Rugby? Even a stupid game played by stupid lumps can take on biblical proportions

The Japan game was the most thrilling, exciting, uplifting of any game in any sport I’ve seen all year.

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Oh, it’s not the Rugby World Cup again, haven’t they just had one, what more do they want? Stupid game played by stupid lumps with stupid laws, gerremoff.

I am always surprised when I see a reference to Andy Murray in the US or Australia or somewhere, and think, “Hmm, he must be on his hols,” then I discover he’s playing tennis. Turns out he does it all the year round, not just at Wimbledon – who would have thought it? Golf, that’s much the same. I do find myself every year watching the last day of the British Open, still without understanding what a birdie is, but then I forget about it for another year.

No wonder the whole world of sport hates football and football fans. We are just so blinded, narrow-minded, arrogant, smug and stupid. Hardly surprising England invented the game. Sums up all our most notable features.

But as it’s the Rugby WC, I am giving it an occasional viewing, just to check if they still have those farcical scrums where no one knows what is going on. Rugby League is so much more sensible. The only advantage of the union scrums is that you get a chance to go to the lav, put the kettle on, or have a kip, as you know nothing will happen for decades.

I’m intrigued watching the England coaches, with their row of video analysts, all glued to their sets. What are they analysing? We even get close-ups, of them watching the game we are watching. Riveting, eh? You don’t see all that technology in football.

Could it be because, on the whole, football fans and coaches can see and understand what is going on, whereas in rugby, no one has any idea, even the coaches?

I wait for Stuart Lancaster to be interviewed. He never smiles during a game. His mouth is so severely closed, you imagine it has been stitched. I suppose the general, southern, rugger-bugger public see him as a northern oik when he speaks in his unpolished, guttural tones. They clearly don’t realise he is a posho – oh yes, he went to the best public school in west Cumbria, St Bees, all of whose pupils I used to hate when I was growing up, so confident and superior, they had cars and got all the girls. The school is over 400 years old and has some distinguished alumni, such as Rowan Atkinson. It has recently closed, though there may be a rescue plan. It would be a shame to lose it, for historical reasons anyway.

I watched England in the opening World Cup game, struggling to create much excitement against France. These are supposed to be two of the top teams, so I did not intend to watch South Africa against whoever. I had to check. Japan, goodness, didn’t know they played rugby.

Can I stand any more of ITV’s self-adverts for rugby, and that woman singing “The World in Yoon-ee-on”? I used to think Jonny Wilkinson was handsome but that beard is a mistake. John Inverdale’s grey hair is so lush he could be a top football manager.

I waited for some shots of the South African coaches in their preposterous green blazers edged with gold, the height of smartness for any prep-school head circa 1950. Then I switched over to the football. I know my priorities.

Later on, I switched back to see the rugby score, and was surprised to see Japan only a few points behind. So, after the football, I went back to the rugby.

Japan, the smallest team in the World Cup, and total outsiders, beat South Africa, the biggest, 34-32. Astounding. Seeing them push the South Africans back was like a parable. At the very end, when the Japanese could have taken an easy kick to draw, they elected to try for a try and maybe lose everything – but did it. That was like a moral tract.

So, I take it all back. The Japan game was the most thrilling, exciting, uplifting of any game in any sport I’ve seen all year. Only problem is, all the rugby commentators have gone orgasmic, the most seismic event in the history of the planet, bla bla. Enjoying the game was one thing. Not sure I can stand their new, soccer-like smugness . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 24 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Revenge of the Left