Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shower of Scotland

The Scotland vs. New Zealand match last Sunday, part of the rugby world cup, was an occasion to miss by all accounts.

The host nation for the competition is France, a major rugby playing country with ample good stadiums. So why was the match played at Murrayfield? Two pool match were also played in Cardiff, as will be one of the quarter finals. This deal was clearly arrived at as part of ‘negotiation’ to obtain host status for France. This is a disgrace and has been made worse by giving, or selling, the 2011 world cup to New Zealand when it should have gone to Japan. Playing matches outside the host country spoils the homogeneity of the competition and is an unreasonable inconvenience and expense to the teams and fans of the countries that have to go there and play what amounts to a home match for their opponents.

Having arrived at Murrayfield there was the problem of what each team should wear, the dark blue and black of the primary ‘strips’ (stupid word) being too similar. Normally in such cases it is a courtesy to the visiting team to allow them to use their own colours and for the home side to choose some other clearly different colour. This is often white, presumably because it is clearly distinguishable from most others and is readily available – I imagine most teams have a white strip in stock for training purposes. Here I speculate but I bet that the Scots would not wear white because it is England’s colour and did not want to observe the usual courtesies because it was not a home game, being played in ‘virtual France’. So the two sides turned out in outfits that were muddled variations on their standard colours and remarkably similar to each other. Whether this confusion contributed to an unusually large number of handling errors on the part of the less than All Blacks has been debated by several reporters. Maybe that dirge of an anthem got to them.

Finally Scotland put out their second team so as to rest the first team for the crucial match with Italy that was always going to decide the second place in the softest pool in the competition. At least that one is being played in France.

There are at last some signs that rugby is developing outside the tri-nations and the original five nations groups and with England clearly a basket case for the moment I am supporting anyone from outside those groups, with France as the only northern hemisphere country with a hope of winning, as the exception. So away with my natural support for England and Ireland and let’s see Argentina, Tonga, Fiji and Italy in the last eight. For the final, at least Australia and New Zealand can’t both get there, leaving a great opportunity open for South Africa.

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