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The top pet peeves of rugby chat

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru


135 Have your say

    Let’s whinge.

    We are all addicts of rugby chatter. But much of our time is spent in outrage. Triggers ignite us. Slander against our hometown hero. Unfair calumny levelled at a decent local coach we know too well. Cavalier dismissal of skill sets. Branding an entire nation as thuggish.

    Then there’s the hemispheric cockfights – “The South is done; the North is rising”. There’s ratings by position– “How can anyone ever ever ever even think Brodie Retallick is not the best lock in the history of rugby?”. And of corse there are the horse corpses beaten to death – “The skill level of the modern player is so pathetic; remember the good old days when props could spiral punt?”.

    Sometimes we rant just because the avatar of our antagonist is so infuriating.

    And then there’s the whole “Hooper is redefining rugby as we knew it” versus “Hooper has destroyed Australian forward play forever” debate, which is guaranteed to elicit 500 infuriating comments in a Down Under downward de-escalating furore of fervent provincial heat.

    “Did I say that?” The accused asks the accuser if he really said that Kurtley Beale cannot even make one tackle. “No, but you said he is the worst tackler in test rugby.” And then the accused asks: “Prove it.” And so on and so forth.

    But all irritating rugby banter can really be boiled down into ten annoying categories. Here’s the definitive list.

    1. Rating players without factoring in how easy or difficult their team’s fortunes make them look
    For instance, when Italian captain Sergio Parisse starts each test he is almost guaranteed to be the underdog. He ends nearly every match with a concession speech congratulating the team that beat him. Yet he is a truly great player. In a position where asserting your influence on a game is nigh impossible on the back foot. When we compare Billy Vunipola to Parisse, we have to imagine a team swap first. The same is true when we stack Gus Creevy to Dane Coles et cetera.

    (Photo by Tim Anger)

    2. Simplistic statistics
    Rugby is stat-poor. It’s not as statistically calibrated a code as cricket or baseball, where thousands of similar actions occur each week and can be measured by individual, speed, outcome, and variance. Rugby is a violent ballet with sweeping battalions and strangely wonderful synergies. One carry is so different from another. A negative carry by a number eight saving a decimated scrum is better for a team than a 20-metre carry which leads to an easy force-out to touch.

    Metres ‘gained’ is almost useless except if we compare the numbers between opponents in the same position and factor in gain line metrics, eventual outcomes (did they often get turned over by running into marooned islands?), the channel run-in, and tackle busts/line breaks per carry. A fullback can ‘gain’ 15 to 20 metres almost any time he wants when he catches a ball in his own 22, but it might be the most foolish decision of the game when he could force a kicking duel (yes, fans don’t like it) ending in a lineout for his own team at the opponent’s ten-metre line.

    3. Defending absurd selections on the basis that national coaches are privy to better data
    Come on. Coaches are human. Just listen to Warren Gatland’s soul-searching sad song about the Lions tour. Don’t think that coaches are unsentimental, ‘by the numbers only’ technocrats.

    Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has selected tighthead prop Ruan ‘the human plank’ Dreyer and porous Ghana-born wing Raymond ‘every opponent loves Raymond’ Rhule in test after test when every sentient observer can see that the penalised plank planks in almost every scrum and the merry matador has never seen a tackle he wants to make. We don’t need Scott Allen and Nicholas Bishop to convene a panel with intricate diagrammes; Dreyer and Rhule are club players with terminal test issues. I’ll leave poor young Ned Hanigan out of this discussion. Coaches are human, and they have favourites.

    4. You don’t lose matches because of missed kicks
    Well, yes, you do. And you also win football games with the foot. Ask Morne Steyn how he has so many Bok caps in his house.

    5. The fixation with referees
    Very few referees are actually trying to favour a team; some are unconsciously influenced by crowds and criticism. Most are focused maniacally on their jobs. Anyone who has actually been a referee knows that 80 minutes feels like 20 and that the sensory overload is immense. There will be an error rate. Some will consistently have more than others.

    If we want to make referees even greater celebrities, we should have World Rugby tabulate and publish the referee error rates. I will say right now that I bet the spectrum of high to low will be smaller than we think. Every boxer knows you must take the fight out of the judges’ hands. We make our own luck over a season, even if one or two games are poorly adjudicated.

    6. Claiming the Boks are big
    All the top teams can find similar-sized players within their country’s playing ranks or import them (a la Japan). There are at least 11 or 12 giants playing rugby in every nation. Can South Africa produce 25 really good and massive locks to play rugby around the world at any one time? Yes. Is that more than most? Yes, but only three or four make the game day 23.

    7. Nostalgia as a solution
    I’m like every other old guy: there are rugby moments fixed in my memory as sacred happenings when time stood still and the power and the glory and the majesty of this game we love crash into my heart of hearts. But give me a break! Time of ball-in-play was minuscule back in the day, knock-ons were rife, lineouts were a bloody mess, and each team carried mediocre amateurs who could barely do a few pull-ups and who ran out of puff on the way to the bar.

    The Southern Hemisphere game needs revenue, pure and simple. More money in player and coach hands, funding better welfare, easier choices to stay home, the best stadia in the world, and best-versus-best competitions. Yes, foolish expansion can hurt us if it is to the wrong outposts, but expand we must if we want 300-plus Saffas to return and all the best players from the islands and Australasia to fight iron-on-iron to take Super Rugby to an even higher, faster, more entertaining level.

    (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

    8. The World Rugby rankings system
    I just don’t get it. It seems hopelessly inaccurate at any fixed point. don’t have a solution. But I despise it.

    9. Any mention of Japan’s win over South Africa at Brighton.
    Enough said.

    10. Forgetting we are a band of brethren
    We’re all in love with the same breathlessly beautiful ball game – the sweeping movements, dashing courage, spinning flights, and brutal collisions. Sometimes we forget it.

    What do you find annoying, Roarers?

    Have Your Say

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    The Crowd Says (135)

    • November 10th 2017 @ 3:49am
      cuw said | November 10th 2017 @ 3:49am | ! Report

      @ Harry Jones

      thank u for putting more words to what i have said for a few years – that Sergio parrisse is among the top 3 number 8s in the world.

      he is rugby’s Gareth Bale 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:33pm
        Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

        Magnificent player. Imagine him at 8 for New Zealand. What a nightmare to contain!

        • Roar Guru

          November 11th 2017 @ 5:22am
          Carlos the Argie said | November 11th 2017 @ 5:22am | ! Report

          And to think that Parisse had no place in the Pumas and this is why he left for Italy. Like many before and after.

    • Roar Guru

      November 10th 2017 @ 7:07am
      Diggercane said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      Yes, today is a good day for a whinge Mr Jones.

      Some excellent nominations above, a few others, playing in Dunedin is hard because of the weather, people still stating ’22’ man match day squads, debating the merits of a forward/not forward pass and discussing backs as though they are relevant. All pet peeves.

      • November 10th 2017 @ 9:11am
        Fionn said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        ‘… and discussing backs as though they are relevant. All pet peeves.’

        Hahaha, that’s brilliant! I just snorted my coffee all over my laptop. If it is damaged in any way I’ll be billing you, Diggercane 😛

        • Roar Guru

          November 10th 2017 @ 10:01am
          Diggercane said | November 10th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          Apologies mate, I will take full responsibility but as this thread was prompted by Mr Jones I am sure he will reimburse you in full for the damages sustained 😉

          • November 10th 2017 @ 3:51pm
            rock86 said | November 10th 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

            That is by far the quote of the day for me.

            • Roar Guru

              November 10th 2017 @ 8:34pm
              Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

              Diagra wins POST of the DAY.

          • November 11th 2017 @ 9:08pm
            Taylorman said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

            Lucky it was only coffee Fionn was snorting for a change then Digger, could have been a hefty bill for Harry?

        • November 10th 2017 @ 4:28pm
          mzilikazi said | November 10th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

          Hey Fionn,

          If your laptop is damaged, just give it a warm water bath !!!

          We have twice spilled wine on the keyboard of the same machine…once caused by Robt Mugabe….well not him directly, but someone telling a joke about him.

          Still works fine, after about 3 years. You do have to take the battery out first though. And then thoroughly dry it….cat litter is useful for this.

          Just can’t resist this chance replying to your funny remark with this story !! But I am actually serious. My wife found this idea on utube after a repairer firts time round, and Apple second time, had said “throw it all away…it’s buggered.”

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:33pm
        Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:33pm | ! Report

        The Forward Not Forward Flat debate does tire me immediately.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 9:44pm
        jeznez said | November 10th 2017 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

        Ha ha, very good DC.

        And superlative work Harry.

        Unfortunately my pet peeve automatically triggers what I am sure is the pet peeve of many of our cousins from across the ditch.

        Those dastardly All Blacks are so good and the refs still let them get away with things that my team aren’t allowed to!

      • November 11th 2017 @ 3:08pm
        Olly said | November 11th 2017 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

        I really agree with that backs comment. I don’t get why Australia is obsessed with the backs. It is the forward pack that needs to be right and to get consistent go forward. All the backs are good enough to be dangerous on front foot ball.

        I was even a back and I agree!!

        • Roar Guru

          November 14th 2017 @ 12:38am
          Harry Jones said | November 14th 2017 @ 12:38am | ! Report

          I wish the Boks had backs.

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:32am
      bigbaz said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      I would struggle to get a run these days, I was always under the impression that if you trained for two hours you then needed to go to the pub for two hours to discuss how great you were.Doubt they do that now but they should.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:35pm
        Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

        The BaaBaas do; and seem to go ok for 50-60 minutes.

        • November 11th 2017 @ 12:51am
          Cuw said | November 11th 2017 @ 12:51am | ! Report

          @ HARRY JONES

          Trevor Noah: It’s My Culture – Springbok Bafana

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:34am
      Keith said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      How about the variations on “This 13 year old schoolboy will be the next Jonah Lomu”.

      Apart from being plain dumb, it can cause real damage to a teenager to be told that they will be the best in the world. Refer Isaia Toeava.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:36pm
        Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

        Yes! The new _______.

        The kiss of death for a lad.

        • November 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm
          ethan said | November 11th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

          Thankfully for us Reds supporters Tongan Thor is overcoming the hype, one Quade Cooper step and no look over the shoulder pass at a time. Bless the modern front rowers. If he played in the same team as Coles they could feature on each wing.

      • November 13th 2017 @ 3:41pm
        ajg said | November 13th 2017 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        This! So many rugby forums – including this one – are showing videos of kids and overhyping them. Not only is it crazy pressure on the poor kids. its well creepy

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:44am
      Riccardo said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      Morning Harry.

      Awesome article from a genuine rugby thinker.

      This is what I enjoy about most about the Roar and the analysis before and after a game. Not only an entree before our main course but a vehicle for education. I’m no expert but consider myself enlightened by you, Digger, Brett, Frank. OJ, Jez, Geoff, Poth Hale, Spiro and others here.

      Sick of? Usually you can find something in even a negative post. Peter for example, is no fan of the All Blacks, but is still erudite in his contributions. But there are somethings that rankle:

      1) The All Blacks’ success is built on the Polynesian base and that they contribute nothing back, or worse are in some way responsible for the lack of progress in those same Islands. We all know this is poppycock. The Wallabies, England and many Northern Clubs probably answer that debate by mention alone. My take on the progress argument lies pretty much squarely with World Rugby. Samoan Rugby is broke and corruption rife all the way to the top; what’s being done?

      2) The generalisations about a country, its people, its economy, and even its collective psyche (similar to the archaic “Boks are huge” theorem). The humorous side of this can be engaging but too often the same perpetrators inciting rather than being insightful. Not just inaccurate but lacking intelligence, balance and perpetuating discord. You know who you are and you should be ashamed.

      3) The RWC focus ahead of the FOUR years of international fixtures between. This gets my goat. I understand the importance of our quadrennial show-piece and the building towards it but this is a knock-out tournament. It’s a revenue making spectacle that serves to promote the game and shouldn’t define it. Tests against the Bokke, the Wallabies, England, Los Pumas, Eire, the Manu in the intervening years and the various silverware they compete for remain as relevant to me as they ever have. Maybe I’m just a old codger.

      4) That ANY player can be prevented by professional contract from national representation. Just ludicrous and conveniently ignores the foundations on which this great game was built. The demise of the Pacific nations is due to a variety of stimuli but this is certainly a contributor and should be addressed.

      5) The Global Calendar. A valid argument for me. But, equally, almost impossible due to professionalism and seasonal constraints. With the healthy upward curve of our Northern neighbours the prospect becomes mouthwatering even though in the same breath we dismiss it as too hard.

      6) The slide in form of the All Blacks this year. Frustratingly inconsistent. And for a number of reasons, not least of which… D’oh! I’m a one-eyed All Black fanatic and perhaps this is not the place or article to postulate…

      We, and I include myself, all need to take a moment to reflect on how we would act if we weren’t addressing someone from behind a keyboard… and a pseudonym…

      • November 10th 2017 @ 8:44am
        Jerry said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        “That ANY player can be prevented by professional contract from national representation. Just ludicrous and conveniently ignores the foundations on which this great game was built. The demise of the Pacific nations is due to a variety of stimuli but this is certainly a contributor and should be addressed.”

        I don’t think any are explicitly prevented from national representation by a contract. It’s not put in writing, it’s just actively discouraged.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 10:05am
        Diggercane said | November 10th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Cheers for the kind words Ric, much obliged and I particular enjoy hating on your listed Peeves too!

      • November 10th 2017 @ 1:31pm
        Phil said | November 10th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        Hard to disagree with any of your points,Riccardo,or those by Harry.I especially agree with your number 3.At this stage,I would rate an Aussie Bledisloe success above a RWC win!As you say,RWC is a knock out competition and the best side in the world can fall with one off colour performance,as you Kiwis know well.I still rate it as a great tournament but not the be all and end all of rugby.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:38pm
        Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

        3) is exactly my view!

        NZ v SA or SA v OZ is NEVER a dead rubber or just a RWC prep.

    • November 10th 2017 @ 7:45am
      Onside said | November 10th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      I would like to see 80 minutes of ball in play rugby. Ball goes out, time on.

      Sometimes there is about ,or as little, as 35 minutes of ball in play contest.

      I would like to see the clock stopped for every penalty shot at goal, clock
      starts again the moment the kicker makes contact with the ball.

      Professional Rugby is played by super athletes, who are payed very well ,
      some spend a lot of time on the bench .

      If even more reserves are required then so be it, but surely it is not asking
      too much for full time professional athletes to play for 80 actual minutes.

      • Roar Guru

        November 10th 2017 @ 8:39pm
        Harry Jones said | November 10th 2017 @ 8:39pm | ! Report

        Yes, but ball-in-play stats are way way up.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 11th 2017 @ 1:24pm
          Paulo said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          You may also find the fitness levels need to go up a level to be that active for that length of time. Body types would need to change, you would likely see them slimming down. Looking more akin to AFL players.