Another rendition to the Why ‘insert chosen sport’ is pointless. This week, the focus is rugby. WARNING: please do not pelt any rugby balls at the writer of this article.
As somebody who grew up in the only place other than Wigan that has rugby as its favourite sport (and even they have the decency to prefer rugby league), I have been subject to the abject torture that is rugby my whole life. Unlike my previous Formula One article, this edition is a hatred more than a frustration. From Year 3 until Year 10, every week in the winter term, school was plagued with one afternoon or morning a week of being physically beaten into the soggy dirt of the school playing fields. I’ll leave out the hours spent thinking up excuses for why I couldn’t represent the B team that weekend. My arguments for this one rest on two main grievances: it’s a sport that requires physical attributes above genuine skill and that it lacks a real tactical element.
Before you yell at the football fan that his sport is just a bunch of prima donnas diving around clutching their untouched legs and that rugby is a ‘mans game’, get off of your high horse. The fact that a 6”4 man has just grabbed me and thrown me to the floor, doesn’t mean that the sport is special, if you’re looking for physicality, go and watch boxing or MMA, not rugby. Leading on from this, rugby does not have a ‘world cup’. The sport is played by former British colonies and a handful of European rivals. To me, that doesn’t constitute a world cup and is no better than the baseball ‘world series’ that exclusively constitutes American teams.
This is the main crux of my argument: I believe that sport should constitute skill above physical attributes. I’ve been in the shortest few boys in my year for the entirety of my academic career, which means I am immediately useless at rugby, because I’ll just be squashed by a prop who hit puberty aged 9. On the few occasions I’ve been in the room whilst my father watched rugby, half of the professional players don’t even appear to be physically fit but just big enough that it is difficult to tackle them. If you compare this to football, the two best in the world could not be any more physically different. Lionel Messi is 5”6 and slight as a fairy. Cristiano Ronaldo is a tribute to physical perfection, with muscles in places I didn’t know existed. Yet the two are both able to excel. But all I have ever witnessed on a rugby field is a group of the biggest people to have attended private school. It doesn’t seem right that your ability to play a sport is entirely dictated before you are born.
My second gripe is how tactically simplistic it is. The only real strategy is to pass the ball to a teammate and to run directly at a line of defenders, with the occasional kick thrown in for some variation, very little changes between team beyond the quality of players. As most rugby fans have contempt for football, I will once again compare that to the complexity of the beautiful game. In football the tactical switches and alterations are almost endless, ranging from which formation to use to how far way from goal the defence should be positioned. You can even compare rugby to its closer relative of American football to see how basic and simplistic it is, the match-ups between defensive formation and offensive play calling is key to the outcome of each phase of play. You don’t see any of this in rugby, it feels like they devised the way the game would work first time around and haven’t bothered to change things since.
This time I have no real solution to offer. In my eyes, rugby is too far gone to be salvaged. The only real suggestion I have is to stop putting this sport pride of place among the other major sports, because it simply doesn’t warrant being on their level. But obviously I can’t change the minds of the hordes of rowdy bankers and lawyers that are intent on clogging up the streets and public areas of Bath on a Saturday in the pursuit of watching eighty minutes of nothing but boredom inducing torture, this was just a mere suggestion that your time may be better spent watching or playing something else.