Rachel Johnson

The threat to rugby

Rachel Johnson wonders whether Earth has anything to show more fair than 15 beefy rugby players, especially when it’s raining. But lawyers take a more calculating view of the game

Rachel Johnson wonders whether Earth has anything to show more fair than 15 beefy rugby players, especially when it’s raining. But lawyers take a more calculating view of the game

The Rugby Football Union lot stuck down in Twickenham (Dee, Dave, you’ve been a great help, cheers) have, I know, been looking forward to receiving their copies of this week’s Spectator with more than their usual anticipation.

I told them that I wanted to write a piece, to be published just before the World Cup final, that would put rugby into some kind of perspective; in other words, I intimated, The Spectator would be saying that the rugby was the most wonderful thing that has happened to England for as long as anyone could remember, if not the most important thing ever to have happened in the history of the world.

Does Earth, actually, have anything to show more fair than the sight of the rugby pitch, where 15 fit and beefy young men, with thighs like hams and foreheads like rams, are pounding another 15 into submission, leaping into the air like burly salmon at the line-outs, or breaking free to perform heart-stopping weaving runs in those tight white shirts and shorts? If it does, I cannot think of it.

And I am definitely not alone in finding this spectacle even more enjoyable in wet conditions, when all those stocky limbs redden and the players smash on, streaked with water, mud or, if you’re really lucky, blood, with their hair all wet and tangled, and as for when shirts get torn and flap about revealing the solid rippling musculature of the well-toned male …well, best not to get me started.

One friend recently asked me what I saw in the rugby, and I replied ‘thighs’ and then, after a thoughtful pause, I added ‘mud’, and he moaned in despair and said it was hopeless, I didn’t understand anything about the sport at all, because it was clear from this World Cup that women regarded it not as a proper game but as a sort of ‘Victoria’s Secret’ show only without the lingerie, which wasn’t the point at all.

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