Let’s make tight jerseys a thing of the past
Those of us with rugby memories longer than ten years will remember the good old days before the 2003 Rugby World Cup. I’m not talking about the sight of Joe Roff diving over the goal-line against the Lions, or Kefu burrowing under the posts in John Eales’ last match, I’m referring to something even more noble – the old rugby jersey.
What a wonderful creation of cloth it was. Loose and comfortable in summer, and over little more than a t-shirt, warm in winter.
Rugged and sturdy, you could wear it outdoors – fishing, camping, digging, anywhere. Kept clean it was virtually formal wear, and any place with a dress code that didn’t allow you in the door was not a place you’d want to drink in anyway.
That sacred robe of your tribal colours would last for years, even decades, advertising your past and present sporting fancies, even telling part of your life story and history.
I can still wear my late father’s jersey, one that was last worn of a playing field back when Menzies was Prime Minister. Those old jerseys would get more comfortable the longer you had them, and only your widening girth in older age prevented you from wearing your high school jersey to your 25-year reunion.
They truly were a miracle of design in a simpler age.
Then darkness descended over the rugby world.
In 2003 the England team arrived in Australia wearing something that looked more at home at a velodrome than a rugby field. During the World Cup that year the French too, pranced around wearing something that made them look like rejects from the Tour de France.
Unfortunately England won the cup that year and no matter how convincing their performance on the field – even when they were holding the cup in their hands doing that god-awful ‘soccer bounce’ on the podium – you just couldn’t take them seriously when they looked like they were wearing spray-on spandex.
Of course the rest of the world followed, and now supporters are unable to wear accurate replica playing jerseys without looking like a complete goose. Players and pundits everywhere pleaded with the powers that be to go back to the old jerseys, but the playing advantages were obvious. Slicker and harder to tackle, they gave a slight advantage you’d be silly to ignore.
But now fans of the old jerseys have a new argument to use against these lycra leotards – how about the difficulty getting a bind in the scrum? Old jerseys used in some clubs even added extra layers around the shoulders for forwards, and cross stitching like a judo shirt.
Last year at a function I asked Jake White and Laurie Fisher why there were so fewer collapses and resets in footage of old wallaby matches from the 80s and 90s. One answer that came up was the new jerseys. Without a proper bind, props have their work cut out just trying to stay horizontal.
So how do we undo the damage? I had a quick look at the IRB rules and regulations regarding attire, and there are no set rules for the jersey, only that one should be worn, and Regulation 12 focuses on padding, not the actual jersey itself.
The addition of two simple lines into regulation 12 would solve the problem:
“The jersey shall be made of durable material and of solid construction. The jersey shall be loose fitting, allowing at least 2cm of slack around the shoulders and torso.”
So how about it Roarers? Should we as a group make enough noise for our respective unions to hear. Lets banish these glorified latex undershirts to the dustbin of history where they belong. The revolution begins here.
Quick poll: Should IRB rules be altered to abolish the modern style jersey?
- Yes, the sooner we return to the old style the better
- No, I like the skin-tight jerseys as they are
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