ENGLISH sport is currently suffering a winter of discontent – and it’s all down to our sun-drenched cousins from the land down under.

Our nation has many sporting teams and just as many rivalries but it always comes back to the Australians.

We may see the Germans as the enemy in football and the Americans as out big opponents in golf, yet across the board the Aussies are the country we most want to beat.

So, with that in mind, it’s easy to see why this is not a great time for our sporting nation.

In cricket, Joe Root’s team lost the Second Test in Adelaide this week to go down 2-0 in the five-match series.

England’s women failed to win back the Ashes on their visit last month, showing Australia have the upper hand regardless of the gender.

Our rugby league side put up a brave fight in the the recent World Cup final in Brisbane – but Australia were once again victorious, with Boyd Cordner’s try seeing them lift the trophy for the 11th time.

Across the code divide in rugby union, England are doing better. They have won their last five clashes with the Aussies, including an unprecedented 3-0 tour triumph last summer.

Their last defeat to Australia,  though, was when we hosted the 2015 World Cup, which led to our elimination at the group stage.

And there is something ironic about how our rugby revival is being led by Australian coach Eddie Jones. If you can’t beat them, get them to join you.

Football is our national sport and it is only right that we have a fairly decent record against our foes from the other side of the world, winning four and drawing two of our seven meetings.

Unlike rugby and cricket, though, we rarely face each other and when we do, it has never been in a match of an consequence.

The draw for the 2018 World Cup means we cannot meet until the semifinals at the earliest.

That’s pretty unlikely for either side, so our only real chance of restoring balance to the sporting equilibrium is for England to mount an unlikely comeback in the cricket and retain the Ashes.

SPEAKING of the World Cup draw, last week’s one in Moscow was one of the best ever.

How can a World Cup draw be good, you ask? By being short.

Russia’s effort was free from the pomp and ceremony of previous events and groaning speeches and unnecessary entertainment was kept to a bare minimum.

There was also the amusing incident of former England striker Gary Lineker, who was was hosting the draw, delivering a verbal burn to Argentina legend Diego Maradona.

As a portly Diego, whose infamous handball knocked England out of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, pulled out one of the balls from a pot, Gary quipped: “Diego has always been good with his hands”.

It was a slightly forced line. How good does one need to be with there hands to pick a ball out of a pot?

But Gary can be forgiven for his cheek and his corny delivery. He was in the England team cheated out of a World Cup semifinal spot by Diego that day, so was entitled to a bit of verbal revenge.

Besides, Diego didn’t look like he either a) understood him or b) cared.

He has a World Cup winner’s medal, so it’s water off a ducks back to him.

And he drew the Three Lions a relatively straightforward group, with games against Belgium, Tunisia and Panama.

That’s not enough to earn him forgiveness from English fans, though. Or, clearly, from Gary Lineker either.

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