Sport Rugby

Thursday 23 November 2017

Recycle hell rotting the game we love

Hugh Farrelly

RECESSIONS come with few benefits attached but one upside is a proper re-adjustment of priorities.

It had all gone oppressively touchy-feely, starting with that over-priced, over-indulged organic nonsense that took root about a decade ago. Nothing against vegetarians, lesbians or people who view showering as a capitalist imposition, but it seemed as though you could not launch into a chicken burger in those years without being lectured on its background.

Nowadays, thankfully, the fact that your chicken had an abusive mother and grew up alone in the dark is less relevant than the ability to eat him with a large chips and Coke for less than a fiver.

There has also been a fall-off in the number of environment Nazis who used to goose-step the corridors of our rented accommodation. Switch on a light bulb in those bastions of the Fourth Reich and five minutes later you were still reduced to the type of illumination usually (and allegedly) accompanied by disposable hand towels and girls called Magda.

These fascist co-tenants would tut disapprovingly when you put your packet of Rancheros into the wrong bin or demand to know why your empty bottle of Linden Village had not been washed out, adding that "by the way, that should go in with the plastics". We could think of better places for it to go.

Now, however, the Nazis have been evicted, light bathes us with surgery-like intensity and the only recycling that concerns us is the type that threatens to dismantle the game of rugby union.

Watching the Super 14 this season has required frequent use of the fast-forward button (God bless Sky-plus) and numerous cans of Red Bull to keep eyelids from drooping.

With the new tackle interpretations, ruck turnovers have become a relic of the past in the Super 14, the best a defending side can hope for is that the tackled player lacks support and is forced to concede the penalty for holding on.

Teams rarely commit more than three players to the breakdown -- the tackler by necessity and one or two others attempting to move in on the ball -- hampered by the fact that the referee is poised to penalise the slightest hint of over-enthusiasm. "Tackle assist, must release," was one explanation recently offered for penalising a player who had not made the primary hit but was deemed to be too involved in it to legally contest afterwards.

It means 12 to 13 players filling the pitch to resist the next offensive wave, so the attacking team, confident that the ball will come back, goes again, and again, until they get a score or make a mistake.

Diluting the breakdown contest has reduced the level of kick-tennis that has plagued the game in recent seasons, the ball-in-play time has increased and there are plenty of off-loading and handling skills to admire -- but how monotonous it has all become.

Forward passes, crooked throws and feeds are treated leniently in the interests of continuity and scrums, once the rock rugby union was built upon, are blown up if they threaten to kill the momentum. Thus, the ball is passed back and forth until something gives and rarely do we see the set-play backline moves (remember 'DDP' and 'Rangy' ball?) that used to decorate rugby in the past.


Yes, there are tries, plenty of them, but if you are allowed to recycle the ball at will, good teams will eventually find gaps and numerical mismatches and then, to use the Super 14 vernacular, it's "try time!".

Six years of school-imposed Shakespeare produced only one passage that sticks in the memory: "If all the year were playing holiday, to sport would be as tedious as to work. But, when it seldom comes it wished for comes and nothing pleaseth like rare accident."

Our edition of 'Shakespeare For Dummies' informs us that the Bard is suggesting that too much of a good thing can become tedious and, for rugby union, the only salvation now appears to be the maul.

In a recent Super 14 game, the Queensland Reds scored four tries against the Sharks but were undone by the South Africans' use of the maul which the Aussies (quelle suprise) could not handle.

The maul is part of what rugby union once was. The 'you have a go then we'll have a go' recycling dross of the Super 14 is dragging the game to a recessionary place we really do not want to go.

It's called rugby league.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport