Wednesday 18 September 2019

Heave! How to master rugby fandom and brush up on your etiquette

The boys in green have slain the mighty All Blacks and rugby is the nation’s new favourite game. It’s time to brush up on the etiquette, writes Ed Power

Rob Kearney and co celebrate after beating the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Rob Kearney and co celebrate after beating the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ed Power

We did it, guys! Ireland, a puny nation of 6.5 million (including our friends in the North) has defeated New Zealand, an indomitable sporting bastion (population 4.6m). What’s more, we’ve achieved this feat at rugby — our new official favourite sport.

This is tremendously impressive as rugby is played competitively by eight (OK, maybe 10) countries internationally. A majority of whom have reached the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup at some point. Yet Ireland has never done so. And now here we are taking down the All Blacks for the first time on Irish soil.

It’s enough to make you want to rip off your Dubarry Wax Jacket and sing something with a nice rhyming scheme by Phil Coulter.

But what’s that? You’re not a real rugby fan? You’ve just been pretending to know all the words to ‘Ireland’s Call’? You haven’t even watched Amy Huberman’s new RTE comedy? The last time you were in the Aviva was for Robbie Williams? (Well at least it wasn’t for soccer).

It is right that you are consumed by shame (and yes, we took note when you enquired about ‘throw-in’ time for last weekend’s Biggest Match in History).

Yet fret not, scruffy heathen. We’ve put together a starter’s guide to faking it as a hardcore rugby head. Just read all the way through and you’ll be perfectly prepared to watch Ireland roar their way to the quarter finals of next year’s World Cup in Japan. It will, friends, be a moral victory of the ages.

Ed Sheeran. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Ed Sheeran. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

1. Get the lingo right

Rugby is the sport of the corporate elite in Ireland, which is why so much business-like jargon has crept into the game.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

Here are a few essentials should you find yourself knocking back complimentary bevvos in the corporate box. “Ferocious at the breakdown” (grabbing the ball off the ground). “Making the hard yards” (running forward). “Soft hands” (catching or, in some cases, throwing, the ball).

2. Acquire terrible taste in music

There are many mysteries in this universe — one of the more obdurate being why rugby players favour some of the worst bands to ever walk the planet. You will see players at gigs by The Killers, Mumford and Sons, and Ed Sheeran. It’s almost as if the price of being able to lumber forward while a New Zealander is merrily tonking you on the jaw is the surrender of all critical faculties.

3. Insist ‘Ireland’s Call’ is far superior to ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’

“Ireland… Ireland…!” you belt from the lower South Stand, wrapped up in your green beanie hat, tasteful scarf swished just so around your craft-beard. You are also taking care to hashtag all your Instagrams with “shoulder2shoulder”.

4. Break into the ‘Fields Of Athenry’ at any opportunity

When it comes to anthems to stir the blood, what can compare to a dirge about people starving to death in Galway while also being a bit glum about it? Take care to roll your eyes whenever the England end breaks into ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’. 

5. Work on your banter

Scottish people are ‘jocks’, New Zealanders ‘kiwis’ and Australians ‘wallabies’. You’re not quite sure if you’re okay being called ‘Paddy’ but this all seems essential to rugby banter and it wouldn’t do to be a spoilsport. In return, you are allowed yell rude things about sheep to Welsh people. All’s fair

between us proud citizens of the ‘home nations’, eh?

6. Attend a maximum of four games a year

A smattering of internationals at the Aviva and that knockout European Cup tie your province is playing. More than that is a bit crass and unseemly. It wouldn’t do for the rest of the PR agency where you are employed to think you’re a GAA or s***er fan.

7. Protest loudly when people complain rugby is elite

Hey, you went to a private school. And YOU’RE not elite. You had to study to get into Trinity just like everyone else — and you even had to sit through all those extra private tutorials your parents insisted on. Had you not, you might have ended up at DCU!

8. Shout ‘heave’ at random moments

The thing about rugby — heave! — is that it’s — heave! — often just a bunch of big chaps bumping — heave! — into one another. Also, as rugby fans are a better class supporter, they don’t indulge in rude chants, as is the way with the lower orders.

So, if the action on the pitch is a bit dreary, now you know what to do. Take a deep breath and shout: “Heeeeave”. The only occasion you are not to do so is when the opposition is attempting to kick a penalty — in which case you are required to, entirely of your own volition, demonstrate your good grace by keeping schtum.

Any actual noise-making will be dealt with harshly, but please understand this is entirely voluntarily on your part and a demonstration of what a good sport you are.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport