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for ruck's sake, it's time we learned rugby rules

THERE were a few things that surprised me over the last few weeks as I watched the boys in green battle their way through their Six Nations matches.

First – well, I sort of said it just there. I couldn't believe how brutally physical these matches were. I've dipped in and out of rugby over the years, but this time I saw how the bodies of these athletes were pummelled in every match.

The second surprise was the number of people I sat with who didn't know the rules of rugby. Now these friends of mine were big rugby fans. They would have been to matches, could name the players, no problem.

But each time the whistle was blown by the ref, they hadn't a clue if it was a knock-on, an offside, a penalty kick or a scrum.

The rules of sports should be taught to children, like learning to swim or riding a bike. My father spent time teaching us the rules of soccer, rugby, cricket, snooker, darts. I can see him at the kitchen table with tins of food.

"The beans are the attackers, the spaghettis are the defenders.

"There must be one spaghetti between the beans and the goalkeeper if the beans want to pass ahead, otherwise its offside." Simple.

It's an act that should be mandatory for all parents – like reading a bedtime story, or going to buy an ice cream.


Again, I remember my dad saying as we were about to watch the Grand National: "If you have £1 and you place a bet on a horse that is 5 to 1, if that horse wins you will get £5 plus your £1 back."

The rules of sports are a beautiful thing, cleverly constructed and created to make a game what it is.

This crossed my mind as I turned to my rugby-mad pal to explain that the reason the rugby players all line out behind each other was because they couldn't pass the ball forward.

It was an incredible few weeks of Six Nations excitement. It's even more incredible that so many people watched these players when they hadn't a notion what was going on.