Watch­ing this, I wouldn’t let my kid play League

The Rugby Paper - - Views - COLIN BOAG

With a dearth of ‘proper’ rugby last week­end, I was re­duced to watch­ing Rugby League, some­thing I haven’t done for a while.

Of course, they start with only 13 men on each side, but had Union’s dik­tats been ap­plied, the Eng­land v New Zealand game might have fin­ished with six against six!

League fans de­clare that Union is ‘soft’, and Union sup­port­ers pro­claim League to be bor­ing. On the ba­sis of what I saw, both are on the money.

I’ve never re­ally ‘got’ League, with its mean­ing­less pow­der-puff scrums, and end­less sets of tack­les, but I would think long and hard about al­low­ing any kid of mine to play it.

On the Rugby League web­site they start their sec­tion on con­cus­sion by say­ing that League is a ‘full-con­tact sport’ and that it’s un­re­al­is­tic to be­lieve con­cus­sions can ever be erad­i­cated.

That said, their com­ment that they can hap­pen every day on our streets and in school play­grounds, could be seen as be­ing slightly com­pla­cent. Af­ter that their rules are very sim­i­lar to World Rugby’s, but what I saw in the Eng­land v New Zealand match still wor­ried me. A lot of tack­les seemed to in­volve lead­ing with an el­bow, and there were plenty of what I would in­ter­pret as swing­ing arms, but the of­fi­cials seemed to ac­cept this as be­ing part of the game.

Rugby Union is, de­pend­ing on your view­point, in a mess over the tackle laws, or go­ing through a pe­riod of ad­just­ment, but from what I saw, we’re fur­ther down the road than League – and by some mar­gin.

Are you en­thralled by the prospect of four weeks of in­ter­na­tional rugby, or doesn’t it float your boat? Af­ter yes­ter­day’s en­counter with South Africa, Eng­land face the All Blacks, Ja­pan and then the Wallabies in Twick­en­ham sell-outs, rais­ing mil­lions for the RFU.

Both the Premier­ship and the PRO14 will play on two of those week­ends, with clubs, prov­inces and re­gions field­ing weak­ened sides. In Eng­land, the Premier­ship Rugby Cup will fill the other two gaps, en­sur­ing that club rugby fans will al­ways have some­thing to watch, and the own­ers will have some cash com­ing in.

Which would you pre­fer, your club to win the Premier­ship or the Cham­pi­ons Cup, or your coun­try to win the World Cup? My an­swer would be sim­ple: I’d love Eng­land (or Scot­land) to be­come world cham­pi­ons, but that would take sec­ond place to my club loy­al­ties.

Yes­ter­day, Twick­en­ham, the Prin­ci­pal­ity and the Aviva were full of peo­ple lov­ing in­ter­na­tional rugby who per­haps see things dif­fer­ently. They love the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in a great sta­dium, hav­ing a few beers, and cheer­ing on their coun­try – many wouldn’t be that both­ered by the weekly grind of club games.

If some peo­ple are con­tent with their rugby in­volve­ment be­ing six or seven Twick­en­ham in­ter­na­tion­als each year, that’s fine – oth­ers love the thrill of fol­low­ing their club through good and bad. You pays your money…

Igot some grief for what was seen as my un­sym­pa­thetic stance on the fu­ture of the Lions, but I just can’t get as ex­er­cised about this as some.

Phrases such as ‘im­pend­ing tragedy’ and ‘death knell’ have been trot­ted out – you would think that an Act of Par­lia­ment had been passed declar­ing the Lions to be il­le­gal. All that’s hap­pened is they’re be­ing asked to make a few changes to fit in with the mod­ern world.

I was en­thralled by the last Lions tour, but I’m of an age where I re­call lis­ten­ing through the wire­less static to matches played on the other side of the world. Us­ing the club v coun­try ex­am­ple, a Lions tour win would be great, but it would fea­ture be­hind both club and coun­try suc­cess for me.

Some of the peo­ple who have been most vo­cal about the per­ceived threat to the Lions are rugby heroes of mine, but the likes of Fran Cot­ton and Sir Ian McGeechan re­tired from play­ing al­most 40 years ago, when the game was very, very dif­fer­ent. John Spencer’s play­ing ca­reer fin­ished even longer ago than that.

All are hugely dis­tin­guished elder states­men, but maybe they’re not the best peo­ple to un­der­stand where the Lions fit into the mod­ern game?

Lead­ing with the el­bow: Eng­land v New Zealand Rugby League

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