Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just not Cricket!

Jerry Collins
Barnstaple's Super-Sub
There is a long and relatively honorable tradition of 'ringers' in the lower divisions of Rugby Union in this country.

Quite often an first team player coming back from injury will get back match fitness down in the thirds, even quite small teams will often have a peripatetic antipodean who are often found paying work by some stalwart of the club or another, and there is a bit of a tradition of giving people who are just passing through a game if they want one.

I do have some sympathy though for the Newton Abbey second XV in their game against Barnstaple last weekend. According to they got a bit of a surprise at the sight of the visitors' stand in flanker, none other than All Black Jerry Collins freshly returned from Rugby World Cup chokingduties.

The last week has brought mixed Rugby Union news. It was fantastic to hear that Steve Thompson, formerly of Northampton and England is to return to playing the game, while Stuart Abbott who was starting to show a lot of promise in an England shirt has had to call time on his career prematurely through injury. It's far from certain what level Thompson may be able to compete at, returning to the playing side of the game after retiring with serious neck problems, but nonetheless I'm sure most Rugby enthusiasts will be delighted to see someone who was so pivotal in England's development leading up to RWC victory in 2003 being able to play again. To come back from such kind of health issues, having to return a large insurance payout as well, says volumes for the character and the passion the sport engenders, much as Jonah Lomu's valiant effort to get back into an All Black shirt did.

The repercussions of England's against all odds appearance in another World Cup final have also brought mixed blessings. The general feeling remains good, and it's certain that their performance has inspired, but some of the back stabbing over the coaching role has been deeply unedifying. It sounds like there is genuine need for a debate if the jist of the stories is even half true, but it should be a debate conducted behind closed doors, and not in assorted newspaper columns and books by the players and hangers on. Probably the biggest culprit has been Dayglo. Dallaglio is who I've always been pretty much behind, despite his mixed reception in much of the rugby community, but I really think it's time for him to retire from the international game with his head held high.

The best story of the week though for me has been this from the International Herald Tribune, on Rugby in the Arab World.
Rugby, [Syrian player, Mohammed Jarkou] said, perfectly fit his desire for a bruising fight and an exhausting workout.

Their friend Hani Al Hafez, a sometime college student and coach of the nascent Syrian youth rugby league, said he became addicted to the sport almost immediately when he first tried it in 2005.

"Rugby appeals to Syrian youth because while the game is played, it changes into a kind of battle, with hitting and holding. Then a few moments after the game, enemies become friends again," Jarkou said.

Source: International Herald Tribune

It's a great portrait of how a sport adapts itself and weaves itself into local cultures as it spreads in the world.

Who knows, perhaps if they could manage to apply some of the attitudes expressed by Al Hafez to a game against an Israeli team perhaps we might actually start to get somewhere.

No comments: