So my good friend and colleague Al McClintock has written a glowing article about his love for rugby union, which he’s described as the “perfect marriage of brains and brawn.”
Well, Mr McClintock has just been well and truly swept up in the generic euphoria that comes with an international sporting competition that takes place every four years.
Rugby union will capture our attention for the next month, and rightfully so. It’s a global game, and as with any World Cup, it will generate significant interest from all sorts of diehards and bandwagoners from here to Timbuktu.
Already, we have seen wonderful underdog stories – such as Japan’s heroic victory over the Springboks (by the way, they’re nicknamed the Cherry Blossoms for Christ’s sakes! How fucking endearing is that?!) – and surprise twists, like England’s failure to beat Wales at home, thus setting up a mouthwatering group fixture this Saturday against Australia.
And that’s the kind of fairytale shit that screenplays are built on. But really, this is just part and parcel of any World Cup, regardless of the sport.
Look deeper into the sport of rugby, and what do you see? You see a sport which has, over a sustained period of time, given the finger to its fans and players alike.
You see a sport run by luddites, for luddites. A sport that has successfully strived to position itself as the game played by gentlemen; a code constantly seeking the high ground. A sport that is run by bankers.
You see a sport where class matters. At the very beginning, the rugby union authorities turned down their noses at the working class Northerners, who wanted some financial reimbursement for giving their time to play on Saturdays. This lack of empathy led to the rugby union/rugby league split, all due to the fact that union types could not accommodate those who they perceived to be a class below them.
You see a sport that has failed to evolve its game play to be audience-friendly. A game where a referee can decide a match. A game where a team can rack up nine penalty goals and three field goals and still conquer a more enterprising opponent who scored five converted tries.
Rugby union has fucked you, Al McClintock, over for years. Rugby union doesn’t care about you; it cares about the corporate dollar. It cares about big business. It cares about its image.
And while I will watch (with considerable interest) the outcome of this World Cup – and support the Wallabies full-heartedly all the way, mind you – I will never give my heart over to rugby union.
Because rugby union is, and has always been, a twat.
By Dave Edwards