After my big long whinge about going off football I have decided to lighten the mood and try to explain why it is I love rugby so much. Those of who know me better will have already realised this is another excuse to post the photo of me with Chris Robshaw and James Haskell. I won’t disappoint you.
My main passion for rugby comes from playing, something I still miss more than four years after quitting. To me it is the ultimate team sport – you attack together, defend together and never hesitate to put your body on the line for team mates. As a spectator there are several other reasons why I love rugby and here are a few of them.
England – I love the Six Nations. I love the anticipation, the tension, the rivalry and most importantly the quality of the rugby. England players look genuinely proud to pull on the shirt and repeatedly run themselves into the ground in their efforts to win. There is mutual respect between players as anyone who saw the footage of Tom Croft swapping shirts with Dan Lydiate after Wales beat England this year will testify. I was lucky enough to meet Chris Robshaw and James Haskell last year *photo alert* and found them incredibly friendly.
There were plenty of negative headlines about England during the world cup last year and although the majority of their problems were on the pitch the media chose to focus on off the field issues. Mike Tindal seemed to get the majority of the roasting but in mind he still has the right attitude. This quote was from a recent interview.
‘A crucial part of rugby is the social aspect: the day it is taken out of the game, it becomes like football. I want to see young players socialising in the bar after a game with fans who pay to watch them. They need to get to know people.’
Harlequins – When I moved ‘dahn Sarf’ I decided I wanted to support a club side and as Harlequins were the nearest I picked them. My first match was a Heineken cup game against Stade Francais which was won deep in injury time with what is a contender for the most dramatic drop goal ever from the glorious Nick Evans. I was hooked from day one. Last season Quins won the league playing open, attacking rugby with a squad comprised mainly of English players who had come through the youth team. I’ve seen players like prop forward Joe Marler play in front of 50 people on loan at Esher, screamed with delight as he side stepped past a winger to score against Wasps in his first full season and then go on again to get his England call up. The atmosphere is great, fans are friendly and you can drink beer in the stands. Come on the Quins!
Premiership – The advantages of the rugby premiership are obvious. Skilful players abound, attacking play is rewarded and negative tactics are rare. Games between two close rivals in football are frequently stalemates as the two teams slowly probe for weaknesses without giving too much away. In rugby they usually try and batter each other into submission and score as many trys as possible.
Pundits – Instead of the MOTD old boys act we have Brian Moore and Eddie Butler arguing and ranting their way through a game. At half time you get Guscott and Jiffy having a competition to see who is the most biased and a little intelligent analysis from the likes of Keith Wood. Instead of foreign pundits being treated like talking budgies you get the quick wit of Ibanez or Castaignède. Makes a change from having to turn the sound down to stop you putting your foot through the telly as Lineker looms large.
Fans – Most people have heard the line about rugby being a ‘game for thugs played by gentlemen’ and I think the fans reflect this too. I was on the train back from a Harlequins pre-season game last year when two guys saw my Quins shirt and stopped me to ask about the game. They were both Wasps fans – Harlequins biggest local rivals – and were keen to chat about the coming season. They both predicted a good season for Quins and were full of doubt for their own prospects. The journey ended with them wishing me well and saying they would look out for me at the opening game. When I lived in Manchester I never wore a Liverpool shirt out because I know a fight would have been more likely than a conversation like this.
Another example of the attitude of rugby fans is from a Gloucester fan who sat in a stand full of Harlequins fans at the Stoop. Despite being so isolated he started cheering from the kick off and when it became clear that Gloucester were on the end of a pasting he just cheered louder. This became a source of amusement for the fans surrounding him and before long he was getting cheered every time he got to his feet to start a one man chant of ‘GLAW-STER! GLAW-STER!’
And without further ado here is my final photo of me lifting England captain Chris Robshaw with the help of his England team mate, James Haskell. You even get up and coming London Irish winger, Marlon Yarde randomly waving his arms about for free. In answer to the inevitable questions, yes I am lifting them for real, yes they are fecking heavy and no I don’t think my touching was inappropriate.
Thank you for reading and stick your comments in the usual place.