Monday, 13 February 2012

The Real History of Rugby

It is largely unknown to players and followers of the modern game rugby, that in the very early days it started off purely as a contest for forwards in opposition in line-outs, scrums, rucks and mauls.

This pitted eight men of statuesque physique, of supreme fitness and superior intelligence in packs against one another.

In those days, the winner was the pack that had gained most set pieces. The debasement of the game began when backs were introduced. This occurred because a major problem was where to locate the next scrum or line-out. Selecting positions on the ground for these had become a constant source of friction and even violence.

The problem was resolved through a stratagem of employing forward rejects, men of small stature and limited intelligence, to select positions on the field from where, when in receipt of the ball they could be guaranteed to drop it in a random pattern but usually, as far
from the last set piece as possible. Initially these additional players were entirely unorganised but with the passing of time they adopted positions.

For instance, the half-back (also known as the scrum-half). He was usually the smallest and least intelligent of the backs whose role was simply to accept the ball and pass it on. He could easily (given his general size) have been called a quarter forward or a ball monkey but then tolerance and compassion are the keys to forward play and the present inoffensive description was decided upon.

The fly-half plays next to the half-back and his role is essentially the same except that, when pressured he usually panics and kicks the ball. Normally, he is somewhat taller and slightly better built than the scrum-half and hence his name. One-eighth less and he would have been a half-back, three-eighths more and he might well have qualified to become a forward.

The centres were opportunists who had no specific role to play but who were attracted to the game by the glamour associated with forward packs. After repeated supplication to the forwards for a role in the game they would be told to get out in the middle and wait for the ball. Thus, when asked where they played, they would reply "in the centre". And they remain to this day, opportunists and scroungers, men so accustomed to making excuses for bad hands and errant play that most become lawyers or real estate agents.

You may ask, why wingers? The answer is simple. Originally these were players who had very little ability and were the lowest in the backline pecking order. They were placed far from the ball and given the generally poor handling by the inside backs, were rarely given the opportunity to even touch the ball. This is basically why, through a process of natural selection, they became very fast runners and developed the ability to evade tackles.

But to get back to the name. The fact that they got so little ball led to the incessant flow of complaints from them and the eventual apt description "whingers". Naturally, in the modern game, the name has been adapted to become more acceptable.

Lastly, the full-back. This was the position given to the worst handler, the person least able to accept or pass the ball, someone who was always in the way.. the name arose because, infuriated by the poor play invariably demonstrated by that person, the call would come "send that fool back" and he would be relegated to the rear of the field.

So there you have it. The fact is that if a side does not have eight men of statuesque physique, of supreme fitness and superior intelligence then they might as well play soccer.

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