By Gareth Axenderrie
Winning and losing in international sport is decided by the finest margins; England’s last gasp victory in Cardiff last weekend reminded us of that very fact. As Jonathan Davies’ clearance headed into midfield instead of touch, Wales found out about these margins in the cruellest of ways.
One player fell from potential hero to absolute zero in the seconds that followed. Alex Cuthbert, drafted into the starting fifteen at the final hour in the absence of George North, failed to cover a sublime pass from Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly skinned him on the outside to give England victory.
The vitriol that followed from the Welsh public was simply unacceptable, and although Cuthbert had a decent game, it would appear he is under the poisonous microscope more than ever.
The tweets started off tamely: “Alex Cuthbert and professional rugby player should never be used in the same sentence”. “Alex Cuthbert should never be able to wear a welsh jersey again”. But as anger grew and more beers were downed, the rhetoric took a nasty turn: “Alex Cuthbert for the death penalty”. “Alex Cuthbert is an absolute fucking nonce”.
These keyboard warriors failed to realise that Cuthbert was not the cause for Wales’ doom and gloom. Coach Rob Howley dragged star man Ross Moriarty off when he was bossing the game. Wales’ lineout went missing when they had an attacking scrum deep in English territory. Jonathan Davies failed to find touch when he simple had to. In fact, Cuthbert made a try saving tackle moments before the Daly try, but this didn’t prevent him becoming a scapegoat once again.
Blaine Scully, Cuthbert’s teammate at the Cardiff Blues, had a polite reminder for a section of the Welsh public in the aftermath.
“Alex is a good pro, and he has demonstrated that throughout the years. He’s in the arena, and we all understand it’s a real honour to be in there.”
“I think it’s tough because people care a lot and that’s where it comes from. Fair or not, that’s the situation that we all find ourselves in at one point or another in our careers.”
“Sometimes people get caught up focussing on the athlete and not the person. We are professional athletes in the arena, that’s how we are seen and that’s how we approach things. It’s part of sport but I think we should all back Alex every time.”
Cuthbert isn’t the first sportsman to receive abuse from his own fans. England football fans signed a petition to the FA to attempt to exclude Tom Cleverly from their world cup squad. Earlier this month a Crystal Palace fan confronted Damien Delaney on the field following a loss to Sunderland.
The professional sports arena will always generate passion and emotion, that’s why we love it so dearly. That said, the abuse of men and women who simply give their all for their team and their country, is and always will be unacceptable. It’s a game at the end of the day.