Fact or fiction - debunking rugby's cliches

(Rugby News Service) Friday 2 September 2011
 
Fact or fiction - debunking rugby's cliches
Seilala Mapusua brings discipline and flair to Samoa's midfield

AUCKLAND, 2 Sept. - Rugby has its fair share of sporting cliches – we’ve compiled a few you might hear in coming weeks and asked whether they hold water.

“It all depends which France turn up...”

Generally a pretty good one, judging by previous Rugby World Cups. The cliche suggests that France are unbeatable in Paris but poor travellers. This is not borne out by results. The French, although never winners of the Webb Ellis Cup, have twice been finalists, three times semi-finalists and once quarter-finalists. What’s more, they have twice beaten New Zealand in World Cups away from home (Twickenham 1999, Cardiff 2007).

England can play only 10-man rugby...

When you can produce packs as powerful as the English, you would be daft not to play to your strengths. When England beat France 24-7 in 2003 to secure their place in the final, they played the wet conditions better and Jonny Wilkinson kicked all of their points. It was suggested to England coach Clive Woodward that the weather had favoured his team's more pragmatic game. “I have been to France on holiday and it rains a lot in France," he said. That team offered 'wow' factor with Jason Robinson and the current side have exciting runners such as Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.

Samoa are great to watch but they’ll never win a thing flinging the ball about like that...

When Samoa led England going into the final quarter of their 2003 pool match, did they throw it away, or did the wise old English heads such as Phil Vickery and Neil Back dig their side out of trouble? Either way, the Samoa of 2011 are eminently capable of closing out a game. They have talent scattered across the park, from Seilala Mapusua, who was so instrumental in the London Irish midfield, to Toulouse prop Census Johnston.

The Welsh have a fly half production line somewhere deep in the valleys...

The star Welsh fly half of recent years, Stephen Jones, is known for his steady game-management rather than line breaks. That said, James Hook could set this tournament alight.

Plucky Ireland will play kick and rush rugby before being overwhelmed by France/Australia/South Africa...

How often do you see Brian O’Driscoll revert to a garryowen? In Jonathan Sexton, Ireland have one of the most prodigiously talented fly halves in the game, and the back row will be a match for anyone. Does that sound like a side that need to resort to helter-skelter rugby to score points?

Australians don’t like playing in cold weather...

Far from being drawn from the hot, dusty Outback, most of the Australian players are urban boys. New South Wales, while not exactly Arctic, has its fair share of chilly weather and we defy anyone to take a dip without a wetsuit at Bondi in mid-June. A bit of snow is not unknown in Canberra, either.

The forwards decide who wins matches, the backs by how much...

The backs will no doubt run riot in some of the pool games, although in the six finals so far there have been three tries scored by the “piano shifters” to six from the “piano players”.

Rugby union is an upper-class game...

Depends on the country. In Wales, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, for instance, it’s the national game regardless of the colour of your old school tie. In France it’s a regional game – draw a line between Bordeaux and Grenoble, and pretty much everyone south of there is rugby nuts. England may be seen as the epitome of the private school system, but if you’re born in the South-West (Bristol, Bath, Gloucester) or the East Midlands (Leicester, Northampton) you’ll find an all-inclusive game.

Those rugby players don’t half put it away in the bar...

La troisieme mi-temps (third half), as the French call it, isn’t quite the part of the game it used to be at the top level. The modern player is as likely to be seen with a protein shake as a pint – though that doesn’t apply to the more social levels of the game, of course.

RNS ig/rm/sg