If you, like me, are a rugby enthusiast, then, when talking to non-rugby enthusiasts, the following conversation could well have taken place.
“Into rugby are you?”
“Yep, it’s a great sport…”
“Don’t really get it myself, the rules, it’s a bit confusing.”
Now, once you have suppressed the need to correct your new found friend on the fact that they are laws not rules, you may well attempt to try and address the issue. Perhaps you’ll start with some rudimentary explanation of a knock on or a forward pass, maybe the act of scoring a try is a simple enough concept. Potentially you’ll attempt to describe the guidelines around offside, after all they probably understand football. Having got them nodding away, and having got them another pint, you might start to look at other areas of the game to demystify. Your mind flicks through the Rolodex of options…
Kicking? No, there’s that whole bouncing into touch, passing back into the 22 thing.
Lineouts? Numbers. Lifting. Outside arm. Not straight but if you take a quick one it doesn’t have to be straight. Um no, best not.
The scrum? Sheesh, no.
The breakdown? We’ll be here all night…
“Um, wasn’t that Arsenal Liverpool game good at the weekend?”
It is, without doubt, the one thing that has stopped our sport being the world’s favourite. Because, let’s face it, rugby has everything you could possibly want from a sport. There’s power and poise, organisation and chaos. There’s incredible individual know-how from specific positions and yet without team cohesiveness, nothing works. There’s ferocious clamour yet solitudinous calm; the team crashes over the try line and yet it is just one man’s job to add the extra points. There is strength, speed, sleight of hand and slap you in the face straightforwardness. Bring together the brutality of a bare-knuckle fist fight and the fluidity of the Bolshoi Ballet and you are there. This sport has everything. It is extraordinary. But it also has laws. Lots of confusing, ‘stop the game and bring it back’, laws.
This country is gearing up for a major international tournament later this year. The Rugby World Cup comes to England and in my home town of Bedford, it is coming to our doorstep at Stadium MK. An old friend, and rather well known Badminton Olympic Medallist, Gail Emms spoke to me about how we need to make the most of the Rugby World Cup in our area. She was talking about putting on events to attract attention. She asked, how do we get people involved?
I replied relatively simply. We need to explain the laws; deconstruct the sport, get players talking about their roles within the game and get referees to explain what they are looking at. The after dinner stories from former players are funny and can interest non-rugby folk but if we really want to bring people into our sport we must address the uncertainty surrounding the laws. People will understand when you explain it clearly and indeed, in doing so, the sport will become more interesting. The game is a little bit like the stars at night; the more you look, the more you see.
Maybe we can achieve this locally. Maybe everyone involved with rugby should look to make this happen over the coming months. I hope the governing body are working on bringing this element of our sport to the people. Knowledge is the most wonderful thing; mainly because it makes you hungry for more.
Sam Roberts © 2015. (Text only). All Rights Reserved.