The most irritating part of the rugby union World Cup is the sneering of its followers aimed at football.
It’s an inferior sport according to the rugger snobs. Here are the reasons why they are wrong.
1) Referees. Okay football officials are generally hopeless, but at least they don’t get to bore us with continuous drivel in the hope that waffling on and on and on will distract us from the multiple number of offences they miss.
2) Flow. How anyone can enjoy a sport when the ball isn’t visible for half the game is beyond me. It’s either stuck on the floor underneath a dozen 20-stone men or in the crowd having been booted there by flair-free fly halves. In football the ball staying on the field of play is generally seen as a good thing.
3) Technology. How do you slow down a game that already suffers from whistle-happy officials? Easy sit a fourth official in the stand and ask him to adjudicate on every try or suspected incidents of foul play. This can take a while. Football uses goal-line technology only and decisions tend to be made instantly without an unnecessary stoppage in play.
4) Discipline: In rugby, players can punch, shove, kick and attempt to hurt with little fear of a proper sanction, until after the game at least. How can this be right? Just because you call the referee ‘sir’ doesn’t mean you should be able to get away with acts of violence. Football treats its worst offenders in a more justified way with red cards, not the cop-out of a few minutes in a sin bin.
5) Skill: Some of the handling skills of rugby playeres has been beyond embarrassing in this World Cup. I’ve seen catches dropped that even hopeless Ian Bell would take. Captain Hook would catch most of them despite his obvious physical disadvantage. And they use a ball that’s shaped to make it easier to catch. Any footballer making as many regular basic errors wouldn’t get near the international game. Unless they are Scottish.
6) Fans: England supporters only have one song. And it’s nonsensical. ‘Swing Low’ is an anti-slavery song with origins in Africa and North America. Football fans have far more originality and use relevant ditties like Millwall’s anthem of ‘no-one likes us, we don’t care’. Rugby fans also moan about football while sitting in a football stadium, one of many employed in this World Cup because club rugby union grounds are mostly rubbish.
7) Pre-match entertainment: The best team in the world use an embarrassing dance involving gurning and throat-slitting gestures. It’s unlovely macho posturing. Footballers have a ‘respect’ handshake before every game. It’s far more civilised.
8) Laws: Let’s face it the referees barely understand the scrummage laws so what chance has the layman? Football referees also struggle to interpret the laws of the game consistently, but us fans know them backwards.
Next week: why rugby league is superior to rugby union.