Rugby – something I don’t understand

Many people I know regard international rugby football with something approaching religious fervour.

I was forced to play rugby (we called it ‘rugger’) during my schooldays. I didn’t really like it and was frankly scared of tackling a beefy player on the run with the ball. Even so, there did seem to be distinct rules or codes about what sort of tackle was acceptable.

When, occasionally, I see a modern rugby match on television it looks to me like a dreadful mess. Almost half the time most of the players are collapsing into a heap on the ground, over and over again. There is much playing of men rather than the ball, with grabbing, deliberately running into, and pointless jumping on top of other players the norm. In short, modern rugby looks to my eye like a game in which two teams of thugs spend most of their time bumping into each other and falling to the ground. Where are the elegant passing movements and thrilling runs by wing-three-quarters of yesteryear? Has rugby just dumbed down like everything else into an inelegant outlet for thickos who enjoy brutal and mindless physical contact? That’s how it looks to me.

I’d appreciate it if someone could help me to see the finer points of the game. The only bits I can enjoy nowadays are spectacular conversion kicks, and there are certainly some of those.

I’ve never been a fan of team games and ball games, but if elegant subtlety was your thing, I’d vote for cricket as it once was, again before it was vulgarised beyond belief, with the Australians inevitably playing a leading part in that.

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4 thoughts on “Rugby – something I don’t understand

  1. Like you Stephen the mysteries of modern sport has left me behind somewhere. I was never the ‘sporty’ type but loved to watch tennis (when the ball still moved slowly enough for the naked eye to calculate a fault), cricket with the gentle sound of knitting needles in the background and tea cups were placed on the well mown grass, even footie and rugger where the rules still applied and had not been tampered with by overly clever-clogs. Now everything is measured in milliseconds by a magic eye, players are paid more than twice my yearly income every week, and kit colours no longer fade to grey…..
    Am I getting old?

  2. Steve, whilst I can appreciate many of your criticisms of the modern game, I think your mistake is trying to compare the Rugger you grew up playing with the modern professional game. There is no true comparison between the old and the new. And of course (as you rightly identify) the new “vulgar” sporting changes apply to most of the modern professional games. Many lament the passing of the amateur games which were played under gentlemanly rules.However I am surprised that you have raised the issue after watching one of the best Six Nations contests which took place at Twickenham last Saturday. Followers of the game are almost exclusively of the opinion that both the England XV and the Ireland XV staged a thrilling match which highlighted the talent of so many participants. The outcome was unpredictable until the final whistle.

    1. George – thanks for your well-informed and measured response. I hear what you say! So I am falling into the habit of the elderly of comparing things as they are with ‘the way they were in my day’. Oh dear. Also, perhaps I should write only about what I know about, though that might make this blog even sparser than it already is!

  3. I enjoyed the England Ireland game.

    Stephen, I don’t share your dislike of modern rugby but do see a distinct difference between what we were being taught and the game as played today. We were told that a proper tackle involved, more or less, throwing my face down towards the ground such that it could make contact with his high kicking (running) boots from the rear at the same time as hopefully nestling my shoulder somewhere near the back of his knees while wrapping my arms around his legs.

    Nowadays they seem to just grab whatever they can, usually higher up and nowhere near the boots. Pussys!

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