Tuesday, April 26, 2005

French Irishmen, Tigers, and the Forward Pass

Regular readers of this blog will know that my incandescent fury with rugby referees can be something to behold (although you need to see my rage in person for the full experience). One of the strange things I find about watching sport is that I can switch a match on as a neutral, and end up passionately supporting one side or the other. So when I have a slight preference for one team, I tend to find myself getting into a match far more than could reasonably be expected.

The was the case this weekend with the Leicester Tigers - Toulouse European Cup semi-final. I'm not the greatest French rugby fan (although Toulouse have played some awesome rugby this season). Now, as the fair-minded guy that I am, I will say up front that Toulouse were the better team on Sunday and deserved to win. Yet their cause was greatly assisted by some pretty dodgy refereeing.

It seems to be a case of the modern game that referees are unable to spot fairly blatant forward passes. Alain Rolland (an Irishman!) was no exception on Sunday. What really gets me is that some of these forward passes actually take place close to the white horizontal lines that lay out the rugby field. Leicester did not deserve to win the match - but the game is ruined as a concept when teams are allowed to get away with infringements of the law with huge rewards.

New Zealand are the biggest culprits - they have turned the forward pass into an art form (I saw one in the World Cup which actually went behind the back of a defending player). Now, many would say that the occasional missed forward pass doesn't really harm the game, and allows it to be played at a much more exhilarating pace. Well, I'm sorry, but that just doesn't hold up. The game of rugby requires a specific amount of skill, and making sure you pass the ball backwards is an integral part of it. Running rugby is beautiful to behold. But it is the control of other faculties whilst running at pace that makes it superior to other games of a similar nature. The number of forward passes missed by top-class referees today is appalling - and the game will suffer if this continues.