When it comes to rugby (and most other games for that matter) I’m a bit of a fair-weather fan. Years can go by without even the merest glimmer of interest on my part. But come the World Cup and all the razzamatazz that accompanies it and you’ll find me glued to the television.
In advance of this year’s competition I even went online and brushed up on the rules, on the grounds that, along with the general spectacle: stadia, crowds, extravagant TV ads etc., it wouldn’t harm to understand a little of what was taking place on the pitch.
And there was an unexpected bonus when It came to the game itself — namely the TMO (or television match official) which, as you will no doubt be aware, is consulted at those moments in the game when the tangled mass of bodies reaches a density that is simply too bewildering for the referee to figure out. So what at first is a horrifying, wince-inducing, collision of massive, muscular bodies is transformed, through a series of slow-motion replays, into a graceful, balletic tumble in which arms, legs and torsos are gently interwoven and hands grapple desperately for the ball.
And though it was heartbreaking to watch England defeated by Australia last night, it was a short pre-match interview with England forward, Geoff Parling that spurred me to write this piece. The interviewer was asking Parling how he managed to cope with the pressure in advance of one of the biggest matches of his career. This is what he said:
“Pressure for me doesn’t apply to rugby in general; pressure for me is someone struggling to put food on the table for his family. In rugby, it’s expectation.”
Call me an old sentimentalist, but I liked that.