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On a weekend of Rugby

October 9, 2007

This past weekend my daughter and I were in France for the Rugby. it should have been for Wales V South Africa, but that was not to be (and it was for the best, we needed to get rid of that coach). All in all a great experience. Being in Paris in a public bar during the French defeat of the All Blacks was a wonderful experience (I would normally support the ABs but got swept up in the atmosphere). In Marseille if only the Fijians had been a bit more street wise and grounded that ball I think they would have won, in and in any event they deserve financial support. Then one of the great 7s teams of the world joins the superpowers. Oh, and we need some rule changes. If the game allows a team (England) to win by throttling all life out of the game, making a feature out of winning ugly and boring any spectator rigid then something is wrong.

There is a daughter side bar on this. We last went to a Rugby match together when she was 13, now its 5 years later and a weekend in France with her father is no longer considered a social misnomer, but something to be entertained and enjoyed. From my point of view it meant several excellent meals (especially in Marseilles where the fish is to die for) all with good wine and followed up by beer in various bars. Seeing your daughter as an adult is interesting and mostly enjoyable. Dealing with comments such as Do you speak English I like your titties, when addressed to said scantily clad daughter is another matter all together.

Of course the great thing about Rugby is that you have mixed crowns and intelligent conversation. I will ignore the boorish ex Etonian in the white shirt on the train back from Nantes the previous weekend as the exception that proves the rule. A couple of Irishmen handled that by locking him in the train lavatory for two hours to the cheers of a mixed group of supporters.

Over many years of going to Rugby I have never seen any violence with mixed groups of supporters. Cardiff on an international day is a multi-cultural mix of friendly rivalry much conversation and knowledgeable conversation at that. You have to be fairly bright to play Rugby in the first place, just to keep on top of the rules and while there is violence on the pitch (I broke two legs when I played at number 7, and they were not mine) it doesn’t carry on at the end of the game. In contrast when there is a football match on the two sets of spectators enter the town from two ends, with a police barrier between them. I can sit anywhere in a rugby match, with young children, I have to use designated stands for any football match.

There has to be a lesson in there somewhere, for society and sport in general. For the moment I had to admit that my prediction that the Irish and Welsh would be conjoined was only half right. It was not in the final, but in the final ignominy of not making the quarters. However the performance of Fiji against South Africa leaves me feeling slightly less despondent along with the prospect of meeting the likely next World Champions on the 24th November in Cardiff.

To all my friends in New Zealand, it must be terrible but we had the same experience with Henry. Brilliant at the start but then ……

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