Swanny’s World Of Sport - Hoof it, chase it, hoof it again

Action from the Ireland v England game.
Action from the Ireland v England game.
  • It’s a succession of collisions between bulked-up players
  • The sport was more fun in the amateur days
  • No ambition and a lack of adventure
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Is there a sport that so regularly disappoints as rugby union?

Actually that’s not fair. Southern Hemisphere rugby is pretty exciting and spectacular to watch and comparing their Four Nations Championship to the Six Nations tripe inflicted on Europe every year is like comparing Barcelona to Bolton.

I was looking forward to the hyped-up game between Ireland and England last weekend. The two best teams in the competition apparently and both unbeaten heading into a title decider.

After 10 minutes I was so bored I considered switching over to watch Norwich v Ipswich at football and one of my life rules is to never voluntarily watch a team managed by Mick McCarthy.

McCarthy would have enjoyed the rugby ‘action’ though. It was a long kick downfield followed by another long kick downfield in the hope of winning a game because of a defensive mistake.

Ipswich are challenging for promotion from the Championship on the back of those tactics.

In Dublin, as well as Norfolk, there was no flair, no creativity and very little obvious skill or imagination.

Ireland deservedly beat England, but they did it by kicking and chasing and by persuading a whistle-happy referee to award them numerous penalties.

I’m sure rugby union referees guess at what’s happened. They must do as the ball is hidden from view for most of the 80 minutes.

The sport is not really stop-start because most of the time the play has actually stopped.

They take a minute setting up every scrum and then the ball is just fed by a scrum-half to his own hooker.

They take a minute to take every shot at goal, even the easy ones.

When the ball is in play, it’s just a succession of collisions between bulked-up players until one of them drops the ball.

The teams south of the equator must watch these matches (especially in a World Cup year) and laugh their socks off.

Four Nations Championship matches in 2014 were full of tries.

New Zealand beat Australia 47-29 in a game last year and they beat South Africa 38-27.

So it is possible to use pace and slick passing moves to score tries.

You just need to have ambition, a sense of adventure and coaches who are prepared to take a risk in order to win.

Instead England are paralysed by over-analysis. They have a coach for the forwards, a coach for the backs, a kicking coach and most probably a life coach telling them not to drink aftershave after a match.

The sport was more fun in the amateur days though, when wingers used to be about nine stone dripping wet, but could run fast and dodge tackles.

The Barbarians scored the greatest ever try against New Zealand in 1973.

These days that ball would have been hoofed upfield at the first opportunity.