The Great Rugby Divide

I’ve kept quiet this World Cup. As my fellow columnists have shared their thoughts about the rugby, I have bitten my tongue, my lip, my knuckles and any other bodily protrusion that would prevent me from speaking out.

But now, that time is over. Now, the gloves are off. Now… I’ve run out of metaphors.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am an Englishman who is married to a Scottish woman, living in America, working in an international organization, with an office directly across from a Kiwi Rugby savant.

I’m part of a multi-national community populated with a decent number of Aussies, Kiwi’s and Springboks. It is quite possible I am so confused that I have no idea what I am talking about.

The event that has been catalytic in my silence ending is the elimination of all four of the Home Nations, specifically at the hands of southern hemisphere opposition. There is a trend, a pattern here, and I decided to turn my unbiased and purely objective focus towards working out why the South has triumphed so comprehensively over the North.

I made some observations that only now, the world is ready to hear.

Team Strengths

It seems that northern team’s general gameplan involves moving bodies into collisions and trying to smash through, whilst southern teams move the ball into space and run round.

Whilst northern teams may appear to be brutish, unsophisticated and unintelligent in their tactics, this is simply a facade. The rationale is quite simple: historically, as northern nations, we’ve a long track record of fighting the French on the field of war. Alas, the European Union has put paid to what was many nations favorite pastime, so this pleasurable privilege has petered out in recent history.

The European Union has taken all the fun out of beating the French, and now the only way we can even come close is on the rugby field. Yes, we may forget that not every game is actually against the French, but that is simply because we’re gearing up for the real event, which is second only to Christmas as an annual highlight.

It seems, this World Cup, we got a bit carried away and maybe lost our focus a teensy-weensy bit.

Player Development

Northern nations are very developed culturally, and so have a vast number of sports that young people can choose from to participate in. This, of course, diminishes the pool of potential rugby stars that would come through our systems and excel in the game. This is the only explanation possible for the importing by northern nations of second-rate South Africans, Australians, Kiwi’s, Samoans, Tongans and Antarticans not good enough for their own countries.

It is, I promise you, nothing to do with a northern lack of skill, talent, flair, technique or coaching ability. However, this recent World Cup demonstrated that these players were, in fact, sleeper agents deployed by their nations of birth to disrupt the northern teams games. This is a well established fact and can be proved by the many reliable sources of information found on a Friday night in local drinking establishments scattered across Europe.

In-Game Strategy

One ‘friend’ commented that northern teams kick a lot and asked why. He cheekily commented on the lack of ability with the ball in hand and suggested that rejected soccer players had forgotten they had chosen to play another game entirely. I corrected him graciously, but firmly, and in between punches, informed him that it was obvious to learned gentlemen why this kicking strategy is the case.

When you live in a nation that sees the sun once a year, for four hours, and you live under perpetual cloud with what feels like eternal rain, then kicking is the only way you can move the ball downfield. Add in the marsh-like conditions of most pitches, and feral local children who steal anything spherical, and you can see why kicking long and high is desirable.

It is fine to compare these settings with the idyllic paradises of sunny, warm, pleasant southern hemisphere pitches, but just remember this – when you live in sub-arctic nations and have to wear multiple layers during the summer to keep alive, a positive by-product is that you never have to experience warm beer. Plus, we aren’t ever going to get killed by an octopus. Mainly because our wildlife isn’t really that wild.

So there you have it. Three reasons why the northern teams were cheated – I mean, defeated, by southern teams. Now, with my shrewd tactical analysis complete, I shall sit by the phone and wait for the inevitable England job offer…

By Anthony Hilder