As England prepare to take on Croatia
tonight for a place in the European Championships, herewith a piece I meant to write around the time of the Rugby World Cup.
The relative merits of football and rugby are much discussed. This is my take on the issues.
(I’m going to focus on rugby union here, even though I always wished I’d had a chance to play rugby league.)Professional rugby is indeed more civilised than professional football
There’s no doubt that this is true. The players are more intelligent, the fans don’t have to be segregated, the whole family can go without any worries about idiots ruining the day out, and there is a real focus on the sporting nature of the event, not mere tribalism and oafishness.
This isn’t a class thing – it is a complete falsehood that rugby is posh. It is also straightforwardly untrue that football isn’t played in private schools. And quite a few football hooligans would actually qualify as being middle-class.Rugby players are harder than footballers
They are stratospherically harder. Even a supposedly small player like Jonny Wilkinson would eat up pretty much any footballer. And footballers who fancy themselves as hard wouldn’t last a few minutes on a rugby pitch. They’re too small, most of them are all mouth, and they just wouldn’t be tolerated by the other team.
Rugby players are also a lot mentally tougher than footballers, many of whom are complete ponces.As a sport, rugby is more violent than football
It is certainly true that footballers sometimes commit outrageous fouls on the pitch. But so do rugby players. And I do mean fouls – I’m not talking about legitimate physical combat. Gouging, stamping and punching are commonplace in the game. They are gentlemen – it’s a widely accepted aspect of the sport – but they are not gentle.Football requires far more skill than rugby
Sorry, but it’s true. The aforementioned Jonny Wilkinson is highly skilful. Most of his team-mates are highly athletic and tough – but not skilful. Of course there are tactics involved. Yes, for example, smaller props can get an advantage over bigger opponents through clever use of leverage. But in terms of pure skill, nothing in rugby compares with the otherworldly ability of a top flight footballer.
Rugby is a game for big strong boys who aren’t any good at football. That’s why I played it.England winning the World Cup again would be a much bigger deal than England winning the Rugby World Cup again
Football’s World Cup is known simply as ‘the World Cup’ for a reason. It’s the world’s number one sport. That’s it.Both games can be played casually by anyone
Five-a-side football annoys me because the ball can’t go over head height, but kickarounds with friends are fantastic. Rugby can also be played socially, as a touch game with limited physical contact. Both are great fun.
Hopefully this piece has engaged and annoyed you in equal measure.