I do enjoy watching a good game of rugby, though, like many a fair-weather fan, this doesn’t extend much beyond the Six Nations and World Cups. Living in Wales as an Englishman makes even this a sometimes awkward experience though, particularly as I work for Sport Wales. When England prevailed against the Welsh last Saturday, I knew that I would suffer the following Monday. The good-spirited will say ‘well done’, albeit with possibly a quick mention of North’s foot not being in touch and Marler behaving badly. And the less, erm, sportsmanlike might glower with just a hint of rage bubbling under the surface. I jest of course. Sport never brings out the pettiness in otherwise level-headed adults… (Just ask my wife what I’m like when Southampton lose.)
My experience of actually playing rugby is very limited and sadly FAR from enjoyable. At Swanmore School, I was always last to be picked for any sporting endeavour. For rugby, I’d be the sixteenth on the list. I can’t speak for other schools (I never played for my school for a start), but when we played, all the less able/willing/encouraged (delete as applicable) were stuck out on the wings. Some of the most famous international players are wingers of course, but at school, most of the action took place in and around the scrum. A melee of mini-men would face off against each other, the ball would go in, shoot out and then would be passed one of the few boys with unbuttered fingers, who’d proceed to run the length of the pitch and score. Rinse and repeat.
So my time was spent on the touchline, mainly standing still or ambling slowly towards where the action was happening, before ambling back when a try was scored. Consequently, I got cold. VERY cold. I recall an occasion, one November, when it was so icy that I pretty soon had no feeling in my hands at all, or in fact in my limbs. I am confident that, had a ball made its way to me, my hands would have shattered, like the T-1000 in Terminator II. Once back in the changing rooms, my unfeeling digits struggled to do up the buttons on my shirt, meaning that getting dressed took approximately 7 hours.
I’ve digressed substantially, given that I was intending to write about about a very different type of rugby. One without the potentially pain-inducing physical contact associated with rugby union – Touch Rugby. To the uninitiated, it looks a bit like British Bulldog or possibly a platonic version of kiss chase. Two teams face off against each other and try and get the ball to the other end. Tackles are replaced by a light touch, which strikes me as a more civilised idea than the frankly scary looking encounters seen on a rugby pitch. I often wince at the impacts seen on the field. Touch Rugby is a very different kettle of fish however. It ends up being a fun runaround which is all about timing – passing and running at the right times to find spaces in the opposition line.
I am lucky enough to have facilities at work to use at lunchtimes to play with colleagues, but given that all you need is an egg-shaped ball, players (at least six really) and open space, it is a good one to take to the park, especially now the good weather is beginning to put up a fight against the six month reign of rain we seem to have endured recently.