I try to enjoy rugby union internationals I really do.
It’s like watching Championship football though when power, pace and athleticism are far more obvious than skill and subtlety.
I bow to the experts who tell me there’s an awful lot of difficult techniques to master, but I’m a spectator not a player and by golly I f ind the Six Nations pitifully boring.
I watched England at Wales (right), and France hosting Scotland, and my head hurt at the end of the weekend. Probably something to do with over two-and-a-half hours of witnessing huge blokes crash into other huge blokes in an attempt to gain a centimetre or two.
I blame the professional era. Players in all positions now have all the time they want to bulk up.
Even wingers have muscles on their muscles these days. If England’s record try scorer Rory Underwood was playing now he wouldn’t get near the national side until he’d put on an extra four stone.
If legendary Jonah Lomu was a player now, he wouldn’t stand out any more. Everyone is built like Lomu, even the scrum-halves.
This, and well-drilled defences, leads to so many repetitive routines and similar matches. There are few surprises in a sport which still employs the baffling tactic of booting the ball to the opposition on a regular basis.
It cost Wales victory late on against England who even then only span the ball wide at pace as they were desperate.
The finale in Paris should have been thrilling, except the French spent the final three minutes with the ball up their jumpers before joyfully hoofing the ball out of play as soon as 80 tedious minutes had passed.
When I was growing up Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards wouldn’t have allowed such primitive tacics. They were as passionate and as committed as the current players, but they were also entertainers.
Is anyone even allowed to throw a dummy pass these days? Is it compulsory to soften opponents up by employing human battering rams?
Add the fact it can take two minutes to complete a scrum, 60 seconds for a poseur to kick a ball between the posts from a tee, and irritating frequent interventions from the referee in the sky and you have the perfect antidote for insomnia.
I’m a patriot so I enjoy watcing England win, but I doubt the All Blacks are getting nervous, no matter what Sir Clive Woodward says.
It would be easy to improve rugby union.
As there isn’t enough space on the average pitch to accommodate 30 people weighing 20 stone apiece, and as scrum laws are unfathomable, and as teams are adept at holding onto the ball for 10 minutes at a time without getting anywhere, why not reduce the number of players on each side to 13, use scrums solely as a means to re-start the game and insist teams have to gain ground quickly or forfeit the ball?
You could call it rugby league.