Friday, October 19, 2007

World in Union

Video Saturday.
Rugby Saturday.

OK, so it was rugby Saturday for me last week as well with the Rugby League Grand Final which my team Leeds won - so yippee there then.

Today is something a tad different, for today is the Rugby Union World Cup Final featuring (beyond all expectation) England vs South Africa.

I enjoy both codes of rugby, the professional league season having just finished (most amatuer league teams play through the winter) I now turn my attention to union and I seem to be geting dragged into involvement at the club where our Ned coaches the under 9's, Moortown RUFC, where yours truly has been setting up a web site (its in a rather skeleton form at the moment, obviously, have a look at the u-9's gallery).

Its not too difficult to follow both codes and yet many seem incapable of doing so, incessently comparing one with the other, its something you should never do if you want to have a year long feast of rugby, you simply switch your head into whichever mode or code it is you are watching, not too difficult then, rather like watching a game of cricket and then a game of football and not comparing the two.

For the uninitiated the League format is a stripped down version of Union - most of the things that slow down the game are removed from League, constantly contesting possession being the main element, its faster, its simpler, the ball is in play longer, its very easy to watch and understand from the spectators point of view.

Union on the other hand can be like a game of chess, a game of attrition where both sides attempt to grind the other down, mere yards are fought for with an intensity that is matched only by the armies in the trenches during WW1, its a technical game, a game where many ways to infringe a passage of play exist and it can sometimes be difficult for the spectator to see why the referee has blown for a penalty but the "mic'ing up" of the ref has been a huge sucess so that now you can at least hear why he has given a decision.

Its a fascinating game when played between two evenly matched sides and just one element tonight will be how South Africa treat Englands goal kicking supremo Jonny Wilkinson, there is nothing they can do about his goal kicking skills but plenty that they can do to get him off the pitch early on, and there have been mutterings all week that he will be targeted - having watched Jonny Wilkinson play at Newcastle several times, and come back from several serious injuries at Newcastle I can only add that he is not the sort of player and he does not play in a position where he can hide during a game, the team cannot shield him from whatever SA want to throw at him and that single element will be fascinating to watch tonight.

And whilst the pundits was lyrically over the battle of the front and second row forwards - and it will be a battle, have no doubt, this will be a no holds barred bloody battle, this is Ali vs Frazier all over again - I will be looking out for the running backs and especially Jason Robinson (Leeds lad) and SA's Bryan Habana and whilst Robinson has lost a percentage of the pace he used to have when we first watched him in the League code all those years ago he still has the ability to wrong-foot and sidestep at least one tackler everytime he has the ball, I do hope he finds several gaps today.

When Jason Robinson was a 16 year old playing at Hunslet and being touted around the (then) semi-pro First Division Rugby League clubs, Leeds were offered the chance to sign him and another young lad, Gareth Stevens, both were given trials, Leeds offered the wrong youth a contract, we signed Gareth Stevens the decision not at all swayed by the fact that Gareths dad was on the Leeds coaching staff at the time. Wigan signed Jason Robinson and for the next eight years he tortured us every time we played Wigan, if you think he is a difficult player to stop when running into space at the age of 33 then you should have seen him at 18, it is not for nothing that he earned the nickname "Billy Whizz" in Rugby League and was often the only player to leave the pitch with a clean shirt having scored all the tries, being untouchable for 80 minutes - PS, Gareth Stevens struggled to hold a first team place at Leeds and soon disappeared, as did his father on the coaching staff.

Tomorrow - step forward Lewis Hamilton...

1 comment:

John_D said...