A couple of years ago, your correspondent would have tripped over himself running to his laptop to condemn England rugby union coach Eddie Jones for saying rugby league “is not a skilful game”.
I’ve seen that one media outlet has already compiled a video dossier to disprove Jones’ claims – a sort of new-media open letter.
For those who aren’t aware, Jones made the comment when asked about Sam Burgess’s failed foray into the 15-man game.
Rugby league is a small sport that gets very tetchy when it starts being treated like a small sport. This writer has been as guilty as anyone of leading the charge of the treiziste peasants against enemies real and imagined for years now.
But learning to deal with criticism in a mature way is part of the process of growing up and this is a perfect opportunity for us to take a little step forward in this regard. It’s time to care a good deal less about throwaway lines like these.
Eddie Jones is actually one of the more pro-league figures in rugby union and, to the best of my knowledge, is not a serial basher of the 13-man game.
Aside from that, it is almost inconceivable that he meant what he said. Jones is not a Twickenham toff who has spent his life turning his nose up at the mere mention of Mungos. He is aware of Peter Sterling and Arthur Beetson and Andrew Johns and Wally Lewis and Johnathan Thurston. It beggars belief that Jones actually believes rugby league is not a skilful game.
So, for a start, I honestly don’t think his words came out the way he intended.
Secondly, if someone said “football is boring”, would anyone of any note in that game’s strongholds really give a rat’s?
The only people offended would be those where football is not a mainstream sport. People involved in the sport would be far more offended in America than Brazil, for instance.
Rugby league is a popular sport in NSW and Queensland – so in those places at least, the Jones quotes should be seen as the ravings of a lunatic and summarily dismissed.
I can understand rugby league people in England taking Jones personally. Rugby union gets infinitely more publicity there and the media will have given Jones a platform that can genuinely damage them.
The comments would be seen in terms of a wider “conspiracy” to English rugby league folk.
But when people say they don’t like Mondays, that doesn’t reflect on the future viability of Mondays.
There’ll still be a Monday next week. And there’ll still be rugby league.