TV doesn’t lessen the im­pact of the big hits

Gloucestershire Echo - - RICHARDSON REPORT -

THE RWC got off to a lav­ish open­ing cer­e­mony and we can prob­a­bly look for­ward to an Olympics-type com­pe­ti­tion for who can out-do the rest.

The open­ing match be­tween Ja­pan and Rus­sia was a bit old-school and looked quite like univer­sity matches used to be.

It was none the worse for that but the re­al­ity of pro­fes­sion­al­ism got straight in our faces when Fiji seemed quite able to crack a few Aus­tralian bones.

Live sport is in­vari­ably bet­ter than the tele­vised ver­sion, but Ja­pan is quite a long bus ride for most of us and TV does have an edge other than the fi­nan­cial one.

When you watch a match live you are aware of the in­ten­sity and fe­roc­ity of the tack­les and the gen­eral con­tact.

But when it is on screen and is re­played, you re­alise just how much dy­na­mite goes into the col­li­sions.

Box­ing can be a bit like that. You are aware that big punches are go­ing in, but the power seems to be in­ten­si­fied when the slo-mo re­play comes in and you be­come aware of just how far the re­ceiver’s per­spi­ra­tion is fly­ing af­ter the hit.

Rugby’s big tack­les are a bit like that. The Fi­jians seem al­most to defy the nor­mal rules of move­ment and mo­men­tum.

They seem able to con­tort their bod­ies in mid-air and make a tackle with­out the ben­e­fit of hav­ing a boot on the ground to ini­ti­ate the skill.

It is quite fright­en­ing how they man­age to get to a place that looked im­pos­si­ble a split-sec­ond be­fore – and the Aussies did play into their hands at the start.

Why they seemed to think that an ex­trav­a­ganza of all-singing, all-danc­ing rug­ger would get them away from the clutches of the Fi­jians re­mains a mys­tery, but they soon changed their tune.

Af­ter a few body-shape chang­ers, the Aussies changed their plan com­pletely and de­serve im­mense credit.

They started to scrim­mage hard, kick be­hind the en­emy and use the driv­ing maul to great effect.

The driv­ing maul is not pretty but it works and sucks the strength from op­po­nents’ legs.

The avail­able tac­tics and strate­gies make rugby a great game. It does not have to be thrilling han­dling the length of the pitch – un­less that suits you best.

There are darker arts avail­able and against Fiji you need a few of them up your sleeve.

Aus­tralia demon­strated that there is a so­lu­tion to most rugby prob­lems, but you have to face up to the en­emy be­fore any­thing has the re­motest chance of suc­cess.

Fiji will be a hand­ful for the very best and it is quite re­mark­able that they all play abroad, they are as poor as church mice and huge bud­gets for train­ing and prac­tice do not en­ter the equa­tion.

Per­haps Eng­land watched that match be­fore tak­ing on Tonga. The Ton­gans are not quite in the Fi­jian bracket but they are tough, big and elec­tric in the tackle.

Eng­land may not have won too many rosettes for artis­tic merit, but they played prag­mat­i­cally and kept Tonga as far back as pos­si­ble and away from the tackle.

There was a won­der­ful early mo­ment when Billy Vu­nipola was smashed and lev­elled in what looked like a, “Nice to see you again, Billy. Re­mem­ber me from school­days?”

When all the RWC ac­tion was go­ing on, you could hardly have a rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that over 11,000 spec­ta­tors would come to wor­ship at King­sholm for a Pre­mier­ship Rugby Cup fix­ture against Lon­don Ir­ish. But they came!

Such matches can mean ab­so­lutely any­thing to all the clubs in the com­pe­ti­tion.

It is not like Pre­mier­ship league games where you are out to win with your best avail­able play­ers.

When the two teams took the field you sus­pected that Ir­ish had a ma­jor­ity of play­ers who had started shav­ing some time ago and our fresh-faced (well, some of them) ty­ros might have a bat­tle on their hands.

But they ac­cu­mu­lated 29 points against a more phys­i­cal side with a bit too much ex­pe­ri­ence that earned them 49 points.

Lon­don Ir­ish laid out their stall when we saw Stephen Myler start at 10 and he was re­placed with an equally gifted and ex­pe­ri­enced Paddy Jack­son.

And it was all looked over by the wily Blair Cowan who never misses a trick.

Glouces­ter did not want to lose but came out of the en­counter with some credit.

It may be slightly dif­fer­ent against Bris­tol Bears next time out.

Billy Vu­nipola

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