First published 23/04/2012
What do the winners of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand, and the winners of the 2012 Six Nations, Wales, have in common? That they have managed to perform on the world stage in spite of being small nations, sure. That they have talented and determined sides that deserved to win, definitely. But mostly, they are both famous for producing lamb and having huge stocks of sheep.
If you ever find yourself tucking in to a delicious rosemary-crusted lamb chop, chances are it will have been reared in either New Zealand or Wales. Is it pure coincidence though that the two most successful nations in rugby recently have links with our woolly friends? I suggest not.
The four winners of the Rugby World Cup since it was first contested have been New Zealand, Australia, South Africa (all twice) and England (just the once). All four* feature in the worlds top 10 countries with the most sheep. South Africa has the least with only 25 million.
This trend is not only noticeable in the successful nations though. Arguably, the two best nations never to win a world cup are France and Ireland. Neither feature in the top 10 countries for sheep – Ireland doesn’t even make the top 30. France have come close to winning, reaching the final on three occasions, but surely the extra boost they need could be provided by having a few more sheep.
It could be that the perfect climate for sheep is also perfect for rugby players. It could be that lamb is a rugby super food and it is readily available in countries with lots of sheep. One thing is for certain though – sheep win rugby matches.
* For the purposes of this article I had to use statistics relating to the United Kingdom. Sorry.