A war of attrition, blood has been split, ribs shook, fights prevented, kisses exchanged. This is England rugby.
I had forgotten what good rugby looks like, the adrenaline, the speed, the need to win, the amazing lengths these guys go to, rugby is war. Its not just a game, not just a sport, war.
So Saturday finds me in the house watching rugby, this is because I have nothing better to do(on account of me becoming very boring.) my brother loves rugby, loves it to bits, he broke a few bones for it, I broke bones playing rugby too but because of it never for it the difference is huge. Anyway he's watching rugby, Argentina is playing England, right now, its half time and I have taken time out to rejoice in the awesomeness that is England rugby.
At first I sat here non-committal, looking at the tv screen as a way to pass time. Quickly I latched onto Argentina as the team to support, they seemed underdoggy enough and I have watched so many American movies that it's the default . A little into the game there was this mole, a mole is basically a pimple on the face, in rugby though it’s what happens when the players are fighting over the ball and the fight becomes uncivilised breaking down into a free for all on the floor of the pitch. All the players who are around get sucked into this black hole and in there they fight and claw and sometimes even bite if they can get away with it. This mole happened a few metres from the tryline, where the ball must be placed for a score to be made, Argentina got the ball and crashed into the England defence, a defence in rugby is a wall of men weighing in at over a hundred kilograms of muscle each. The way to break past this wall is to hit it as hard as you can over and over till a crack appears. Every time there's no crack in the wall there's another mole, a ridiculously dangerous situation in which one player crashes into the wall, is rebuffed and falls to the ground, doesn't try to protect his head as all these people in these rugby boots storm around him. 5 moles later they were 5 centimetres from the tryline. 5 fucking centimetres,a guy with a decent sized hard on could have scored those points. They had fought to get here, you could feel the struggle, see the desire as they fought in those moles, world war II trenches where putting your head up was inviting a kick to the face and at this point an Argentinian decided to jump for it, jump those last 5 cm. he was airborne,a bird in flight, free in the air for one glorius moment before he ws snatched back by the wall he didn't make it he was rebuffed, pushed back and they lost that chance, I was supporting Argentina even harder than before, such drive, such spirit.
The English wanted to win. They wanted it so bad I began wanting it for them too. The star Argentinian player would touch the ball and be floored immediately, they were out to hurt. His ribs were hit, the tackles aimed at him particularly ferocious prompting the commentator to say “every time he touches the ball he hurts himself” no I thought they hurt him every time he touches the ball. And these rugby guys are bad-ass Not like football, not at all. There are no fake dives in rugby, none of that weak game here. in this game there was a guy who got a cut on his head, an actual cut, the blood was dripping down him in cascades, a waterfall of red and bled. In this very match. He left the game for five minutes so that they could pour something on his wound, then he came back and played on. But back to the star player that the British were out to get. His falls started to last longer and longer. He would be tackled, and a tackle really is like someone throwing a rock at you as hard as he can, and fall. The medics would come on the pitch as the game went on because in rugby they don't stop for injuries, they don't stop to watch a guy get bandaged, they don't stop because of a possible concussion, they only stop for whistles .First aid happens as the rest of the game goes on. Seriously the guy stood there as they bandaged his ribs and the rest of the game went on, kicks and scores and tries and moles. Finally the punishment was too much and this guy had to be taken off. That's when England became my team, they wanted to win. They had spirit, soul, psyche. They wanted to win more than anyone else.
Plus they had these new uniforms for their team. And England is proud of their team, they love them some rugby. They spare no expense on these jerseys, none at all I imagine. Probably the kind of contract that you retire off of. However in 5 minutes the numbers on the back of the jerseys were peeling off. That's awesome. That makes them the underdog immediately. They look like they couldn't afford what a Kenyan high school can.
And in the middle of the game a guy streaked across the field. A random fan in nothing but his swinging pendulum, famous now and forever. That only happens in rugby.
Then an English player jumped for the ball. Before he landed an Argentinian tackled him in an egregious breach of rugby courtesy, you never, ever tackle someone in the air. As soon as this happened the English players were ready to go H.A.M. (hip hop slang for Hard As a Motherfucker derived from jay-z/kanye west song of the same name.) a fight nearly broke out, no listening to the fact that it may have been by mistake, just fists curled, jaws set and adrenaline released. Later on there was nearly another fight. One English player grabbed an Argentinian by the head. He crooked his elbow round his neck pulled the other guy close and kissed him on the eyelid! On the eyelid! I have never seen a kiss used so counterproductively since Judas and Gethsemane. I was sold. I was with England to the end of the tournament. I hope they win.
Plus they were so rough. In rugby it takes a lot to get a penalty but not for England, as an example there was this guy who was tacked so hard by an English player you could feel the empathy in your own ribs. He was floored. It looked painful. It sounded painful, by the way he was writhing on the floor it was painful. If he was Adam Eve would be broken since that's the only kind of ribs god would be working with. This was not a penalty. But the team, the whole team got warned for a penalty later on. Maybe they poked a guy in the eye or something like that, am not sure.
despite all this spirit England was still losing, it's hard to lose. You could see it on their faces, the pain and frustration. The whole team was dejected and to make matters worse Wilkinson kept missing penalties. Wilkinson is a star player, he never misses a penalty. But in this game he missed four. That's four more than he has ever missed in his life. But he kept trying. I remember in high school we had this tennis enthusiast as a teacher. He once said that there are many people around the world who can serve like Serena Williams. They have the power and they can give the ball the speed it needs, what sets her aside is her mind. Imagine being at the highest expression of whatever it is your passion is. For her it's Wimbledon, for Wilkinson it's the rugby world cup. You do what you do. You serve as hard and true as you can but you fail. Then you try and fail again and again and again. But you try the same thing over again since you know from your practice this is what you do. that's what Wilkinson did. That's what the English team did. They tried. They forgot about the fact that they were losing. They put their frustration in a pocket, they wanted to win and to do this they would do anything. They caused concussions, they broke ribs, they ran and fought and tried like an underdog. They had spirit despite their shitty uniform despite the fact they were losing for 70 of the 80 minutes they played. They won me over and they won.