Rugby (2)

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 16:58

Rugby Rugby Rugby

After dinner speeches, songs and banter on the coach trip, the end of season tour, or, just that post-match banter are all sources of anecdotes where some will be told for years to come and often be the source of the odd free pint along the way.

So, a few stories from one aging ex rugby player.

The Presidents Order

On a distant rugby 7’s tournament the decision was made to look after the club president who had not been able to make the 6-hour trip.  At our hotel, a decision was made whilst eating our sustenance prior to hitting the towns bars and nightclub (there was just the one) we would phone the president and let him know how we got on. It was then suggested as he had missed out we would order him some food, home delivered and he would enjoy it having missed out on the rugby and beers.   In principle, a nice gesture but it was taken to the next level, that for the next 6 hours at hourly intervals a delivery was organised from a different eating establishment or carryout restaurant.  None of these were paid for in advance and he probably saw the funny side for the first two but at 1am in the morning having an irate delivery driver demanding money for a meal he did not want did wear a bit thin.

The France Tour

On a hot night in Orleans and after copious amounts of French lager (drunk out of vases but that is another story) the three who had stayed out past the curfew decided they knew the way back to the hotel and started walking in what they believed to be the right direction. After 45 minutes of brisk walking it was obvious that the city district entered was not right one and the buildings and streets where more like a ghetto.  Solution appeared coming towards us, a taxi, although the “for hire” light was not on, driving down the empty main street.  Three drunk rugby players stepped into the road and waved furiously.  As the taxi approached it was not a taxi but a police car with a collar in the back; handcuffs on!  The gendarmes were more than helpful and started trying to locate a taxi for us. Then with the pending wait for the taxi and the area we had walked into they decided to give us a lift across the city to the hotel (opposite direction to that which we had walked).  Got the picture? Three drunk rugby players crammed into the back of the police car with a less than happy restrained criminal seated in the middle.  I am sure the gendarme had a story to tell at shift handover as did we over croissants at breakfast.

The Club Dinner

 After an early start the drinks had been flowing for quite some time before we were respectively escorted to the function suite to take our seats.  One of the coaches, a rotund and bearded chap had the pleasure of sitting at the top table and assigned the task of providing the opening address.  Well getting back to the drinks in the bar beforehand and this stalwart of the club had maybe had one or two too many.  When ushered to his seat he had poured himself a large glass of wine and before the scotch broth arrived he had consumed a bottle or two.  Although he finished his soup he decided to get forty winks and had faced planted into his bowl.   Subsequent courses arrived and were consumed, laughter and jollity across the assembled and yet this rugby stalwart was left to his slumbers.  Time for the speeches. Opening address? A prompt elbow to the ribs and a startled rabbit in the headlamps arousal and rising to his feet! What followed from the mouth of barley laden beard was, and is still, the best rugby speech I have ever heard…… RUGBY RUGBY RUGBY!!!  He sat down to applause and faceplanted the soup bowl again. 

Growing up in the 70’s rugby was played by a right bunch of misfits but in those individuals, you got players that shone across all age grades, club, district and international level and you got pure individual brilliance.  The debate will always be would the likes of Jim Renwick (Scotland), Barry John (Wales), Jean-Pierre Rive (France), Serge Blanco (France), Fran Cotton (England), etc. make it into an International side today?  The debate across generations will always be can you compare different eras but controversially I would say now size matters so much and backs have become forwards and forwards backs.

The last 20-years of women’s rugby has seen the sport develop, increase in popularity and honouring those rugby values as the game is played to physical constraints.  I remember watching the Women’s Rugby World Cup when it was held in Scotland in 1994 when England won with a pack that drove the length of the field and were physically so much bigger.  But even then, the Scotland team showed glimpses of what was to come with the likes of Kim Littlejohn and Pogo Paterson in the centre. Not physically big but athletes that had natural flare and ability with skills in abundance.

Since the early 90’s the men’s professional game, and even through the amateur ranks bulking up, hours in the gym and protein diets have become the norm.  Ball skills, speed, agility and cardiovascular fitness are all becoming secondary to bulking up.  What does this all mean in terms of injuries, recovery and sadly the exclusion of individuals as they are not the 6’5” 19 stone Centre, Wing, or Flanker.  It also does not attract the late developers who have played other sports. The men’s game needs to change for a number of reasons!

So why do I make the statement about women’s rugby? 

The clubs across the country have introduced women’s rugby teams and they are attracting youths and adults who have never picked up a rugby ball before.  In rugby, they have found that they don’t need to be a certain size they are included in to the rugby family and enjoy putting on a pair of boots at the weekend and playing with and for their team mates.  In amongst these new starters you come across some gifted individuals who have not been coached to the point of doing things in a metronomic fashion and suddenly do that something special during a match.  Not saying coaching is not important but a good coach will allow the individual brilliance to become part of their game and not try and coach it out of them!

Certain areas of the women’s game have adapted and have added to the spectacle of the game.  Not limitations but differences such as kicking to touch versus the quick tap and go.   A 50-metre touch finding kick in the men’s game replaced with a pick and go, ruck and grubber kick in the ladies’ game making the most of physical attributes and providing more time with the ball in hand.

An argument might be as the sport is relatively new it is still developing and attracting individuals but this can be countered by the argument that people develop at various stages and ages and girl’s rugby in schools is not a mainstream in physical education classes.  How many of the young boys on a weekend morning at mini rugby get to a certain age and as they perceive they do not have the right shape or size stop doing something they have enjoyed and end up in front of an Xbox or Playstation? 

I would suggest any reader make the time to go and join a club, pick up a ball and get involved.  If you are unsure spend an afternoon and go and watch a female rugby game, see the skills, camaraderie and most importantly the smiles on the faces; ENJOY!

To finish off I thought I would share some of the recent comments of the University of St Andrews Women’s Rugby Team on why they play.


  • I am Stronger than I Look
  • I know my Friends have my Back On and Off the Pitch
  • It Makes me Feel Alive
  • Netball Never Did it for Me
  • I Can
  • I Like Mud
  • I’m Good at It
  • My Strength is an Advantage and Celebrated
  • Of the Ladz, Bantz and Booze
  • I am Stonger than I Ever Thought I Could Be

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