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Bandeau Portail rugbyXV

The 2015 RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) Six Nations Championship, billed as rugby’s greatest championship, starts on February 6th. For those unfamiliar with this sporting event, six nations play against each other to determine an overall winner.  The series of matches also includes one or two international derbies: for example, England versus Scotland (Calcutta Cup). The nations involved are England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy. The first match this coming Saturday is between England and Wales, always a humdinger as both countries pride themselves on their rugby prowess.

I rarely watch sport on television but I do enjoy rugby internationals and I may watch some of the upcoming games but this puts me in mind of something I wrote nearly four years ago (February 2011) and published in Fingers to the Keyboard. Here it is …

 Watching rugby on TV


I participated in a lot of sport in my school days; rugby in the winter, swimming and athletics in the summer. When I left school, my sporting activities were reduced to playing rugby for a local amateur team, occasional encounters with a trampoline, and in the badminton and squash courts. I rarely watched sport either live or on television. Partly, I didn’t have the time and partly I became disenchanted with the increasingly commercial aspects of the sporting activities available. I did enjoy watching international rugby engagements however and in 2011 I watched one of the Six Nations games. Here is my report of the game.

England versus Italy International Six Nations Rugby Match shown live on BBC TV
12 February, 2011

I watched the England v. Italy international rugby match this afternoon. England won, 59 – 13. This is probably the first rugby match, international or otherwise, that I’ve watched on TV for, oh, maybe three or four years. Bearing in mind that I played rugby at my school and then continued playing for about another ten years, here are my impressions of the match.

The game

England played well, moving the ball about and finding the chinks in the Italian defence thereby amassing a large number of tries and justifiably winning the game with a final score of 59 – 13. It was good to see that Johnnie Wilkinson has not lost his ability to put the ball over the bar and Chris Ashton would be a worthy competitor to young Tom Daley in the forthcoming Olympic diving events. Ashton’s playing-to-the-crowd-and-photographers dive in the 76th minute, his fourth try, will surely be on the back page of every national newspaper tomorrow morning. Well, he’s a good-looking lad and deserves his 15 minutes of fame.

The Italian players were ferocious in their tackling but they just couldn’t stop the England players from penetrating and pushing over the line. But, Italy deserved their try towards the end of the second half and the final score does not do justice to their spirited defence.

But what’s with the assisted lift in the lineout? When did this happen? It’s a waste of time. Even if one of the forwards is hoisted to twice his height and manages to catch the ball, he’s then so unstable that he can do nothing with it except crash down in a big mêlée with all the other forwards. Only once did I see a clean catch and pass back to the fly half and that was by an Italian forward.

Rescind the rule that allows assisted lifts in lineouts.

And when did international rugby players start hugging each other with passion bordering on indecency after a try is scored? This practice is for wimpy Premier-League footballers with more money than sense; not for rugby players. In my day, a quietly-murmured ‘Well done, Caruthers’ was both sufficient and all that was expected. We’re talking rugby players, fer Chrissakes, not metrosexual namby-pamby footballers. Jeez!

And while I’m on the subject, when was the Sin Bin invented? Sin Bin, with a capital S and capital B according to the onscreen caption. The place where the long-haired Italian forward was sent for committing some minor misdemeanour in the second half. What happened to the sharp elbow-in-the-ribs retribution the next time the ref’s back is turned or a scrum-down takes place? Such tactics always worked in my day. The Sin Bin sounds like the sort of thing you would find in a preschool kindergarten or primary school, like a Naughty Spot; not at an international rugby match. Bin the Sin Bin, I say.

The BBC’s presentation

I nearly turned the TV off half-way through the first half. Some dumb stupid nitwit of an over-the-top-with-graphics producer has totally screwed up the presentation of the game with a deluge of absolutely useless bits of data. I’m talking about all the stuff that keeps flashing up on the screen: percentage possession, percentage territory, line-outs won, line-outs lost, missed tackles, line breaks, errors, penalties conceded, ball won in open play, tackles made, tackles missed, offloads (whatever they are), percentage in opponents half, passes completed, who farted in the scrum, how many times, and so on and so on. I can’t bring myself to call this stuff facts or information. It’s useless data, garbage, crap. Whatever is the point of all this rubbish? Who reads it and takes notice of it?

And that’s not all. What is the point of using fancy superimposed graphics to show the distance and the required trajectory of a kick at goal? We all know what the kicker has to do and we can see enough of the pitch to judge the distance and angle and hence the difficulty. He either gets the ball over between the posts, or he doesn’t. End of story.

Similarly with the constant replays every time someone does something remotely interesting. The replays are from every angle you can think of and often in nauseating slow-motion. Look away from the screen for just one second and when you return you don’t know if you’re watching replay or live action. I don’t want to see three hundred replays of a touchdown from three hundred different angles. I’ve seen it as it happened and that’s good enough for me.

Fortunately, my hard-of-hearing problem means that I cannot hear the commentary: I watch the game with the sound turned down but my guess is that the commentary is inane and contributes very little given the barrage of useless onscreen data mentioned above.

The half-time commentators were the usual bunch of three talking heads (why is it always three?), interspersed with yet more replays, this time from the three-hundred-and-oneth angle. Half times are definitely for making a cup of tea or grabbing another beer.

The stadium

I was distracted by the advertising around the edge of the pitch. The advertising was not only constantly changing; it was changing with stroboscopic effects! Looked like a bloody disco at times. Why? If it distracted me it must sure as hell distract the players. And what about those who are prone to epileptic fits brought on by flashing lights? Surely Health and Safety would ban such displays if brought to its attention. Why aren’t the compensation lawyers prowling the grounds just waiting for the first fit? Makes no sense to me and damned if I can tell you what brands, products or services were being advertised so what is the point? Turn ‘em off!

Apart from all that, it was a good game but enough is enough. I couldn’t bring myself to continue watching the follow-on Scotland v Wales game and I suspect that it’ll be another three or four years before I bring myself to watch another international rugby match on TV.

Feel free to forward these comments to anyone who can influence the behaviour of the players, those who draw up the rules of rugby, the BBC producers who created this mess, and the companies that paid for the advertising.