Day 1 cntd (Oct 4th 2008)
INTERLUDE – Essential Pub Conversations No 2: The Top 10 Rugby Union International Backs of the Professional Era (excluding half backs)
What debate could be more essential than this? Suitably wide ranging and wildly subjective – plenty for us to argue over, then.
We clearly needed to narrow the debate right down to be able to come up with a suitable list in the (short) time we had allocated. You can probably imagine the conversation:
“So, who are the best players ever?”
“Well you obviously need to separate backs and forwards, cos they are so different. You’ll need to end up with two lists.”
“Ok, let’s start with backs then”
“Well, I suppose I’m not really qualified to comment on anything in the seventies or earlier, being as young as I am…”
“Why don’t we make it since the game went pro then?”
“Sounds fair. But won’t it just be a list full of fly or scrum halves?”
“Let’s do them separately then. We’ll start with a list of the best internationals, from the professional era, who have predominantly played in the centre, on the wing, or at full back.”
“Shall we separate North and South hemispheres?”
“Let’s just make a start shall we?”
And so we made a list, and argued about it for a while, and then got some extra contributions in from friends via the magic of text – my brother Gareth, and a friend known only as Shirt, both of whom are, shall we say….vocal, on the subject sport and who is good at what.
The list (in no particular order – mainly because we couldn’t agree one!)
J Guscott (Eng)
J Robinson (Eng)
S Williams (Wal)
G Thomas (Wal)
D Howlett (NZ)
Y Jauzion (Fra)
C Latham (Aus)
T Umaga (NZ)
B O’ Driscoll (Ire)
P Sela (Fra)
There were many honourable mentions in this one, and some that came very close: Scott Gibbs was only excluded on the grounds of being just too prop-like; I’m still not sure how Greenwood or Josh Lewsey didn’t get in, both fantastic World Cup winners; and I think Jonah Lomu missed out because he scored too many tries against England. We also debated over greats and potential greats such as Tuquiri, Habana, Cullen, Traille, Shanklin, Bateman, Murphy and Bernat-Salle.
Feel free to be outraged/disgusted, especially if you are Scottish. We make no excuses however – this is a pub conversation, and therefore too much sense and/or accuracy just wouldn’t be in keeping with this ideal.
I think the “best forwards” conversation could be a tough one.
The 5th Floor Bar, Harvey Nichols (Knightsbridge): 1 Bt Peroni, 1 bt Sam Smiths £10.00
Well we knew it would get more expensive as we got closer to the centre of town, and even this was only a taste of things to come.
Since vertical distance doesn’t count in our challenge (cos we didn’t think of it), and only one entrance from Knightsbridge tube was open at this point, it was clear that the elevator to the 5th floor at Harvey Nicks was the closest option.
It is without doubt a beautifully designed room (also worth noting that our notes triumphantly state, “Best toilets of the day!”), but for the price of the beer I expected much more of a smile from Carl behind the bar. It was also full of very sloaney looking ladies waiting for gentlemen to buy them a drink.
I think the overall feel of the place was again summed up best by our ever so slightly scruffy notes:
“Really nice set up, but just a tiny bit poncey.”
The Library Bar, the Lanesborough (Hyde Park Corner): 1 Bt London Pride, 1 Bombay Sapphire and Tonic, £17.44 (inc service!)
We were hoping we might get a cheaper round at the next station, but unfortunately for us that station was Hyde Park Corner.
From whichever entrance you come out of, the nearest bar is pretty certain to be in a four or five star hotel. As we came out on the Southwest side, we donned our most self important attitudes on and sauntered past the Bentleys through the lobby of the Lanesborough Hotel and into the library bar.
“Fooled the door police. Arrogance gets you everywhere.” Said our notes.
It’s pretty old school, this place, all white linen, dark wood panelling and bow ties, and none of the disdain we had experienced in much lowlier establishments.
It was excellent service in a truly lovely environment – our drinks were perfectly served (even a little silver bottle holder for the LP!), and came with a beautiful three tier silver stacker containing olives, cashews and Bombay mix. Much talk on the finer things in life ensued.
Then of course, we got the bill, which was more spectacular than we could have possibly imagined. Still, I have been told that the price of Bombay mix has trebled in recent years.
I am proud to say that we behaved well and did not disgrace ourselves in such exalted company. And decided that we would definitely go back. Probably once per decade. Or when England win the World Cup again.