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Eddie Jones has challenged his England squad to inspire the next generation of budding rugby players by winning the Rugby World Cup, but could their achievements in Japan be a shining example to broken Britain?
As the British government shut down on Monday night, England were arriving in Tokyo where their five-hour delay at Narita international paled in comparison to the delay in delivering anything close to Brexit, such has been the inadequacy of our current government.
The uncertain times across the United Kingdom has brought with it troubling divisions: remainers and leavers, the left and the right, British and Irish and, unsurprisingly, white and black.
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Hate crimes are on the rise, with the most recent figures showing in 2017/18 that there were 94,098 offences recorded by police in England and Wales, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the previous year, which the government apportions to “certain events such as the EU Referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017” as well as an improvement in data recording by authorities.
There has also been an alarming spike in racism at football matches, both on and off the field, with arrests for racism-related incidents at an all-time high after six years of increasing numbers and the high-profile abuse of Raheem Sterling, Tammy Abraham, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba triggering calls for a clampdown on social media and real solutions to be drawn up that can tackle a growing trend in the sport.
So perhaps arguing that what this England team represents can help provide an example for the rest of the country is not that silly at all, especially in the form of a team coached by an Australian of Japanese descent and that features 11 players from black and mixed ethnicity backgrounds that stretch from Tonga to Nigeria. Compare that to the triumphant 2003 squad, where Jason Robinson made up the entire BAME number on his own, and the difference is remarkable yet demonstrative of today’s Britain.
“This is probably the most diverse England squad that there’s ever been, in terms of people coming from different countries and different races,” says Maro Itoje, who has already been touted as an England captain in-waiting, such is his importance to the team. “Obviously we’re all English but we have different roots in different places, different classes too. If you look at the picture of the 1995 World Cup squad and compare it to the picture of the World Cup squad today, you’ll see a lot more diversity and I think it’s great. I think it’s amazing.”
It no doubt has the power to inspire young boys and girls who can relate to an Itoje, or a Kyle Sinckler, or an Anthony Watson, if they share a similar background. The England senior men’s football team can also boast a positive diversity, with Sterling and Rashford joined by the likes of Danny Rose and Jadon Sancho, yet for a sport that is often labelled as the ‘posh white boys’ club, this rugby team represents a titanic change.
Itoje believes that it is not just the difference in a squad picture that is noticeable, either. “If you think of our diversity both in terms of how we think and how we go about our business, as well as in
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