Peter Richardson - Falling for ‘kick and clap’

SCURRYING home from the Trousered Ferret last Friday evening, intent on heading for the kitchen in accordance with my instructions to prepare two gourmet sausage sandwiches, I am instead diverted to the lounge because there are a number of “ooohs” and “aaahs” emanating from within which suggest that Mrs Richardson is not, for once, watching Coronation Street.
Chris Robshaw during an England training session at Pennyhill Park, BagshotChris Robshaw during an England training session at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot
Chris Robshaw during an England training session at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot

Indeed she isn’t. She is actually watching England versus Fiji, the opening game of the Rugby World Cup, which has replaced her beloved soap: “I haven’t a clue what’s going on,” she says, “but there’s a lot of brawny blokes bashing into each other.”

This is a woman who engages with sport on the box in much the same way that I engage with dress-making classes which, just to be clear, is not at all. I’m guessing she hasn’t watched anything of a sporting nature since Bjorn Borg hung up his racket and even then I’m not convinced she was tuning in because of the quality of his backhand lob.

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Conversely, I suppose I am what you might call a typical male…an avid watcher of

anything that involves running, jumping, kicking, batting, bowling and all the other stuff athletes do.

But if there’s one sport I wouldn’t necessarily rush home to watch, it’s rugby union. I’m pretty sure this is nothing to do with never having played the game either at school or since. I never played rugby league either but there’s nothing to stir the blood like Wigan and Saints going at it hammer and tongs. Neither did I ever ride a horse but it doesn’t stop me being glued to the Grand National or the Derby.

No, the reason I can take or leave a televised game of union is that I’m in the same confused camp as the woman who normally watches no sport at all.

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Yes, I understand the objective but haven’t a clue why so many teams go about it with such tedious monotony.

Maybe I’ve just been unlucky with the games I’ve chosen to watch in recent years (almost exclusively England’s) but the players seem to spend most of their allotted 80 minutes mauling about on the floor or locked in a scrum. Then, when the ball does emerge, someone boots it out of play again.

Either that or the referee will routinely spot, among all the squashed bodies and flailing arms and legs, some mysterious reason for awarding a penalty. Yet that same ref will ignore the blatant bias that occurs whenever the ball is fed into those interminable scrums.

As for Mrs R discerning that there’s a lot of brawn on view, maybe that’s part of the problem…that the jinking runs and the silky skills have been snuffed out by the modern bulked-up, brick-wall approach. Of course, the real rugby follower would tell me I’m ignorant of the finer points of the game and he would be right. But I’m willing to bet that those of us armchair sports fans who could easily swerve the union code whether it’s a World Cup or not, are in the majority. Or at least they were until the Japanese turned up.

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Japan beating South Africa with a last-gasp try in a match that was, by all accounts, brilliant to watch, has already gone down in history as the most unlikely victory in any sport ever. Not to mention a godsend for the tournament organisers.

The smallest and lightest team in the competition beat the biggest and heaviest in such an accomplished fashion that they consigned David and Goliath to the dustbin of redundant clichés.

At the very least, this was Bamfurlong beating

Barcelona. Or Usain Bolt being pipped on the line by Douglas Bader. Whatever it was, we shall not see its like again in a hurry.

And so we arrive at Wednesday afternoon. The woman who watches no sport at all is in front of the telly well before kick-off and so is the man who would have bet good money that he would never in a million years sit down to watch a rugby union match involving Japan.

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Unfortunately, at least for those of us who can’t get enough giant-killing in their sporting diet, it was the other team beginning with “J” that won it. Fair play to the Jocks but it’s thanks to Japan that this recalcitrant rugby man is, for the next few weeks at least, converted.