Well, now that the curtains have been brought down on the 2015 Rugby World Cup and many of the fair-weather fans have left us, here is an article for the purists.
Most would agree in rugby terms this Rugby World Cup was the best edition yet.
Professionalism is clearly the reason. As a sport it has been necessary to ensure a more entertaining (for want of a better word) ‘product’, and this has resulted in some excellent rule changes – not kicking out on the full after taking it back into the 22 springs to mind.
However, I have a video (yes, a VHS tape) of International 202 tries of the ’70s and ’80s, which I watch every now and again and it never fails to entertain.
There is so much to like about rugby in the past and while there have been many useful changes to speed the game up and allow for more playing time, there are times when I get nostalgic about how things used to be.
I’m sure the older Roarers could add to the list, but here a few things that just don’t happen in international rugby anymore.
(Disclaimer: some of the items listed can still be found at local amateur rugby clubs.)
The reserves, were exactly that – reserves!
A team may have had players warming the pine, but they were only there in case of a genuine injury. In fact, players would often argue if a coach told him he was being replaced.
In short, everyone in the starting side played 80 minutes.
There were none. However, if you did something extreme, such as ruck someone’s head, you were sent from the field. No card was needed, the ref just pointed to you, then to the change rooms, and said “Off!”
Post-try celebrations only happened post-game
A pat on the back before marching back to halfway was as flamboyant as it got. High-fives, breakdance moves and somersaults back then were career-ending, regardless of how good the player was.
That’s right, international front rowers weren’t the muscle-bound athletes of today, they were fat!
Completely disorganised defences
This aspect of the game was seldom analysed by teams, and the result of the chaos was spectacular running rugby.
The toe bash and sand
Kicking tees weren’t used, if they in fact existed. The ball boy ran out with a bucket of sand and that was the kicker’s only assistance. The ’round the corner’ style was seen as innovative. Correct me if I’m wrong, league player Ross Conlon was the first to use this technique?
No lifting in the lineout
The changes of this law has made the lineout much more organised and a better contest, but there was something enjoyable about watching the forwards launch from their own two feet. If there was no clean catch, the watching every other forward jump up with flailing arms in an attempt to hack the ball was gold.
Another gem from ancient lineout was the overarm throw, sometimes even taken by the winger.
Some Gen Y followers probably won’t believe me, but the scrum used to be orchestrated by the 16 players without referee interference and was over within 30 seconds. While it still appeared to be a melee of sorts, at least it didn’t waste five minutes of playing time.
The scrumhalf generally fed the ball straight, and there was a genuine hooking contest between the hookers to the point where he had his feet stretched under the opposing second row’s feet.
Also, when the referee was on the other side the scrum, there was a good opportunity to sort out any players who needed it with a quick jab or sometimes a haymaker. I won’t name names, but regardless of the nation, there was always a player in the pack who was self-appointed to this role.
No more than five minutes and the players must remain on the field, simple. I know TV interests wouldn’t have this today, but there used to be an element of
‘let’s get on with it’.
While talking about halftime – oranges!
Bring back rucking – enough said.
Applies mostly to northern hemisphere rugby, when a few inches of rain reduced the field to dark quagmire. After 80 minutes you couldn’t see the number on any of the players’ backs through the cakes of mud (with the exception of the backs of course).
While on the topic of jerseys, they were clean of advertising and all made of cotton, none of this skin-hugging lycra business.
I know some players are sporting some crazy hairstyles these days, but they just don’t compare to the genuine ‘lamb chop’ sideburns and porn-star ‘taches of the past.
Look at the Welsh players of the ’70s and you realise these guys aren’t doing it for a Movember charity, they actually chose to look this way. JPR Williams, Gareth Edwards and Steve Fenwick to name a few.
I miss his flawless commentary.
Rugby is better for the many changes that have taken place, and the inevitable move to professionalism was always going to change the game, but it is okay to reminisce once in a while.
From here on I’ll leave it to Spiro, David Lord and Sheek to remind us how good things used to be.