I know we’re all meant to be excited about the Rugby World Cup. There’s been some great rugby played by Japan, Georgia, and Scotland. I’ve liked having more rugby on TV. Good chat on the pod at work as well.
My favourite minutes haven’t been technical. They’ve been about belief and the ability of supposedly lesser teams to operate under massive physical and mental pressure. Japan getting over in the corner. Scotland scorning what I hoped would be a winning try. Massive Georgian hits. Some great Fijian offloads. Canadian guts and skill vs France. Romanian passion, and skill especially in the tight
Of course the big boys have provided some too rugby and entertainment. NZ look ominous. The Bokke coming back through direct play. Great Australian breakdown work and handling. Even the Argies showing a few years playing top rugby has taken their game to new heights.
The broadcasting has been good, without touching greatness. It’s been close to being a greatest hits of what the BBC, ITV, BT Sport have to offer. Inverdale is a smooth, professional host. He must have left his rose c&nted glasses at home. Ben Kay is a perceptive analyst of the game. There’s a few ex pros I’ve missed. Brian Moore and Jonathan Davies either weren’t invited or turned it down. A personal highlight has been David Flatman’s commentary, which matches the knowledge of a pro, with a dry wit and sly humour of a malevolent imagination. I suspect a night out on the beer with Flats would be awesome but would necessitate a few days of recovery.
I missed the semi final because I didn’t really care. I might / not see the final, depending on what the family are doing on Sunday. This is coming from a man that got BT Sport so I could watch rugby every week.
The thing is, the (national) teams I care about, England and Ireland, were never at the races. It was apparent that neither side had what it took to beat the Southern Hemisphere Giants. This is why I took joy in the performances listed above. When those teams were beaten however, there was the empty realisation that the teams I follow, in a sport I love, simply don’t have what is necessary.
It’s worse because England have fallen a long way, and Ireland consistently don’t live up to their abilities at the RWC. This makes it hard to care, which in turn makes the RWC less important.
When it comes to it, I don’t watch sport to stroke my beard and admire the technicalities. Whether that’s a rolling maul, a topspin backhand, an uppercut or a forward defensive, I want to care about the people that make the shot / pass / tackle / combination.
I watch sport for the developing narrative that grips the soul. That’s why the Scottish loss was so devastating, because that most dangerous of emotions had entered the house. Hope. (One for Guardian cricket obo readers).
For me, the RWC was lacking a crucial ingredient to be a real success. There just wasn’t enough hope to realistically believe my teams stood a chance.
And what made it worse? The players looked like they knew it too.