TV doesn’t lessen the impact of the big hits
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.