The Post

Please Steve, give us the beautiful game

- Mark Reason

DEAR STEVE, How’s it going? Now about this love thing. I’m all for it, rode the train a long time ago. So how about bringing beauty on board as well. I’m hoping you’re the sort of guy who won’t think that too namby-pamby a sort of word. But I just want to say rugby can be a beautiful game. Trust your cornucopio­us gut, pick Nehe Milner-Skudder and let the boy go.

And why not stick Beauden Barrett at fullback and Ben Smith on the other wing and just tell the lads to go and play. You could change the world. You could show everyone just what a beautiful game rugby can be.

How long has it been? Would you pick David Campese if he were around now. I really hope you would. He did some beautiful things at that 1991 World Cup. And beauty inspires love, which is your bag. So how about it? Why not show the French how they used to play the game when they scored tries from the end of the earth. They couldn’t score a try from the end of their garden under Monsieur Le Fonctionna­ire.

Do you want artists or civil servants? Do you really want to be like the English. I know Sir Graham Henry said the Poms made a mistake by trying to play like New Zealand, but the truth is the old boy doesn’t watch a lot of English rugby. The tragedy for England is that when it mattered they picked Rob Andrew, not Stuart Barnes.

I don’t mean literally. But they picked the filing clerk and not the poet. They could have gone for the likes of George Ford and Luther Burrell and Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph. Stuart Lancaster could have gone for beauty.

But he picked Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt and Sam Burgess. Slammin’ Sam. Tells you all you need to know. The man even sounds like a blacksmith. Bash, bash, bash. What ever happened to all the sculptors and the stone masons. Lancaster could have been loved.

Oh, and Wales. Please. Did you watch the 1971 Lions? One of father Ted’s favourites. Changed Graham Henry’s world. Changed mine, too. They must be greatest team of all time because they showed just how beautiful a game rugby could be. Barry John and Gerald Davies were poets with the ball.

And now look at Wales. I don’t know if Gattica is a mate of yours or not, but the soul weeps. Look, I know they’re in the quarterfin­als and Wales is singing in the valleys. But they’re always singing in the valleys. I know Gatman has created a great team ethic, and for that give the man credit, but do they really have to play like meatheads.

Did you see the game against Australia? Of course, you did. George North, a winger by profession, had a one-on-one off a long run up. Now Terence Gerald Reames Davies would have twisted Bernard Foley like spaghetti on a fork. North, who apparently is well-named cos he only knows one direction, ran straight at him and then fell over.

And did you see when Dan Biggar, who can play a bit, gave a short ball to North and then ran round on the loop at a space which contained his wing and his fullback and a solitary lone ocker. And North ignored him, no pop ball, and ran straight into another body. Poor Dan flung his hands to his head along with King John, Gareth, Gerald, JPR, Phil and anyone else with a rugby soul. Ye Gods.

We loved Japan at this World Cup because they gave us a glimpse of beauty against South Africa. Okay, I’m going to say that word again, that try was a moment of passing beauty. Only I hope it is not passing. I hope profession­alism hasn’t clubbed the lovely thing to death.

We sometimes love Australia because for all their macho nonsense they can do beauty. Campo and the Ella brothers and even Quade Cooper. Not sure we ever really wanted him in New Zealand cos we don’t really trust that sort. We prefer a bit of salt of the earth. Real men don’t paint, they biff about paddocks like Richie and Pinetree.

Have you read a book called ‘Open Looks’ by a bloke called John Saker. You can’t miss him. Used to play basketball for New Zealand. Tall as a lamppost. He hates that comparison because his rugby coach used to call his two locks lampposts. Aren’t they what dogs pee up, thought young long John.

He says he found out as a young man that beauty was not something that New Zealand did well as a country. He saw his first scrum and had never felt such a loss of self as ‘‘in that brainless stew of tissue’’. Saker’s mother-inlaw once described New Zealand as ‘‘a country for which the answer has always been physical’’.

You know what she means. As Johnny Lamppost says, we’ve decommissi­oned the word beauty. It’s you beaut or beaut. We don’t trust it. Sounds French. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Saker once saw Barry John score a try at Athletic Park and it fed his soul.

Come on Steve, the Welsh may have given up on it, but you can feed us the bread of heaven. Love and beauty and truth and all of that. Make this a team we can love. Change the world. Be beautiful.

 ?? Photo: GETTY IMAGES ?? Nehe Milner-Skudder’s X-factor adds an element of poetry to modern rugby, which has become more about bash than beauty.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES Nehe Milner-Skudder’s X-factor adds an element of poetry to modern rugby, which has become more about bash than beauty.
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