A number of my lighter blog postings have been devoted to one of my passions in life – sport and, as an Englishman with traditional tastes and preferences, football heads up the list, followed by cricket, although these days it is either the very top flight or at grassroots level. I have participated in many team and individual sports in days gone by, although I wasn’t especially distinguished at any, and these days exercise is confined mostly to working out at my local gym and walking. I have followed these and other sports, recognising the value in contributing to quality of life and building life skills.
One sport I have not up to now covered is rugby. Let me first state that when I refer to football, it is what our US American friends refer to as soccer given American football is generally preferred by them, and when I refer to rugby (which is also another form of football) I refer to union as opposed to league, which I prefer because of rucks and mauls that imo helps keep the game flowing and contributes to it being the exciting game of strength, skill, attrition and tactics it is.
Rugby is the one team game, looking back, I would have liked to have participated in more. As it happened, when I went from junior to secondary school, I did get to play rugby and even made it into the school team. My one abiding memory was getting a black eye in the first game that I played. I was hooker and received it in one of the scrums, as many in that position have before and since. I didn’t stay at the school for long and when we moved it turned out my new school didn’t play rugby. Later, when I was at college, and had an opportunity to take up team sport again, I chose hockey over rugby.
The reason I started thinking about this “thug’s game played by gentlemen” (football being a “gentleman’s game played by thugs” – a joke), was as a result of watching some of the “six nations” rugby tournament over the past weekend. As is my norm, I like to watch any sport being played at the highest level. The game that stood out for me, partly because of my partisan interest, was England versus Wales, a game that England won in style against its fancied rivals.
While careful not to raise my hopes unduly, the result and the manner in which it was achieved did indicate that just maybe English fortunes are looking up having been in partial doldrums ever since England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003. What was remarkable as far as I was concerned was that when “we” won that prestigious trophy, joint second with the Cricket World Cup, the Football World Cup still being the top sporting tournament along with the Olympics, we were the best in the world and England winning that tournament was imo unquestionably the right result.
Checking out statistics, it is clear the best sides in international rugby in recent years have normally come from the Southern hemisphere (South Africa, Australia and New Zealand), especially New Zealand. But the Rugby World Cup, held every four years in one of the participating countries, will be held this year, in September, in England. Six of the seven past winners have been Southern Hemisphere sides. Without wanting to tempt providence, I would like to think we will do well and even have a chance of winning, and I feel the excitement beginning to mount!