Saturday, 28 July 2007

Time for Rugby to Reclaim the Moral Low Ground

Reg Reagan has failed. Dismally. Reg Reagan, for those not familiar with Australian sport, is the embodiment of the Australian male. He reminds all of us (OK, some of us) of our heroes - those handle bar moustache wearing, hairy chested, chain smoking, pot bellied boozers who were at the top of their game in the 1970s and 80s before lung cancer had been invented and when Australian Sport epitomised all that was good.

David Boon - legend

Reg Regan is most famous for his t-shirt - Bring Back the Biff - is its slogan. Reg pines, like all of us (OK, some of us), for those days before video referees, slow motion replays, multiple camera angles and head gear. The days of the 'Battle of Ballymore' and the French being banned for being too violent (as happened in the 1930s).

Alas Reg has failed. The Biff never came back. Both Rugby Union and Rugby League (spit) are flatter than the nose across an old hooker's face. Matches are won in coaching video reviews and set moves practiced ad nauseum on the training paddock. No more can the weaker team out muscle an opponent and this sort of move is a rarity...

Fortunately there is hope and it's found in France. The all in lives on in France and the furthest reaches of the Rugby world. Check this out for a recent and now famous Rugby punch-up...

And if you don't think Rugby is a truly international game check out this fight from the Czech Republic

And if you've ever doubted the passion of Amercians playing Rugby then click here.

So with Rugby League now a game more like soccer with its faking of injuries and more like Aussie Rules for its all in slap and tickles (or melees as they like to call it), it's time for Rugby reclaim the moral low ground. The Rugby World Cup provides the perfect stage for a few all-ins, some broken noses, a couple of roundhouse rights and the odd upper cut that breaks up a scrum and leaves a proud old front rower nursing his jaw.

It'll bring back the patrons and may even impress Reg Reagan.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

A Rugby World Cup History Lesson

History is full of lessons. Apparently. I wouldn't know. I've never learnt from my mistakes and will continue to make them for as long as they feel good at the time. But unlike me, Phonic Monkey puts much store in such things and in this piece he dives into the archives in a bid to determine who will win the Rugby World Cup...

Which country would you consider to be the best performer at the Rugby World Cup?

Bam…just like that. A question that has been the topic of countless discussions in pubs stretching from Dublin to Dunedin involving games played from Telstra to Twickenham, and I don’t even provide the readers with any preparatory synopsis? Well tough titties - are you a weasel winger or a tough piggie?! OINK! I thought so. Keep up with me, piggies.

I suppose all you Kiwis would hark the All Black’s record of making at least the semi finals on each and every tournament. Or those referee tackling Springbok supporters reminding everyone that without those pesky apartheid sanctions, they would have won an additional two World Cups. Or those Aussies who claim the crown is theirs because the Wallabies play crap for three consecutive years, but somehow manage to put it together just in time for Bill. Even Les Bleus who claim that they are most deserving because they eat snails, rotted cheese and amphibian limbs. (How this has anything to do with William Webb Ellis is anyone’s guess).

Okay, reasonable analysis dictates less subjectivity and greater objectivity. A points system based on where the game was played (that is, taking into account home/away support), the opponent’s strength, number of tries scored, ground conditions, atmospheric readings, blah, blah, blah. Bugger that - too much effort, too little time.

No, the best way would be to rank each and every team with their progress. The fact that some teams had home ground advantage is their lucky day, as far as I am concerned. In any case the World Cup revolves around the planet and every team gets their go except for Argentina and Japan and they don't count because they're crap. So a points system based on how far into the tournament a team progressed would be the most transparent and fair indication of performance. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

If you fail to make the knock-out stage, you don’t deserve anything, let alone a return plane ticket. Thus, I have neglected any country who has failed to reach the quarter finals. The quarter finals therefore presents the opportunity for a single, solitary point. If you win that you are destined to play in one of two semi finals – not a bad effort, 2 points. Win that and you are in the final before a packed stadium and 40 billion TV viewers. 3 points to the loser and 5 points to the champs. Seems fair? Stiff cheese if you think otherwise.

So it became necessary to aggregate each team’s performance over the five separate tournaments. I would be lying if I said that I was surprised with the results. Did you know that Canada made the quarter finals in 1991? Thanks to South Africa’s omission, they were pooled with France, Romania and Fiji and only lost to France. Bit of a piss weak pool if you ask me. Pool C had Australia, Western (Manu) Samoa, Wales and Argentina fighting over the two qualifying spots.

The same could be said of the 1995 tournament where Wales famously missed out for the second consecutive time – they were pooled with New Zealand, Ireland and Japan. These days the seedings ensure that no more than two countries from SANZAR, the home nations and France are grouped in the preliminary rounds.

Drum roll please.

And the title goes to……………………the Wallabies!!!

They have played in three finals winning two, losing to Wales in one semi final back in 1987 and were booted out by that fluky Rob Andrew 50 metre sideline dropkick at Newlands. Come to think of it, it is not the first time Australia have lost in Cape Town to a fluky dropkick (and no, I am not referring to the kicker).

New Zealand are the bridesmaids with the second highest aggregate followed by England and France. In order to incorporate South Africa’s deeds, I have also calculated an average score by dividing total points by the number of tournaments competed by each country. Australia still top the list followed again by those pesky All Blacks, but those giraffe eating yarpies make it to number three, replacing the northern hemisphere plodders.

And what does my crystal ball suggest for the 2007 tournament? Australia will extend its lead after another timely All Black choke!

Full table below.

Comments welcome.

Australia-1987-Semis-2pts - 1991-Won-5pts - 1995 -Quarters-1pt - 1999-Won-5pts - 2003-Runner Up-3pts - Total 16pts, Average 3.2 from 5 appearances
New Zealand-Won-5-Semis-2-Runner Up-3-Semis-2-Semis-2-14pts, 2.8 from 5
South Africa-----Won-5-Semis-2-Quarters-1-8pts, 2.7 from 3
England-Quarters-1-Runner Up-3-Semis-2-Quarters-1-Won-5-12pts, 2.4 from 5
France-Runner Up-3-Quarters-1-Semis-2-Runner Up-3-Semis-2-11pts, 2.2 from 5
Scotland-Quarters-1-Semis-2-Quarters-1-Quarters-1-Quarters-1-6pts, 1.2 from 5
Ireland-Quarters-1-Quarters-1-Quarters-1---Quarters-1-4pts, 0.8 from 5
Wales-Semis-2-----Quarters-1-Quarters-1-4pts, 0.8 from 5
Western Samoa---Quarters-1-Quarters-1-----2pts, 0.5 from 4
Fiji-Quarters-1---------1pt, 0.3 from 4
Argentina-------Quarters-1---1pt, 0.2 from 5
Canada---Quarters-1-------1pt, 0.2 from 5

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Joy of Rugby Injuries

We love contact sport because it has contact, and the best contact sport is Rugby. Only in Rugby can the full weight of 16 men (two scrums worth) be forced through the kneck bones of 6 men who don't even have necks (or as the T-shirt goes 'One man pushing two men's heads up three men's butts). Only in Rugby is the use of studs to 'ruck' a man off the ball legal (or at least it was but you still see it all the time). Only in Rugby is it stacks on when someone is tackled. And only in Rugby is the cauliflower ear worn as a badge of pride.

So when the old story of Buck Shelford getting a testicle pushed back in and his scrotum stitched up and playing on revived last week prior to Bledisloe, it triggered a search for the best Rugby injuries on the web. Funnily enough, to find the best Rugby injuries I did a search for 'worst Rugby injuries'.

This is what the Rolling Maul found:

This photo

From the Still Angry Blog: The best Rugby injury I've witnessed was when a teammate had his forehead stepped on and there was a nice round cleat-shaped dent in his forehead (yes, he had a skull fracture and deformation). It was just one of those things, and while he came off, there was no real fuss over it (ok outside of the need for immediate and serious medical attention).

From The Daily Californian: In Time Magazine when I was an eighth grader I saw a guy with his index finger down to the first knuckle into another guy's eye.

From Vuvuzela Online: I broke my shoulder last year. There were two guys coming down the field and I couldn’t decide which one to tackle. I went for both of them and broke my AC joint.

Urghhh. This photo from Rudius Media: I don't know anything about any sort of pro rugby, but I play for my university squad and this happened to my friend. The first thing he did was scream, the second thing he did was tell us to take a picture, the third thing he said was to call 911. That happened at the beginning of fall season last year, he was back for spring season, then tore his pcl this fall, but he wants to play again this spring. I love this fucking sport. Nowhere else does shit like this happen.

Also from Rudius Media: The only other really bad Rugby Injury that sticks with me is having My groin rucked till it bled by some bastard bumpkin. I got up and punched on with him to an immediate yellow card. Coming off my coach has asked me why I attacked with such venom.. Then he noticed the red patch pooling around the place on my shorts where my balls should have been situated and understood.

And this: Worst injury I've witnessed in person was at training in school. The pitch was a mudbath, the really sticky mud that makes the sucking noise when you try to pull your feet out. We were playing a practice match, and one of the backs goes into contact. A maul forms, and starts to move. What we didn't know was that the guy's foot was still stuck in the mud and he couldn't get it out. He ended up with a dislocated hip. The screams were something else. It wasn't gruesome, like a compund fracture or severe limb break, but the thought of having your leg slowly pulled out of it's socket like that is horrible.

Now it's your turn. What's your best injury (not necessarily yours of course)?

NEW: Think this is bad? Check out the sequel. Visit More Joy of Rugby Injuries.