Wi-Fi there, too, was in short supply, and not a word of a lie, infants - for instance - must have folks pay for their tickets, while folks, who aren’t getting fleeced through false ticket on-line scams, are getting short ended and slammed shut through, possibly, Twickenham, the titled home of English Rugby Proper, barring customers to its pubs after 10 pm. And unbelievably, the lads can’t wear their home, white jerseys; they have to wear their reds, in their opening match against Fiji.)
To add insult to injury Rugby Football Union’s director, an Englishman named Rob Andrew, blasphemed that England is two to three years away from peaking – eeks!
England did win in 2003, but they are the only northern hemisphere team to win the RWC since it first debuted in 1987. To their credit they’ve also been runner-up, twice but southern-super sides, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia have each won twice. Why does the south stomp on the north so? We’ll get back to that.
First, clinical facts. The fantastic and famous All Blacks of New Zealand won the 2011 edition. They edged France 8-7. Since then, the squad has won 42 of 47 matches, by being fleet, by running foes off their feet with accurate passing, yet are they a sure bet? Their followers are wondering: do they have the balls to defend their title? That’s a big cross to bear.
All teams, though, religiously or otherwise, show that Rugby’s not for the fey of spirit (though teams can choke) or for the floundering of speed, but is for the aggressive, adaptable, adroit – agile. Moreover, having dexterous enough players who have the stuff to swerve from crushing tackles won’t hurt either...
(We must remember the All Blacks enduring THREE fly-halfs, in injury, in the First HALF of the 2011 finale.)
Yet, nevertheless, what may be the most ruthless stage of rugby play is during team selections. Andrew Trimble was the 2014 player of the year for Ireland. Coach Schmidt didn’t pick him for the 2015 RWC squad. Ouch.
Expectedly, New Zealand, as of September 11th 2015 is ranked number one. England, as mentioned, sits at fourth, while America, the Eagles, are perched at 15th. But here’s a head snapper: some say rugby is the fastest growing sport in the US of A.
What has also been growing is the realization, to the somewhat churly chagrin of fans of Northern Hemisphere teams, is that their teams get beaten consistently by Southern Hemisphere teams, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Basically, the latter emphasize offense over defense and oomph athleticism and skill over brute force and stolid play-drill.
So southern fans not only bask in the glory of rooting for the best, but also watch a much more captivating game. But both hemispheres adhere to Rugby’s commandments, some of which, boiled down to warrior level, see hacking and stomping as taboos, while believing that imbibing and recognizing rules, are must do’s.
History will be made at this year’s tournament. Georgian teenager Vasil Lobzhanidze will premiere as the youngest combatant ever. He’s 18, a scrum-half, and for a young bloke he’d fit right in on the USA’s unit for they have 20 players who’ll be experiencing the RWC for the first time. Making its debut, too, will be Hawk-Eye’s enhanced video replay and review technology. Excellent! Let’s pan in on those hot, rugby thighs.
Big body picture? The 2003 Rugby World Cup had a TV audience of 3.5 billion. Guestimated profits for this year’s bash? Over 200 million pounds or 336 million. Sponsors Fujitsu, Master Card, Emirates airline, DHL, Land Rover, Societe Generale SA, and Heineken NV will be as happy as clams.
In ’87 there were 200 million in front of the telly with beer-full bellies. In 2011, still with a beer in hand, we were Boob-Tube-glued, 4 billion of us, watching the Rugby World Cup. We were spread over sofas, reclined over some 207 territories.
Yet England is the territory that is facing huge pressure. (Wales is likewise, for it is hosting some games at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.) Some of the English players have reacted poorly to the limelight. Manu Tuilagi – he pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer. He’s off the team, and off the charts in idiocy.
Realistically, carrying home-fan hopes, even on broad shoulders isn’t easy. Media and hype run 24-7. Will England be drained from all the attention, or will they be energized?
Here and there, England and all the competitors should be able to rise above burgled balls, poor kicks, lousy calls, and sloppy slicing through lines, because the sport, as any booster will tell you, is great. Casual fans should, also, be able to rise above their lack of knowledge of rugby terminology and history. All anyone needs to know is that the sport is number three, behind the summer Olympics and Soccer’s World Cup, in planetary popularity. And with the RWC but days away, after a four-year wait, the whole world anticipates seeing the best athletic action – a six-week brawl.
But despite the mucks ups so far, if anyone can memorably host the RWC, and play well in it, it’d be England. They’ve produced some tremendous leaders in all fields, Michael Caine - acting, Robert Plant - music, Winston Churchill - politics, the Queen Mother - royalty, to almost guarantee that this should be a jewel of a show. Go England go!