The Rugby World Cup, eh?
To some, a noble, rugged series of battles contested by 20 teams comprised of noble, rugged warriors. To others, a gammony bootcut-jeans-and-shoes-fest best left to the kind of person likely to spend much of their time banging on about “the cool, clean purr of a British-made V8 engine”. Swing looooooowwwww, sweeeeet chaaaaaarioootttt.
Still, at some stage over the next two months you’re likely to end up having to watch – or at least hear about – a Rugby World Cup match. Perhaps you’re trying to ingratiate yourself with your surly, Brexit-voting father-in-law, or even just that loud-but-well-dressed bunch of lads down the pub you reckon you should get to know in case you need a mortgage any time soon.
Either way, rather than having to surreptitiously consult Mr Google at the mention of a “crash ball”, Paddy’s gone the extra mile and come up with some tips on how to pass yourself off as a Proper Rugger Man over the coming weeks.
1. Your wardrobe will need to be adjusted
For starters, you can chuck that Stone Island gear in the bin.
Then, get your hands on – and your legs inside – a tasteful, loose-fitting pair of blue bootcut denim jeans. You won’t actually need to wear boots with them, though – a nice pair of brown loafers, deck shoes or, preferably, Clarks casual dress shoes will do the job just fine.
As for what goes on above the waist, zip over to the Cotton Traders website and order yourself a selection of horizontal-striped rugby-style polo shirts, or failing that some clean, crisp – but not too fashionable! – pastel cotton shirts.
Top off the look with a suitably bland Superdry jacket – or a quilted North Face gilet if the weather’s fair – and you’re in business.
2. At every possible opportunity, point out how well-behaved rugby players are compared to footballers
As every Proper Rugger Man knows, footballers are basically a flashy bunch of unruly, profligate wastrels with nothing better to do with their lives other than making silly Instagram videos and designing coordinated celebrations on the training ground.
Not like rugby players, eh?
These boys have got DISCIPLINE. You wouldn’t catch a rugby player chewing a blood capsule in order to manipulate rules regarding medically required substitutions, or throwing punches and headbutts on the pitch.
No sir. Rugby players are paragons of virtue. Like these two England internationals:
3. No, seriously, there is never a bad time to talk about how much better rugby people are than football people
Look, rugby is a state of mind, okay?
It’s about fighting spirit, fair play, determination and posting sardonic, crypto-xenophobic replies in the Guardian comments section. Basically, it’s just about being a little bit better than people who like football.
As a Proper Rugger Man, you should never pass up a chance to laugh in the face of those mad enough not to love this glorious game. Phrases you should consider adding to your conversational repertoire include:
“Of course, you’ll never see a rugby player going down faking an injury.”
“We can drink beer in our stadiums. Not like in football, where the fans are TOO BLOODY IRRESPONSIBLE to be able to handle even looking at a pint of Heineken without causing a riot.”
“LOOK AT THE RESPECT PLAYERS HAVE FOR THE REFEREE! LOOK! IMAGINE WAYNE ROONEY CALLING MICHAEL OLIVER ‘SIR’.”
“Listen, it’s just a question of demographics…”
4. Learn the lingo – and apply it at the right time
Firstly, you’ll need to start saying the word “process” a lot. And we mean a LOT.
These days, you can’t move in a rugby pub for middle-aged men banging on about “process” while trying in vain to hold back the acidic sicky-burps that are an inevitable consequence of too much Heineken and cocktail sausage.
If you’re ever in doubt about what’s happening in a scrum or a maul, just belt out a quick “Stick to the process, boyyyyyys”, and before you know it you’ll be fending off the conversational advances of a rotund estate agent called Barry, who keeps wanting to talk to you about why trade tariffs on imported EU goods are “simply the only way forward, mate”. Bliss.
You’d do well to learn what a “drift defence” is, and there’s never a bad time to throw out a cheeky “we need intensity in the tackle.”
Early doors, try to steer clear of commenting on what goes on at rucks.
A schoolboy error would be to scream “offside” after the ball comes out on your side. But you can’t go wrong with an occasional “Hands off!” or “Release!” during the course of a ruck. If you’re feeling VERY confident, you can highlight the “excellent, unseen and unappreciated” performance of a forward (the ones wearing numbers 1-8) at the breakdown.
An optional addition to this is to identify the name of a player wearing number seven and say something like, “so much of what he does goes unnoticed. He’s the real driving force and inspiration behind this team, for me.”