Tuesday, 28 February 2017

You can't win a maul...

England were confused by Italy’s tactics in their Six Nations rugby match at the weekend. According to the Guardian, the Azurri resorted to “the rare but legitimate tactic of players refusing to commit to the breakdown after the tackle. This deliberate stand-offishness meant there were no rucks and no offside line”. The referee was no help to Dylan Hartley, the baffled England captain, who asked for clarification of the rules. “I am a referee, not a coach”, he said.

I’ve always had the suspicion that there aren’t actually any rules in Rugby at all; the referee just blows his whistle every thirty seconds to give all the players a chance to catch their breath. At least the game has its own civilities. Only the captains are allowed to addressed the referee (football take note: they even call him “sir”). And a player who bites off another player’s ear must leave the field of play... and cannot return until he’s swallowed it (if you want to keep your ears, you’ve got to tape them to the side of your head).

There's plenty wrong with rugby as a spectator sport. Let’s get rid of the scrum. It usually collapses in a heap of bodies - with all the obvious dangers, for the guys in the front row, of suffering a neck or spinal injury. Anyway, the team that puts the ball in is the team that gets it out, so what’s the point? Rugby is just an attempt to codify a brawl. In no sane game do you reap rewards from booting the ball out of play. Oh, and the ball’s the wrong shape…

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