by Kieran Healy on October 31, 2003

That would be the fifth Rugby World Cup of course, which is being played down here in Australia and has, I’ve noticed, generally escaped commentary in the blogosphere. But any game where France walk all over the U.S. can’t expect much love in the strongholds of blogging. Here at CT we have a strong representation from the Six Nations, though I don’t know how many of them (if any) are rugby fans. Here’s an update on what’s happening, including details of how the left-wing solidarity of Crooked Timber might be overwhelmed by the false gods of Nationalism.

Chris, Tom and Micah are English. I know Chris is, anyway. Sincere apologies to Tom and Micah if I’m wrong about them. (Sincere apologies if I’m right, too.) England’s rugby team is very good these days, for several reasons. They pioneered the professionalization of rugby in the northern hemisphere, they have perfected a style of forward play that is difficult to defend against, and they like to have more players than allowed on the pitch whenever they feel they are in danger of losing a match.

I believe Daniel is Welsh. Wales were seeded much too high coming into the tournament, had by far the easiest qualifying group of any of the traditional rugby-playing countries and are still managing to make pretty heavy weather of it. The typical tone of Daniel’s posts may be explained by his being from a once proud rugby-playing nation that has now gone to seed altogether. Interestingly, Wales’s decline as a force in rugby coincides with the refurbishment and expansion of Cardiff Arms Park in the 1990s. A clear case of investment in infrastructure that would have been better spent on human capital.

To my knowledge, no-one at CT is Scottish. Given how they’re playing, that’s probably just as well.

Henry is Irish. So is Maria. And so am I. I never actually played rugby at school, because I’m from the wrong class fraction (there’s a means test). The Farrells are better bred than the Healys so Henry probably did. Anyway, having scraped past Argentina, we’re into the quarter finals. The Pumas made their best effort to stop us, which is to say that they eye-gouged two of our forwards towards the end of the game. Eye-gouging was perfected in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The general inference is true, by the way: A country’s favored form of illegal play in rugby mirrors the favored pattern of political repression. Argentina’s is all hidden in the scrum, with opposing players found on the ground mysteriously bleeding from the eyes once play has moved on. South Africa are much more up front about things, preferring just to hit you where everyone can see. England, as noted above, invent the rules that everyone must play by (except England).

Maria is Irish but lives in Paris. The French are a great team, capable of quite incredible things, if it’s the right day of the week. Unfortunately, there is no good rule for establishing what the right day of the week is.

Brian is Australian. Australia are the defending champions. Tomorrow, Ireland play them in the final game before the knockout stage starts. If Ireland win, we’ll play Scotland or Fiji in the quarter finals instead of France. Ireland specialise in glorious defeats and moral victories. But we also have a good line in underdog upsets, so I think we’re in with a shot.



dmm 10.31.03 at 1:37 pm

The less said about Henry’s adoptive home, Canada, the better, it would seem. Any team that makes Wales look good…


Brian Weatherson 10.31.03 at 2:49 pm

And my current residence, the good ol’ USA, has won a game for the first time in its history – but no one over here can see it because all the games are on pay-per-view, at $20 a pop.

Here’s hoping for another glorious defeat and moral victory for the Irish!


Conor 10.31.03 at 3:03 pm

There is a conspiracy theory doing the rounds that Australia will allow Ireland to beat them tomorrow. The logic is as follows:
– Australia, as hosts and defending champions, really do believe they can go all the way and win this WC
– They also believe that the All Blacks and not the over-hyped English are the team to beat
– Better to meet the All Blacks in the final than in the semis
Therefore, let Ireland win tomorrow and set Australia on the right side of the knock-out stages to meet France, England and finally NZ in the final (as opposed to meeting NZ in the semis)

I don’t beleive a word of it. I think tomorrow’s game has equal chance of either being a 30 point drubbing of the Irish or an extremely close and exciting match. Apparently, 25,000 of the 57,000 tickets for the game in the Telstra Stadium are held by Irish supporters. Australia just narrowly defeated Ireland a couple of hours ago in the same stadium playing the “compromise” rules game (Aussie football meets Gaelic football – some sight!) There was a quote from an Australian in today’s Irish Independent about the ubiquity of Ireland supporters in Melbourne: “The (Irish) are like green locusts, only very welcome ones”.

As someone who also did not play Rugby at school, I now find I get more excited/nervous/satisfied from watching a big rugby game than from football or Gaelic games.


Richard Bayley 10.31.03 at 3:06 pm

For those CT readers who actually like sport, just a note to say real rugby (ie Rugby League) will be taking place in England during November, with an Ashes series between GB and Australia.


Ted Barlow 10.31.03 at 7:10 pm

It’s funny how little we Timberites know about each other, isn’t it?


Henry 10.31.03 at 11:50 pm

Well, whether or not I played rugby depends on your definition of “played.” I was singularly dreadful at it, and was permanently excused from the sport in my second year of secondary education. Still watch it whenever I can though (and support the Irish team, as does Maria). But I’m from Tipperary, so I like hurling too (hard to keep up with in Canada).


Maria 11.01.03 at 12:25 am

I do live in France but guess who I drew in the office pool – bloody U.S.A. (no offence; great country, and since I got here yesterday after lunch I’ve done nothing but drink Starbucks, spend money on consumer decidedly non-durables and think to myself, ‘globalisation, really all that bad?’).

Though now that the US have beaten the All Black’s B Team, oh sorry, Japan, the biggest girl’s blouses in the competition are officially Canada. What a waste of a fiver that office pool was. I can only presume they let that lot in for the same reason we let the Italians into the 6 Nations – we were sick of always winning the wooden spoon.

But here’s the thing. Why doesn’t the World Cup have mikes on the refs like they do in the 6 Nations? This year there was a fabulous Australian ref who couldn’t have been more than 35, actually had a neck and was masterfully firm but fair to all the mud-sodden rugger buggers. Ruf!!!

Anyway, for all these reasons, and especially now that Jonah Lomu seems to be retired, the World Cup is grand and all, but the 6 nations is your only man.


Chris Bertram 11.01.03 at 12:10 pm

Harry is English too, but I thought Micah was American and suspected that Tom might be Scottish (not sure why).

Ireland-Australia: great match wasn’t it!


Chris Brooke 11.01.03 at 2:12 pm

An excellent game — but if only the Irish drop goal attempt in the 73rd minute or so had come off…

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