Wednesday 24 October 2007

Losing is for wankers

Subscribers of the LRB can enjoy this myth-mulching article about the origins of rugby union. It was not a soccer match that William Web Ellis disrupted at Rugby School in 1823 when he caught a football and ran with it (the Football Association and its rules weren't formed until 1863); as Jeremy Harding reveals:

"the 'dribbling game', as football was known in the old days, was not played at Rugby. Webb Ellis should be remembered not for catching a ball - this was standard practice at the school - but for running with it when he ought to have retreated. Had he done so, the opposition would then have advanced to the point at which he'd made the catch and he'd have gone on to take a punt or offer the ball to a teammate for a place kick."

The article begins with an account of the pre-match preparations at the first Rugby World Cup final between France and New Zealand in 1987. (My title comes from the ever-gentlemanly Kiwis' battle cry: "Losing is for wankers and we're not wankers!")

Also amusing is the news that players in the south-west of France refer to footballers as "manchots - a broad translation would be 'amputees'", which proponents of the English 10-men kicking game might wish to bear in mind. (There are 15 of you and you are allowed to use your hands for more than dropping the ball on to your foot or stuffing the ball up your jumper.) That said, my jibes at the England team for not putting up a fight turned out to be premature.

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