Swanny’s World of Sport - An irritating, error-filled mess

Japan players celebrate victory over South Africa.
Japan players celebrate victory over South Africa.
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I really want to enjoy the rugby world cup, but too many things irritate me.

After 20 minutes of the opening game, which involved my favourite country, I switched over to watch Wigan play St Helens at rugby league in order to view athletes who are comfortable catching a ball while running at speed.

England against Fiji at rugby union was an error-filled mess. It was also blighted by incessant stoppages while referees tried to decide whether or not a try had been scored fairly. It gave the props a rest at least.

In one embarrassing moment the man in charge of showing replays to the silent crowd on a big screen appeared to disallow a Fiji try.

I’m all for getting big decisions right andI trust that had an England try been allowed in error the same process would have followed.

But the first-half at Twickenham was manna from heaven for all those who don’t want technology to play a bigger part in football. I must admit I am now on their side.

And God forbid anyone ever suggesting that football referees are mic-ed up.

Rugby officials love the sound of their own voice. They love that they have become leading performers on the pitch purely because we are forced to listen to how they explain their guesswork.

Over-rated Welsh referee Nigel Owens is the worst offender. He’s a limelight-loving luvvie of the rugby world, one who drives a big car with a licence plate that lets everyone know what he does for a living.

Owens also joins in rugby’s love of comparing their sport favourably with football.

In a recent interview he reckoned he would reduce football matches to five-a-side by half-time if he was the match official.

Presumably he hopes no-one remembers his failure to send three sinning All Blacks off before he yellow carded an English player at a crucial time in a Test match last summer.

Apply the laws in your own sport properly before starting on the laws of other sports.

Some are saying that Japan have already saved the current world cup by beating South Africa in Brighton.

It was an astonishing result, a quite brilliant match and a superb performance from the underdogs.

But the thrill was surely diluted by the identity of the match-winning try scorer and the Japan captain. They are called Kane Hesketh and Michael Leitch. Both were born in New Zealand which is normal in rugby union.

A dozen of the Welsh squad were born in England. Scotland caused a pre-tournament furore when another Kiwi John Hardie, who had been in the country for all of five months, was selected over real Scottish people.

Rugby union is a great spectacle when played expansively by the likes of New Zealand and Australia. It’s an awful spectacle when played boringly by the likes of Ireland and England.

The World Cup goes on too long. Six weeks will pass before we witness the inevitable coronation of the All Blacks.