I was rather surprised when, as football correspondent with a meagre knowledge of rugby, the sports editor asked me to contribute a piece on England’s victory over Fiji. I am scarcely qualified to speak on the technical stuff but they like to do this view from a different sport on the Rust.
I therefore followed the game both on ITV and radio 5 which was not wholly satisfactory as the radio commentary wasa ahead in time of the televised one. I always like Mark Pougatch as presenter being enthusiastic and well informed. He headed up radio 5 with the always excellent Ian Robertson, heir apparent to the great Bill MacLaren. ITV went for rugby heavyweights Sir Clive Woodward and Jonny Wilkinson but neither struck me as natural broadcasters. It’s rather difficult knowing where to pitch the analysis and commentary. The World Cup will be watched by a much wider audience than club rugby and therefore some of the more technical decisions and tactics may need some explanation. I thought the ITV coverage was all things to all men but rather superficial.
In football the video evidence debate still rumbles on. Blackburn had a clear goal not given last week against Fulham. Conversely rugby is beholden to the video replay. It seemed to take ages to award a Fiji try. This degraded the drama. As in cricket a side does not know whether to celebrate and sporting drama is lost. You end up with the right decision but at what cost?
For me Mike Brown was the best player on the pitch. I loved that feint inside for his second try. Gliding movement with ball in hand is the most entertainiing aspect of rugby and whilst the game has changed in the size of its participants my joy in watching such movement over the years has not. I think of such centres as J-P Maso, David Duckham and Gerald Davies who could weave with the ball. They are not dissimilar to the great dribblers, Messi, Gascoigne, Best, Matthews except the physical challenges are much more intimidating.
I must be honest and say rugby as a spectacle does not engage me. It’s too staccato. England were clearly the stronger side though John Pargiter in seeking football bets said he has has put his tenner on the All Blacks at 11-8.