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Friday, 22 August 2014

Union code sells itself much better

THE Rugby Union World Cup reaches its grand finale on Sunday and, if you believe the hype, then half the planet will be glued to their TV sets waiting to see whether New Zealand can beat France and lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson

As a rugby league fan and therefore a green-eyed outsider with a chip on both shoulders, I have to say the reality is rather different. There are billions of people who live in India, China, Africa and North America who couldn’t give a monkey’s what happens in Auckland. They have never even heard of the Rugby World Cup.

In the next month or so rugby league will stage its Four Nations competition and it’s hard to imagine that anybody other than devoted RL fans will ever know or even care who wins. And 90 per cent of those who do care already assume it will be Australia.

If there’s one thing the union code does a million times better than the 13-a-side game it’s that it sells itself. The game gets the sort of promotion and publicity that could flog fridges to Eskimos.

Most League folk I listen to find it hard to watch a Union match with an open mind and are ever-ready to criticise line-outs, mauls, rucks, the quality of passing, handling, tackling, referees, the scoring system – just about anything. But they can never escape the fact that when it comes to the international scene union wins hands down.

Jonny Wilkinson (who kicks a lot of goals) is a national treasure. But as a stand-off/fly-half is he in the same class as Darren Lockyer or Benji Marshall? England’s most exciting wingers of recent years – Jason Robinson and Chris Ashton – are former league men and coaching staffs of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have all included men with a rugby league background.

I own up to being gripped by the drama of the Wales-France semi-final and I also appreciated New Zealand’s win over Australia, but I was left wondering why rugby union supporters get far more excited at winning penalties than scoring tries?

And how in the world can anybody get a thrill out of watching 16 giants trying to push each other into the ground for minutes on end with the ball nowhere to be seen?

On the same weekend as those two games, Australia played New Zealand in a rugby league Test. A full house of 33,000 at Newcastle (NSW) saw the Aussies score eight tries, win 42-6 and give yet another display of free flowing, swift handling, thrilling rugby.

Both teams will be in action at Wembley on November 5 – Australia against England and New Zealand against Wales – in a budget price double-header that will be one of the highlights of the Four Nations tournament. If that was a RU tournament, Wembley would be bursting at the seams. The RL version will be lucky to top 40,000 customers.

Supporters of international rugby union pack the biggest grounds year after year, rugby league followers spend half their time moaning about ticket prices, venues, kick-off times, or team selection.

Maybe the only way to forward is a complete name change. Like dropping the word league. After all, the first ‘rugby’ world cup was played in 1954 not, as the union would have us all believe, in 1987.

Have your say

Are you saying RU scrums are not a farce? When did you last see an exciting line out? The skill in rugby of both codes is seeing the players run and pass the ball at pace, which is the essential requirement for RL, but not so for RU where the ruck and maul tend to rule. I am an ex RU player who enjoyed PLAYING the game but as a spectator finds the modern RU game extremely tedious.

Posted by Chris Peacock on 9 November 2011 at 11:04

I watch both codes on the box,Union wins hands down,attendences in Union are going
up and up,Rugby league scrums are a farce.
league players have more natural ability,but
Union has become a better spectator sport.
I can see the day,when both sports will reunite.
That will be the only savior for teams like Barrow.

Posted by Dicky on 9 November 2011 at 09:16

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