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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 12:13 GMT
Are the English arrogant?
By Tom Fordyce

England captain Martin Johnson smiles
England captain Martin Johnson shatters the old stereotypes

Does everyone in Australia hate England?

From the reaction Down Under to the English rugby team, you'd certainly think so.

"Arrogant England!" blasted the Brisbane Courier-Mail, the morning after the win over Uruguay.

"The English have always been an arrogant race," roared injured Aussie star Toutai Kefu, during the extra man saga.

"The only memories I have of England and the English are unpleasant ones," muttered France's Imanol Harinordoquy. "They are so chauvinistic and arrogant!"

It's enough to make Clive Woodward and his men cry themselves to sleep every night - once they've had enough of looking in the bathroom mirror and telling themselves how great they are, that is.

But, according to Professor Carl Bridge of the Australian Studies Centre at King's College London, the Aussie animosity should not be confused with genuine hatred.

In fact, the torrent of abuse is nothing more than a circuitous compliment of the most fraternal sort.

"It's a backhanded way of saying, 'We like you,'" says Professor Bridge.

"It's because the English are seen as part of the family that they can be insulted round the dinner table. It shows the respect and rivalry that exists.

"It's like insulting your brother. It's great fun. When Australians stop doing it, then you should worry, because then you're being treated like everyone else."

Woodward has been singled out for abuse in the Australian media, and has been moved to defend himself and his players.

"We are not an arrogant team - this is probably the least arrogant group of people I have ever worked with," he insisted.

But Professor Bridge says the England coach should be glad to be the centre of attention.

"For the first time in some years, Australians are really scared and worried. They think this England team can win the World Cup," he says.

"A certain sort of English behaviour upsets Australians, a form of diffidence or perceived offhandedness. Woodward is a harmless character and certainly not upper class, but some sections of the media have decided to portray him a toff.

Lawrence Dallaglio smiles
Lawrence Dallaglio - loved across the world?

"This mentality is all part of an old game, going back to the convicts. It's the traditional response you will get, even though it doesn't work so well with modern Britain since the Blairite revolution, when everyone speaks Estuary English anyway.

"A lot of this also is to sell newspapers. To turn the World Cup into good story the tabloids up the ante, but it doesn't translate into real antagonism. There's no blood being spilt in the pubs or on the streets."

Should England triumph in the final in Sydney on 22 November, do not expect the team coach to be stoned in the street - even if it is Australia they beat.

"There is a great deal of solidarity with Britain," says Professor Bridge.

"During the war in Iraq, Australian soldiers and British soldiers stood next to each other. The first foreign soldiers into East Timor were British Army Gurkhas, and these things are noted.

"In business terms, there is no real competition between England and Australia. Companies operate together.

"Australian companies based in Europe always have their headquarters in London, while English companies operating in Asia are based in Australia."

"This is one nation talking to another with no sense of inferiority. In the old days, Australia was a province, but not any more."

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