The Rugby World Caught on Fire This Weekend, The Result was Hilarious
As Michael Caine’s Alfred in the Dark Knight famously uttered, “some men just want to watch the world burn.” While I might not want to watch the entire world burn, I do have to admit, every so often I enjoy a mild brush fire.
I am the type of guy that was screaming “Fair Catch Free-Kick!” at the TV at the end of the super bowl. I love the intricacies of the rulebook in various sports. This past weekend, my love of wacky rules reared its beautiful head in the world of rugby as the Italian Nation Rugby Union Team tried to set the rugby world on fire. Before I get to that, let me digress for a spell.
Because my life revolves around sport, I will watch anything that is competitive and even remotely interesting. I can trace my love of rugby from before I hit double digits in age. I grew up on a farm and because of how far we lived from wires and such, my sports fanatic parents decided we needed one of those massive satellite dishes that probably had the capabilities to transmit to alien life forms. My favorite part about “the dish” was we got old-school ESPN and eventually ESPN2.
Back in the good old days, ESPN2 used to broadcast some of the craziest and weirdest sports: the Great Outdoor Games, World Strongest Man, and Sumo Wrestling were some of my favorites (a post about those sports will be done at some point). Australian Rules Football and Rugby always caught my attention because they were like American Football and, simply put, entertaining. Rugby is fun to watch and I was considered playing in college, but eventually made my way on to the baseball team as a backup catcher (that is a post for another day as well). This is all said to point out, I enjoy rugby and understand what is going on when it happens across the TV.
This past weekend Italy played England. England is an absolute powerhouse, even more so when matched up against Italy. England and Italy have played 23 times… England has come out victorious on 23 occasions. It is a historically slightly lopsided battle.
When the two teams played this weekend, England won 36-15, which is a decent win margin. However, the match was much closer (especially through the first half where Italy held a 10-5 lead) because Italy exploited a seldom-used loophole that completely flabbergasted England.
Quick rugby rulebook time. Without delving into too much detail, the average rugby play involves a tackle (you know what that is) followed by a ruck. A ruck is when players from each side form a wall of human flesh and attempt to rake the ball out from the pile for possession. Whenever a ruck is formed, play is essentially dead and players from one team may not go onto the other side of the ruck, the opposing team’s side (i.e., go offsides). When a player gets tackled and a ruck ensues, the player that got tackled is usually able to pass the ball back to his teammates. This is all standard rugby stuff.
However, in the match this past weekend, Italy decided, “screw it, let’s not form a ruck.”
If no ruck is formed, there is no offsides. In other words, by refusing to form a ruck (something that usually happens on literally every play), Italy could go offsides all they wanted (they had to allow a meter of space between the tackled player and the next man up). England had to figure out a way to move the ball forward in a game where the only way to do so involves literally carrying the ball or kicking it (no forward passing in rugby). The ensuing English confusion was something The Joker would have loved to watch:
The smirk from the referee and the total confusion on the part of the English is more enjoyable to me than a $100 rare steak oozing au jois. There is more luscious sustenance in this 6:29 clip than an IV drip hooked up to a frat guy after a night of hard drinking.
There are so many different reasons why I watch sports, but it is mostly because I have a good idea of what to expect when I turn the TV on. However, sometimes somebody comes up with something that is completely unexpected and when chaos ensues, I have to admit… I do not exactly mind watching the world burn.