Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Chasing Eggs

"The whole point of rugby is that it is, first and foremost, a state of mind, a spirit." - Jean-Pierre Rives (1952), French rugby player.

It's hard to know where to begin with my experiences in Rugby. I suppose it is in some way innate: my Grandad was a talented player and played for my school's 1st XV before the Second World War and my Dad played all through his childhood, at Naval College and even for the Navy.

My first experiences of Rugby were in front of the TV on Saturday afternoons, watching the likes of Will CarlingJeremy Guscott and Rob Andrew pull on the red rose at Twickenham. The sheer power of Mick 'The Munch' Skinner, the cool and calm inspiration of Dean Richards and the speed and exhilaration of the Underwood brothers. Anyone/thing that could generate often jaw-dropping outbursts of emotion from my otherwise reserved Dad has got to be worth pursuing!

As with all young boys, I was keen to impress my Dad and couldn't wait to take up the Game but I did not start playing until 12 years old. In all his experience and wisdom, he did not want me to start too early and get sick of the Game. This meant I flirted with other sports, such as Football, Hockey, Swimming, Squash, Fives (Squash with your hands basically). However, I was restricted to Goalkeeper as my tackles were deemed 'too robust'!

Once I was finally unleashed onto the Rugby pitch, it felt like a duck taking to water. It seemed a natural fit for me. I loved the passion, the physicality, the aggression but most of all the camaraderie. I've been lucky to make some fantastic friends through the Game and had some unforgettable experiences, good and bad. Playing in front of a huge crowd at the ANZAC game in New Zealand and being the first team to beat Jersey at home in three years are moments I will never forget. But having three nurses and a doctor trying to pull my dislocated shoulder back into place will also remained etched in my memory.

I have experienced Rugby overseas as well, playing for a year in New Zealand whilst on a GAP year working at Wanganui Collegiate School. The Kiwis have a fascinating attitude to the Game and are a wonderfully inviting and welcoming people. It was certainly an eye opening season for a somewhat naive teenager, still wet behind the ears. I went from well mannered and polite schoolboy rugby to face-tattooed gang members trying their hardest to tear my head off! But the great thing about Rugby is that once the whistle blows, everyone is friends again and what was World War III becomes nothing more than an anecdote in the bar.

There are downsides to Rugby, obviously. I have alluded to the injuries, my own chart of maladies reads like a junior doctor's text book. Broken legs, fingers, ribs, too many dislocations to keep track off - leading to two shoulder reconstruction operations, a dislocated collar bone to name just a few. But, I have to say, whenever I'm sat in a hospital bed in plaster or going through physio, the only thought I have is, "When can I get back out on the pitch"!

However, as the crow's feet deepen and the hairline sneaks backwards, I am starting to be more realistic about my playing ambitions. But if this does turn out to be my last season, it certainly won't be the end of my Rugby career....hence the reason I've started this blog!

Please share your own experiences here and let me know your thoughts on the Game...

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