Does anyone in Norfolk actually care that England are in a World Cup Final?

PUBLISHED: 13:01 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:01 30 October 2019

England teammates celebrate a try by Englands Ben Youngs, right, from Norfolk that was overturned after an offside call during the semifinal against New Zealand last weekend (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

England teammates celebrate a try by Englands Ben Youngs, right, from Norfolk that was overturned after an offside call during the semifinal against New Zealand last weekend (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

If England were in a football World Cup Final on Saturday the county would be going World Cup crazy. But, it’s a rugby one, and, says Liz Nice, Norfolk barely seems to have noticed

How many years of hurt has it been? 53.

53 years since England were in a World Cup Final. (You know, a proper one. A football one).

Imagine if that were to happen now.

The pubs would be rammed, there would be George crosses everywhere. People would be skiving off work, or, if it was on a Saturday morning at 9am, pretending to their wives that they were more than happy to do the supermarket run this week for a change, but might be a bit late back because of 'traffic'.

Flags would be flying from car windows.

People would decorate their gardens.

Ladies would bake England cakes.

Men would throw them at each other.

There would be tears; lots of them. And a sense of community, where everyone talks to each other and comes together, like they only ever do when England are playing or when Prince Harry gets married to a beautiful girl and we can all feel a bit less uncomfortable about what happened to his poor mum.

Of course, we are in a World Cup Final this Saturday but from all the fuss about it, you would barely even notice.

England's rugby team, which even contains a Norfolk player, Ben Youngs, have done brilliantly to reach the final in Japan, defeating the favourites New Zealand along the way, and sitting with a very realistic chance of winning the coveted crown.

We last won in 2003 - not so many years of hurt, but still a big deal.

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And yet, driving around Norfolk, I see no signs of excitement; no sense of anticipation. A lot of people probably don't even know.

I come from a rugby family of sorts. My Dad was a rugby referee. I recall sitting outside the clubhouse of our local team as a young girl drinking my orange squash - which is how parents used to treat children in those days while they went for a pint - and seeing a visiting rugby team come out of the changing rooms and run round the pitch naked. This, I later learned, was the kind of hilarious thing rugby players do.

My father found me later, open-mouthed, and rather horrified.

I've never really been much of a one for the sport since.

Instead, I discovered football; that used to cost 50p to get in and was the game of the people; ordinary people who had had a rubbish week and lived for Saturdays to get rid of all their frustrations and find the strength to go on again.

Football's not like that now so much but those of us who remember it that way hold on to that ideal.

Personally, I don't think you can love football, really love football, and care much for rugby as well. They're too different.

Dad and I went to Twickenham together once and had fun but the atmosphere just isn't the same.

There's no edge to a rugby crowd. It's all very pleasant chaps but the bite you get in a football crowd, the cheeky chants that are always a bit too near the knuckle but funny enough to get away with it, you don't get those at the rugby. They say it's a gentleman's game and perhaps that's the problem.

Rugby just isn't our class.

Football has an edge. There's a dirt to the atmosphere. It's grimy - or, at least, it used to be. It feels more real.

I wish England well on Saturday but I doubt I'll bother to watch and I suspect much of Norfolk will be with me on that.

Let them have their jolly japes and their backslapping and if they win I am sure it will be wonderful. But it won't be like 53 years of hurt lifting, will it? It will just be jolly nice.

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