Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Penalties, Sin Bins and How to Kick: Rugby and Football Can Learn a Lot from Each Other, Writes Hunter Davies

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Penalties, Sin Bins and How to Kick: Rugby and Football Can Learn a Lot from Each Other, Writes Hunter Davies

Article excerpt

Often, once a year, around this time, I find myself watching big, beefy blokes throwing around a funny-shaped ball. This year it's been pretty exciting, with Wales and Ireland fighting it out for the Grand Slam.

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Don't the rugby players look funny with their gurnshields. Do they take them out for kissing? Shame about those messily, nastily designed Scottish shirts, but they are luckier than the Welsh, who have to lumber around with the word BRAINS on their chests. Looks as if it's been stuck there by some cheeky kid.

Oh and the surnames, I am fascinated by them. The Welsh and Irish have such traditional names--loads of Joneses and stacks of O'Somethings, suggesting centuries of inbreeding. Then you have anomalies, like an Italian called McLean and a Scot called Danielli. What happened there?

In the England team, I know why Cueto is called Cueto, because I read the Cumberland News. In the 1900s his great-granddad sailed from Spain to Maryport, where he opened a fish and chip shop. Borthwick, the England captain, is another Cumbrian, born in Carlisle. See, I do follow rugby.

But what mainly strikes me is what football could learn from rugby. Not arguing with the ref, that is so refreshing. Being able to hear the ref talking, giving advice and even coaching the players, that could be a big help in football. As could video judges. Seems such an obvious extra tool.

Best of all would be sin bins. The whole business of yellow and red cards in football is often such a nonsense--so unfair and illogical -and then when it leads to a player being sent off, often for two piddling offences, the whole balance of a game is ruined. …

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