Are rugby players tougher than football players
Some who saw one Welsh player after the other injured off the field in the group match between the rugby World Cup hosts England and Wales last Saturday may have wondered: Is it still sport when your arm is torn out of the socket becomes? Anyone who asks this question has not penetrated the original meaning of rugby and related sports.
Rugby is the most popular, but not the only, English team sport that was invented at an elite boarding school and that looks more like a battle than a game. In the private school Eton, for example, the "wall game" has a tradition. The rules are quite complicated, if you hit a garden gate or a certain tree with the cue ball, you score nine points. Above all, however, the participants have the opportunity to suffer a few serious injuries. The teams push each other in a huge pile along a brick wall, with numerous players scraping the skin off their joints. It is also allowed to put your fist in the face of the opponent to drive him back.
Sports of the middle and upper classes
Like so much in England, sport is a matter of class. "Rugby is a game for hooligans that is played by gentlemen. Football is a sport for gentlemen that is played by hooligans," is a popular saying. The regulated scuffle is mainly fostered in private schools and in wealthy market towns. Rugby is the sport of the middle and upper classes; Despite all the billion-dollar deals, football still has the subliminal smell of working class and lower-class sport. Rugby players are called Geoffrey or James, soccer players Wayne or Gary.
The brutality, but also the strict discipline with which rugby goes to work - complaining about a referee's decision is frowned upon - are not an end in themselves. In the times of the British Empire, they were an important part of the formation of the elite. Privileged pupils should be taught that quasi-military toughness against themselves and others that would later be necessary for ruling the world empire. Rigidity and fairness - characteristics that are routinely ascribed to oneself in England - find their expression in rugby, if not the noblest, then at least the most testosterone-charged expression.
England is threatened with an early World Cup
Rugby has never completely shed its aura as an elite sport, especially in England. But even in the Commonwealth it remained largely a game of the whites, particularly successful in settler colonies such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, while cricket and football also became popular with the colonized peoples.
It would be particularly bitter if England, as host of the World Cup, were eliminated in the group stage after the surprising and unnecessary defeat against Wales on Saturday against their permanent rivals Australia. Elite consciousness or not: toughness and discipline are just necessary but not sufficient characteristics to win a tournament. Cleverness and tactical ability have to be added, as Wales showed last week. There seems to be some catching up to do for the English national rugby team, and at least that is what connects football and rugby: their mother country has been overtaken in both disciplines.
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