kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,
kheru2006
kheru2006

The game of gentlemen

YOU may not have heard of Nemani Nadolo, Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Vereniki Goneva. These Fijian players are fun to watch. This morning they met England at the opening game, by now you will know how well they played. In the last seven World Cups, their best performances were reaching the quarter-finals on three occasions.

In 1995 they did not even qualify. While they are at No 12 in the world rugby ranking (England is fourth), they are always spirited and are quite capable of springing a surprise or two. So, never underestimate them. England, on the other hand, won the World Cup in 2003 and was runners-up on two occasions.

They are hoping to win the second time. And the pressure on the English players is understandably tremendous. After all England is the birth place of rugby. The prize — the Webb Ellis Cup — in memory of the “founder” of the game, must go back to England. The only time they became world champions, it was played in Australia. They were humiliated in 1991 on home ground when they lost to Australia in the finals. Again they lost in the finals to South Africa in 2007 (France).

Starting yesterday, the Rugby World Cup is back, the 8th since 1987. Yes, it is a relative new comer to the sporting calendar, yet it is now the third greatest sporting event in the world (after FIFA World Cup and the Olympics). For rugby fanatics (there are many, in fact as many if not more than football fans) this is a real happening.

Once in four years they will be glued to their TV sets or in the stadiums watching the world’s greatest rugby players showcasing their best performances. Rugby is the best thing that has happened to humankind, if you believe the hard-core followers. It is after all a gentleman’s game played by true gentlemen.

Rascal games, that’s what they are, its detractors would argue. But in a rugby game, everyone behaves. Losers acknowledge their defeat. A football game is tainted by ill feelings. Everyone else is wrong when you don’t win. Losers sorely lose.

Just check on the remarks made by Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger when they lost. Wayne Rooney would lose his cool when he senses bad refereeing.

A rugby player would keep his composure. No chasing of referee. No bad blood. Send a son to play football and another to play rugby, you will see the difference.

Little wonder it is hard to find football in literary works. Some of the finest writers in English used rugby as the background of their celebrated novels. John Buchan best known for The Thirty-Nine Steps wrote Castle Gay, Thomas Hughes came out with Tom Brown’s School Days and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, Watson playing rugby for Blackheath in The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.

In the last seven World Cups, only once did the cup go to a nation in the Northern Hemisphere (England). Three teams have won the World Cup twice, New Zealand (1987, 2011), Australia (1991, 1999) and South Africa (1995, 2007).

The late President Nelson Mandela needed something to unite his nation. He found it in the form of rugby, a symbol of Afrikaner’s supremacy and racism. But on June 24, 1995, the South African team lifted the cup, inspiring South Africans to see a new hope in Mandela’s idea of a “rainbow nation.”

It wasn’t about sports, it was a political totem pole. Who will win this time?

I am biased of course for as a huge fan of All Blacks I put my money on them, the indisputable masters of the rugby universe. They have been the world’s number one nation the last five years.

Talk about consistency. It is in fact their middle name. Strategy, adaptability, skill?

Need I say more about how they razzle and dazzle with beauty and finesse on the field? And they have Ritchie McCaw, the maestro himself, the most capped and the most successful captain in the history of the team.

With him in the team, All Blacks can’t go too far wrong. But lest we forget, Ireland is a team to watch this time. They have a New Zealander as coach, Joe Schmidt, a tactician extraordinaire and they have one of the finest rugby players on their side, Jonathan Sexton.

England’s chances? Yes, Stuart Lancaster is a no-nonsense coach and they have some brilliant young players on their side. I would give them another four years to hone their skill to become world champions.

The English for now are pretty predictable. Then again, unlike the ball in a football game, that of rugby isn’t round. It bounces uncontrollably. The ball can simply go anywhere. Yes, only five countries have won the cup so far.

You can never know what the Pacific Islanders like Samoa, Fiji or Tonga can do. They have proven themselves to excel in seven-a-side tournaments.

You can never know what the Japanese, the Americans or the Argentines are up too. Twenty nations are competing in England, only one will emerge champions.

So, sit back and enjoy. The Rugby World Cup 2015 is a sporting spectacle unlike any other!

The Original All Blacks were the first New Zealand national rugby union team to tour outside Australasia.
Rugby is the best thing that has happened to humankind, if you believe the hard-core followers.
Tags: games, rugby, sports
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