The Rugby World Cup began last night with the opening ceremony at Twickenham Stadium, home to English rugby, followed by the England rugby team playing Fiji.
England is the host for this tournament, with venues all over the country being used. In fact, to serve the west of the nation, where rugby is revered, there are matches being played in Exeter, Gloucester and Wales. Yes, I know, Wales is actually another country, but it appears the Rugby Football Union authorities seem to regard it as the biggest county in England.
Of course, being a Gloucester fan and living near to the city, it’s been great fun. There are lots of statuettes all over the place called Scrumptys, which one of the managers at (almost) voluntary work mistook for eggs, but are in fact rugby balls, all designed and painted in different ways. During the day, rosy cheeked young children scamper around the city centre, hugging the scrumptys and having their photos taken for different social media sites; during the night, certain rosy nosed drinkers stagger around the city either urinating or kicking the crap out of the poor scrumptys, but that’s city life for you. Anyway, everybody enjoys them, even if the children return home smelling faintly of piss and kebabs.
There’s also a ‘fanzone’, a purpose built area down by the dockside that acts like a mini stadium. There’s a stand, some fake grass and a huge telly to watch the matches on. I believe that the fanzone was very busy last night, large numbers of people gathering to watch the England match.
Everywhere, people are encouraged to come together and watch this fantastic spectacle, the world in union, sharing the highs and lows of their country’s fortunes. However, when it comes to watching important matches on the telly, ones that actually mean something to me, I prefer to watch them at home. I find that if you watch these particular matches in public, there’s always at least one idiot who can’t shut up. I’d prefer to be that idiot at home alone, just annoying myself.
These are the things that put me off watching rugby on telly in a public place:
People who give loud opinions as to how a team is playing or should be playing when they’ve never played the game. You are entitled to give your opinion once you’ve experienced having an 18 stone man sit on your face on a muddy pitch in the middle of February.
People who give loud opinions as to how a team is playing or should be playing when they’ve played the game. Yes, I’ve played rugby, had an 18 stone man sit on my face etc., but I retired from the game over 20 years ago, when players wore thick cotton shirts and had a fag at half time. I have no idea what is going on half of the time, but I know what I think is good or bad.
People who like to talk about other things unrelated to the match going on in front of them. This can be equally infuriating at live matches, too. My friend The Sexton was fortunate enough to get a gold stand ticket for a Gloucester match, only to find himself sitting in front of two season ticket holding ladies who spent the entire match talking about gardening.
A couple of seasons ago, during a particularly thrilling match at Kingsholm, the man behind me was giving a review of the play he’d been to see.
“I must say, Jeremy, his Henry V far outweighed anything I’d seen before, I can’t wait to discover how he’ll measure up to Benedict’s Hamlet…’ , he espoused as Gloucester powered towards the line, the regular fan 8 rows back cawing “They don’t like it up ‘em!” in his gravelly Gloucestrian tone.
People who call rugby ‘rugger’. No. It’s rugby. Only headmasters from the 1970s can call it rugger. It’s a popular phrase among middle aged public schoolboys who wear pastel coloured polo shirts with the collar up. Not that there’s anything wrong with public schoolboys; if it wasn’t for one of them making up his own rules to his own selfish advantage there wouldn’t be any rugby. Or modern politicians for that matter.
People who don’t like rugby.
“Oh no, it’s rugby. I don’t like rugby,” they say as they walk into the bar, “I prefer football. That’s a skilful game. Rugby has no skill. Look at that bloke cuddling the other one! Haha! Handball! Oi! Yeah! Handball!”
This type of person can often be found lying under the telly with a broken nose about 10 minutes after they’ve entered the establishment.
I have no issues with Master Johnny, my son, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and tends not to make comment unless it’s a game he cares about, when he can stand in front of the screen shouting profanities from time to time. He is the person I can watch games with, but unfortunately he’s taken after me and finds it hard to view a game in the company of an idiot, so often takes refuge in his room away from me.
“Go on Shaun!” I’d cry out at Kingsholm. Johnny, sitting next to me, would lean over to me.
“That’s not Shaun, dad,” he’d explain patiently. “He’s not playing today.”
Of course, the end of match analysis from ‘other people’ can be painful. England supporters who watch their team win by 20 points and then moan about them ‘not being very entertaining’. Fair play to Wales fans, if they scrape a 2 point win over Paquador they consider it a signal of the great re-emergence of a mighty Welsh rugby nation, dragon flags unfurled as they come out of the valleys and over the hills.
Then there’s the well-meaning comments made by non-rugby loving partners.
It’s only a game.
Oh perhaps they’ll win the next one.
Oh well, they can have another go next season/in 4 years’ time.
Can I watch Location, Location, Location now?
I do enjoy listening to the comments of the pundits at half time and full time, a hard thing to do in a crowded bar, where very often the TV channel is changed for admittedly other sports related matters (football scores, horse racing). However, I have been invited to a friend’s house to watch a game where, at half time, he changes the channel to watch completely unrelated stuff. Instead of hearing what Sir Clive thinks of South Africa’s drift defence, you’re listening to some bloke called Monty explain they have 60 minutes to redecorate Doreen’s living room before she returns from the shops. Then 10 minutes later, you’re panicking because the players must be coming back out again and we’re still watching Monty struggle with a big piece of MDF board. Arghh!!
So, I will mostly be watching the rugby at home. I’m lucky enough to have tickets for some games. I’m going with Master Johnny, so that’s alright. It’s the others I’m worried about.