Ruck and ‘Rolla

Eight years ago I, the current Mrs Grimley and my old mate Boz were perched on the stained and wobbly stools of Brannigans bar in Hinckley, England. Before us in glorious low definition colour, a projection screen beamed the moment that will forever go down in Pommie rugby folklore as Jonny Wilkinson held his nerve and struck the drop goal that ensured the Rugby World Cup would be heading to Blighty.

Those of you old enough to remember when the All Blacks last clinched the trophy will appreciate the feeling of euphoria that swept through me and thoroughly understand why I decided to celebrate with a breakfast consisting of eight pints of Guinness and a bag of chips. It probably would have been more, but after the eighth pint a man from Rugby Lions RFC called to inform me that they had no one to play first five that day and I wasn’t allowed to say ‘no’.

So while the men in white were still receiving the adulation of the world, I retched and farted my way around a remote pitch in rural Warwickshire in what is still the worst display at fly-half anyone has ever witnessed. I was convinced we lost the game, but apparently I kicked a penalty that I can’t even remember taking and we drew 6-6.

But even through the dense alco-haze of that day I will never forget the play which led up to that historic Wilkinson kick. From Lewis Moody winning the line out, through to the final push from Martin Johnson, everything was orchestrated and manipulated to put England in the place to take their one chance. What little flair the team had was abandoned in favour of utmost pragmatism. The goal was a simple one; win.

"Nothing fancy lads - we're here to win!"

So it will have come as little surprise to the rugby world when that same Martin Johnson, this time in the role of England coach, returned to the media spotlight this week extolling the virtues of matter-of-fact rugby. Style may win you many friends, but – when it comes to Old Bill at least – the ability to keep your head, stuff the ball up your jumper and grind oppositions in to the turf at crucial moments wins you trophies.

And this is why the Toyota Corolla is the best selling car of all time.

I can name you a hundred cars without even pausing for breath that are superior to any of the ten generations of Corolla that have graced the roadways of our planet since 1966. As a vehicle they have, without fail, been a country mile behind the competition in terms of flair, grace, handling and style. The driving experience is universally coma inducing and the bodywork so instantly forgettable that they should all come fitted with GPS so you can remember where you parked.

The thing is though; they do have this habit of working. As far as I can tell, from the 37 million Corollas that have been manufactured to date, not one has ever broken down. They simply keep plugging away until their owners die of old age or the time comes when replacing the sacrificial parts such as tyres and oil costs more than the value of the car.

This no-nonsense approach has won Toyota armies of loyal customers and is a formula that, if perpetuated, will keep the Corolla nailed firmly to the top of the sales mast until the day when berk in marketing decides the name has got a bit passé. And until that day comes I will champion the Corolla as the ultimate engineering evolution of the automobile. By consistently excelling in mechanical longevity it has won my hard earned respect.

Of course, I’d never buy one.

I admire the Corolla in the same way I admire Wilkinson – it does what it does and functions with unnerving consistency. But if I was paying my money to watch a game, I’d still rather have a Carlos Spencer type in the number 10 shirt. The sparks of creative genius are what makes life worth living, even if it does come with the occasional monumental stuff-up at incredibly inopportune moments.

But after a drought of 24 years, it may just be that the opinion of New Zealand’s coaching team aligns with that of Johnson. When I last checked, the record books didn’t have sections for flair and panache, so come next Friday don’t be too surprised if some of the All Black-magic is traded in for a bit of ruck and ‘Rolla.

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