September 18, 2019


How could anyone prefer football to rugby?: Immensely violent and hugely dignified, it's a beautiful game (Justin Webb, 9/17/19, UnHerd)

The World Cup, played over the next month or so in Japan, will be watched by fans from Tonga to Kenya, Russia to New Zealand; even the USA, where it's become a big deal in universities. And, of course, in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, both north and south.

If football really is our "national game" we are, as a group of nations, pretty bad at it. It certainly doesn't bring us joy. Sometimes when I listen to Garry or Rob, droning on during The Today Programme sports news about some ghastly score draw in the Scottish League (the only news line being that someone chucked a coin at the goalie), I wonder whether the sporting powers that be properly understand the truth: that the game really binding us together as a nation is not football but rugby union.

Every corner of the UK is good at it. The Scots are unlikely to win the World Cup but they have a fantastic team who will last the course with the world's best - and they are the weakest of the Home Nations. The Irish (including several players from Northern Ireland) could win, as might either Wales or England. Indeed Ireland, England and Wales are all in the top five world rankings.

So this World Cup should be a celebration of a sport that we are all good at: in the South Wales Valleys, the Scottish Lowlands, in Lancashire and the East Midlands, all the way down to Cornwall where the long running campaign for a national stadium is led by supporters of the Cornish Pirates rugby team. Rugby does not need to "come home" because it is already home. It is part of life.

Posted by at September 18, 2019 12:00 AM