorkshire Puddings.

When it came to the rugby, the newspaper's take on the forthcoming three-Test series against England was dominated by predictions of unequivocal failure.

The last time the All Blacks lost, David Moyes was still preaching the gospel of Everton from Goodison Park

Warning shots have already been fired by the English management over off-field conduct but previous indiscretions are still fresh in the mind here. The headline of 'Scandals galore as Saxon hordes hit town', referring to previous misdemeanours, suggests work is still to be done to repair reputations.

And on-field, the assessment focused around Danny Cipriani with the headline, unfairly, proclaiming 'Throwing dud a lifeline sinks England credibility'. Charming. Declaring Cipriani a "catastrophic dud" the article also says England "will lose much of the respect they have earned in the last two years" if they select him at fly-half for the first Test. Referring to his time at the Rebels, he was described as "Champagne off the field, double brown on it". Sale supporters will say differently after his impressive season at the resurgent Sharks.

Praise was levelled at Stuart Lancaster's door for the manner in which he has breathed fresh impetus into the national side and their attacking strategy but the general consensus from reading last week's predictions from the Kiwi media is that this tour is a 3-0, potentially 4-0 including the Crusaders game, done deal.

England know they face an uphill battle in New Zealand. They are playing the world's best side on their own patch. The last time the All Blacks lost, David Moyes was still preaching the gospel of Everton from Goodison Park.

As Phil Vickery says in his column for ESPN, you have to earn respect in New Zealand. It seems the England players have a job to do on and off the field as do I to get the baked bean stains out of my shirt.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum