Let me tell you where I am.
I am becoming a little tired of what the Anzacs are trying to do to my game of Rugby Union. We know they cannot scrummage, ruck or maul, but trying to rid the game of all three scenarios really gives me the ache. Union is in danger of becoming a bastardized (and very boring) form of Rugby League. Two long strings of uniform-sized men spread across the pitch, two men diving into secure the ball while the test of the team hang off in readiness for the next surge. It’s like watching Hull Kingston Rovers verus Wigan. In 1978.
It won’t be long before someone from Sydney or Auckland suggests tapping the ball back through the legs after the tackle (to speed up the game, of course). We won’t have to have scrums at all then. Yes, since that horror of horrors in 2003 when everyone’s Auld Enemy won the bloody thing by pummeling everyone into the ground, forces down under under have been hard at work trying to think of a way to rid the game of a front-eight confrontation. Tune into the Tri-Nations and you could be excused for thinking you were watching an expanded Middlesex Sevens, or your tv set’s on the fritz.
The game’s been played in pretty much in the same way since a bloke called Webb Ellis picked up the ball when a game of soccer was getting too boring (imagine that!). For 180 years the game’s been pretty much the same until Johnny Wilkinson tapped the ball between the posts to win the cup. In the name of speeding up the game, or the ever-popular ‘health and safety’ someone came up with a plan which doesn’t involve those horrid displays of of brute strength after knock-ons and forward passes.
(Please don’t think I’m living in the past, hate change or tinkering with originals. As I pointed out to a pal when having this argument earlier, Godfather III was no improvement on what went before. Leave what’s good well alone, I say.)
Only the South Africans seem to be playing the same guy as you, me, and my sister Julie (now Dennis) used to play all those years ago. Thank Allah for the Boks (and the Argies, while we’re at it- who recently beat up, and should have beaten a very poor England side) for still playing the game how it was meant to be. I even found myself cheering for the SAffers the other day – a first for me – though, in my defence, they were playing against Wales. Who knows, I may find myself shouting for the Taffies one day, if they end up playing Australia or New Zealand. As I say, who knows ?
The English and some of the northern hemisphere nations are branded by the southerners as dull and neanderthal. Their matches are slow and boring, too consumed with the set plays and the loose mauls. Rugby cannot be attractive to new audiences if dirty great lumps of men push and rip against an opposing dirty great lump of men. The game should be about speed of hand, fleet of foot and tries, TRIES, TRIES !!!
Yes to fleet of foot, yes to tries (yes to the trees!), but some of the greatest games ever witness have involved both speed and brute strength (and ever so occasionally a nasty confrontation up front. Remember them ?). The donkeys up front grunt and groan, push and pull and secure the ball for the girls in the backs to tip-toe their way towards the opposition’s try line. I am watching a game at this very moment and it has all of those elements and is very very enjoyable indeed. The USA are playing Russia (no potential for a punch-up here, then ?) A bunch of WWF rejects, bedecked in gaudy stars’n’stripes scrum-caps are competing against a group of chaps who’s names sound like a collection of weapons, missiles and helicopters (“Sikorsky….passes to Molotov who links with Kalashnikov”). The standard isn’t great but it’s fast, furious, passionate and thoroughly engrossing.There even seem to be locals in within the stadium, watching and enjoying the game too. Perhaps that’s because neither team is managed by Martin Johnson. (Their latest gripe is that England have taken black kit with them. And we’re whingeing poms!).
So let’s hope that during the next match-up between the Blacks and the Wallabies a game of Rugby Union breaks out. Both are very capable of winning the tournament and one probably will. But I’ve watched more interesting episodes of The Sky at Night than the match I watched between those two recently.
Disgusted of Dartford