AN attack of the lurgy at the weekend had me on the sofa, clutching my hot water bottle and watching the box. Six Nations rugby was inescapable, and I have to say I was shocked. Where on earth do these people come from?
Take the Italians. Small, pizza-eating types, keen on gondolas, Vespas and strange business dealings you might think. So how did they produce that giant? He looked barely human. What’s more, some idiot had placed a small child in his direct line of vision. A moment’s distraction and that human monolith could have mistaken him for a Twiglet. One munch and gone. Typical Italian irresponsibility, in my view.
Even the teams that weren’t playing got a look-in between times. So, which bit of France produces men of vast stature? Have we misunderstood Huguenots all these years? The Huge You Knows clearly suffered tribal separation some time back when they gave us the small ones and kept the giants at home, diverting them from interesting artisanal pursuits and making them play with odd shaped balls.
But the Irish could really do with some focus. They can’t decide if they’re rocking the golden-haired harpist look or Finn McCool. On the one hand they’re doing a bit of silky seduction and on the other grabbing rocks and grinding them in bare fists. Nearer home, the Welsh do very good hair and very good singing, but watching them can cause upset. They take losing so hard. Anyone would think the valleys were about to be stripped of youth and provender and the locker room pics of Katherine Jenkins confiscated, not that everyone’s going to turn out in two weeks and do it again.
As for the Scots, do they still have the orange one? Looks as if a French knitting class got a bit carried away with a huge ball of wool. All around him rush smaller, harder, darker men, in a very bad temper, presumably at having to live in Scotland. You think our political coverage is bad? Since they got their own Parliament it’s non-stop worthiness. No wonder they want to eat nails.
Which brings me to the English. They appear to have emerged from five years in Broadmoor. Hairless. Pale staring eyes. As for the one who bled a lot, I couldn’t work out why the Safety Elves didn’t emerge in bio suits and lead his bleeding mass away, but perhaps they didn’t dare. It was, as they say, a very physical match. Which means they knocked seven bells out of each other. The crunch of bone was clearly audible and every now and then, when some idiot with a death-wish tried to run through a crowd of men trying to kill him, a split second before he disappeared you could see him flinch. Within those muscles there are still nerves then. Somewhere.
I have long cherished the theory that no nation fields its best rugby players. They just find the ones still standing. Clearly after each match bits are gathered up and re-attached. The England front row must all have had their ears sewn back by a work experience kid in the St John’s Ambulance. A lot of them seem to be on the wrong heads.
Enjoyable as it all is, when I look at my grandsons, with their straight limbs and perfect teeth, my enthusiasm fails me. Put them out there? In that? No way. If it was left to me and their mother they’d take up macramé and stamp collecting. But, as Cliff Morgan used to say, “greatness takes sacrifice”. It’s like offering your children up for ritual slaughter.
Fortunately for British manhood, my grandsons have a father who used to play. Until he wrecked his shoulder, obviously. He already has the boys playing touch in the garden, if they can keep the bull terrier from bursting the ball. Watching them crush daffodils is fairly dispiriting, if I’m honest, though the dog’s shaping up for a place on the wing. When I look at all those Six Nations players with their courage, discipline and sportsmanship, I can’t help but see a lot of ruined lawns. Rugby is truly a very strange sport. Will I ever understand it? No. In a world where everyone can do everything, I can’t deny it’s still a man’s game. I can only watch and wonder.