Iâ€™m not keen on rugby, but normally itâ€™s pretty easy to avoid. Club matches get only token coverage on the BBC, with a few scores or an update on Johnny Wilkinsonâ€™s knee. And then we can quickly get back to football, the proper game. But this World Cup is getting on my nerves. It seems to have been going on for months. And it's been getting blanket coverage on the BBC. Can someone just win the bloody thing and put us out of our misery.
Itâ€™s not that rugby doesnâ€™t have its beautiful moments. Who could not be thrilled by the sight of some swift passing and running with the ball, a mass brawl with posh chaps punching each other, or (best of all) the final whistle. But these moments are pretty rare. I would have thought that a typical match contains about 4 minutes of anything vaguely worth watching vaguely. The rest is just a mixture of dull and bewildering.
And itâ€™s such a stupid game. 5 points for a try (such a short word for what is often a wonderful mix of pace, wit and sheer brute force). â€˜Tryâ€™? â€˜Genuine Achievementâ€™ would be more apt. On the other hand, 3 points for a penalty kick. Iâ€™ve rarely much understanding of why a penalty has been given. The referee even has a microphone to explain it all to the spectators, but it leaves me none the wiser. And penalties are given all the time, anywhere on the pitch. The result is inevitable. Games tend to get decided by penalties. So England beat Australia by not scoring any tries; and Australia suffer a humiliating defeat byâ€¦ erâ€¦scoring the only try of the game. As I write this, the world cup final is, predictably, being decided by penalties, effectively which team cheats the leastâ€¦.. Someone gets a penalty for some unknown reason and a bloke kicks the ball, gets three points, and they all live happily ever after. Why not just toss a coin and be done with it?
Thereâ€™s also the class issue. Itâ€™s a game that, in most places, has a marked middle class identity. The commentators bray in a particular manner. Thereâ€™s an abundance of plumy accents amongst the players. And, mysteriously, South Africa seems to have a shortage of black players. Up here in Scotland, rugger tends to attract the chaps (and chapettes) who affect English accents, at the same time proudly sporting their kilts and burberrys. And they only turn up for the internationals. Club matches are attended by three men and a dog. And two of them came by mistake.
â€¦ there I feel better now. Iâ€™ll just get my breath back and Iâ€™ll be fine.
Rugby always reminds me of those 'It's a Knockout' games with no particular rhyme or reason to them. I think England should have turned out in tiger costumes, carrying buckets of gunge and chasing the Boks all over the park. Well they did the last bit at least.
Although I'm a red-blooded hetero guy I can see why the sport appeals to the ladeeeez. It's impossible to watch and not be struck by the amount of gratuitous handling of intimate body parts. The players were no better.
I did enjoy it even though I had no idea what was happening. We obviously need to build a team for next time and at least we weren't completely humiliated score-wise.
Can't argue with any of the above, so how come I watched every game my tolerant wife could bear? The answer came in the wooden spoon race on Friday night, the match nobody cares about, to decide who would be third and fourth. One of the tries scored by Argentina, involving one guy running most of the length of the field, and then a series passes from one side to the other, was worth sitting through all the inexplicable referee decisions that blighted so many games.
Is there any other sport which is so dependant on the referee's apparently arbitrary distinctions, whereby one moment a player gets penalised for not letting go of the ball and the next moment, another player gets penalised for not allowing a player on the other side to let go of the ball. With everybody piled on top of each other, how can he tell the difference?
In so many games, there seemed to be only two tactics:
one was to kick the ball up in the air and hope the guy who catches it on the other side doesn't have time to kick it back, before he gets tackled. But most of the time he does have time, and so he does the same thing in reverse.
the other was for one of the forwards to pick the ball up from the back of a maul and pile into the waiting tacklers to create another maul, from which somebody does the same thing again.
In England's case, those two moves were all we had.
Why people regard Jonny Wilkinson as being so great, I couldn't see. He's a good place kicker, obviously, in many ways the parallel to David Beckham, but I'm talking about how he he operates in open play, making decisions that can lead to a breakthough. There were several fly halfs who were more imaginative, especially Hernandez of Argentina.
But you're right, Gordon and Des, it's mostly played by a narrow band of British people, most of whom we'd have nothing in common with. For many of them, getting together for numerous pints after the game was what it was all about. I used to have a fast shower and go out looking for a girl to dance with. Rarely found one, but that didn't mean I'd settle for all that drinking instead.
Last edited by Charlie on Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
re: the refereeing. One positive change was that the 'holding on' rule, which in recent tests has stiffled any attacking endeavour, was relaxed. It was great to see the lesser nations - Roumania, Argentina (though they're a world power now, I think) and the pacific islanders, showing the top dogs how to play with freedom, passion and without fear. For the greatest example of this and the end to end try to end all end to end tries, watch the Baba's (well the Welsh) take the all conquering All Blacks apart. The best try ever? the best commentary?