The Six nations has been a breath of fresh air, providing a wonderful outlet of live sport and distraction from the Covid humdrum. Yes, the sport did have its own pandemic panic with the French panel being unable to field in round three due to positive cases. The irony, that they were the ones who had the biggest concerns about the tournament and travelling to games. Those bagels could have proven very costly!
But the competition did take place and the one remaining game will see championship focused France aiming for a bonus point win over Scotland with a margin of 21+ points. Lay man terms they need to steamroll the Scots. All that aside, let you be a seasoned rugby fan, or just drawn in by having nothing else to do for the past few weeks, the scheduling of the games and indeed their competitiveness bar those encounters with Italy have made for compelling viewing. What is more compelling is the interaction between the officials and players and the respect shown by all parties.
Physical collisions in rugby are now massive, with what were once slow lumbering props, now having the feet of a dancer and the speed to carry and crash. Just check out Tadgh Furlongs double shimmy in the game against Scotland to appreciate the above moves. Obviously player safety is paramount at all times and this is where Rugby can differ from other contact sports.
For fear of sounding sexist and certainly not the intention, there is a manliness with the game. The bigger the contact or collision the bigger the smile and reaction if you survive it. If a player is left lying on the field of play after a sequence of action, you can rest assured attention is required, there is no feigning of injury or looking to draw attention to your opponent. No doubt there is the dark-side of the sport and one can only imagine at times what could possibly be happening at the bottom end of a ruck or in the middle of a rolling maul, but that is it, as a spectator you “imagine” as you rarely see or hear what goes on in there. You probably can rest assured that if you do wrong on one occasion you will receive retribution the next.
That respect for the game and the way it is played, also crosses over to how you communicate and work with the officials especially the referee.
Referees can make mistakes their only human! Decisions on the field are made in a split second and ensuring control of the game is important at all times. The majority of other sports will regularly see aggrieved players gather around a ref. One person’s split second decision being questioned by an incensed and unhappy mob is not an easy situation to deal with. However take that situation and only have one person (the Captain) question your call and you are immediately on better ground to communicate.
Rugby has this down to a tee.
The only player to communicate and must do so in a respectful manner is the captain of the team, no other chat or comment from any other player will be tolerated unless it comes through the captain. Professional ruby also provides us the viewer/spectator with a direct line to those communications via the ref mic. The conversations are clear and concise, the decision for or against a team is communicated and explained, any unhappiness or anger towards a call can be quickly dispelled. Not all parties might be in agreement with the call against them, but it is accepted and the game moves on. If a player is to be disciplined or needs to have something brought to their attention, again it is communicated via the referee.
As physical a game as rugby is, it would be fair to say that the majority of games regularly pass without a card infringement. For those not familiar with cards in rugby, a yellow gets you 10 minutes in the sin bin, while a red is a sending off. During the course of this year’s six nations, a number of cards were handed out, particularly red cards which have seen their merit been debated. At the time they were flashed, after much on field discussion between the officials, their reason being communicated to the team captain and offending player; here was the thing the punishment was accepted, no tantrums, no shouting, no flaying of hands, or questioning the call.
Compare that to some other sports. Naturally all parties may not be happy with the call but it was accepted, move on!
From a scoring perspective again the tournament threw up some fascinating situations from tries held up (check out France and Wales for any number of these), to disallowed scores as the stud from a trailing boot was out of play before the ball was touched down. The communication for these switched between the referee on the field and the TMO (Television match official). Again the language is minimal and concise. The referee maybe enquiring
is there any reason why I cannot award the try?
or looks to see if there was an issue in the build up to the score.
For some this stop, start nature to the game can be an annoyance and maybe break the rhythm of play. For this scribe it is again a fascinating insight to how small the margins can be, between a perfectly good score or an indiscretion that ensures it cannot be awarded. The numerous camera angles also bring a sense of drama to the occasion, with the slow motion breaking down the play or movement of the players and ball frame by frame. Whatever the decision, it is again accepted for good or for bad, for better for worse.
Amazingly the respect does not end there, once the game is completed, no matter how fiery the contest, how mighty the collisions were, warm handshakes are exchanged, with both teams providing a guard of honour to each other as they leave the field of battle.
The recent super Saturday of Six nation’s action saw France and Wales wrap-up the day with a Welsh Grand Slam on the line.
To go the five games unbeaten is the pinnacle of the tournament. The Welsh who are now vying with the French for the championship title, were seconds away from doing that! The clock had turned red having passed the 80 minute mark when Le Bleu instigated one more attack. Trailing by three points, a try was sought and found. A grand slam ripped literally from the hands of the Welsh players. One can only imagine the distraught and disappointment that has to have accompanied that final whistle. Yes they are still in prime position to take the title, but this was a grand slam and just like that it was gone, yet within seconds the team had shook the hands of their conquerors and more importantly provided them with the guard of honour of the field.
Respect for your opponent even in the midst of disappointment.
For the rugby fraternity this is the norm, give respect get respect. That is a tag line that is banded about in many other sports but is rarely adhered too. The oval ball exponents have it down to a tee.
You may winch at the collisions, and cringe at the knocks and question the madness of running full pelt at an opponent who is coming in the opposition direction to stop you with equal if not more force, but when it is all over and done, you can but admire the aggression with the utmost of respect.