It’s a Funny Old Game

“It’s a Funny Old Game”

Although the quote is borrowed from association football, it applies equally well to rugby football. For a start, its not really football it’s more handball and, the ball itself, certainly would not be passed for a Man Utdcup-tie. If one looks at all the anomalies of the game and its rules it is hard to take it seriously, yet few games generate such passion or loyalty and people spend their entire lives dedicated to the game and to a particular club, not only the players, past and present, but supporters of every age. They will stand in a force nine gale at the back pitch, petrified, semi comatose, hung over and apoplectically screaming on their J 3s. Individuals freely spend hours each week helping with training, contacting players and selecting teams, fund raising, committee work and much more. Friends are made for life, not only in their own club, but also in all other clubs, even those with which there is the most intense rivalry. Indeed some of the closest and most enduring friendships started with on field contacts (of the physical kind). Rugby is like that; it draws people together and binds them in friendship. Women have taken to playing the game and love it equally well, even if, at the start, they are inclined make a couple of boobs, they soon get into it and Strange, that this potent catalyst that is rugby, should involve so many apparent contradictions and enigmas.

For a start, according to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, a prop is a rigid support, (a touch of Block and Tackle) a hooker has several connotations, a lock is an enclosure for raising and lowering water levels, fly-halves have semi entomological implications, wings are feathered appendages and let’s face it we all know what lifters are, while flankers are “flankers” as you might imagine. The back-row players are forwards; and the centres are backs. Rugby referees are called by differing, often peculiar names, according to the score in the game and the recipients of a particular award.

You make your mark by just shouting, you make backward passes and are frequently mauling; no wonder there are so few women around. Chambers avers that a ruck is a wrinkle or a fold and to ruck is to crouch down or cower, I cannot imagine Neil Best or Shane Jenningsdoing too much cowering.

You must make an effort to make a try, and of course, you must not knock-on, go over the top (let’s face it there are a few who are good at that), or go in from the side (unless you are a tradesman), you can wheel a scrum (to where or in what is not clear) you must go down on the ball on the ground, but you must not handle the ball on the ground. To get your touch right in the game, you must put the ball out of play and so stop the game. A bitcrazy?

While all this is happening there are others going around selling dummies, not to babies but to grown men, to say nothing of “Up and Unders”. If this sounds confusing, think of a blitz Defence or drift defence, skip two ball, grubbers (no not scrubbers), intercepts, blind and open sides (often really open), overlaps (and under) and going for the drive, with not a car in sight. You may be asked to crouch, touch, hold and engage, WOW.

You can even drop a goal and still get the three points and to add a bit of religion to it all, there may be even conversions to be made during the game.

If you are still with me after all that, then contemplate and I think you will agree it really is a funny old game……….

D O’Brien