Have you ever cheated at a game? The chances are we all have at one time or other but perhaps our cheating didn’t have quite the same repercussions as one day in the autumn of 1823 when William Webb Ellis who was playing the game of football such as it was then when this student who went on to become a Clergyman took things into his own hand quite literally.
As witnessed at the time…
Ellis, for the first time, disregarded this rule, and on catching the ball, instead of retiring backwards, rushed forwards with the ball in his hands towards the opposite goal, with what result as to the game I know not, neither do I know how this infringement of a well-known rule was followed up, or when it became, as it is now, a standing rule.
If I said that this cheating took place at Rugby School then it may give you the idea that the sport he inspired was not cricket or golf but Rugby. Nearly 200 years later the Rugby World Cup is being held again with the winner being awarded the Webb Ellis trophy.
There has been a World Rugby governing body since 1884 when a disputed Try for England against Scotland led to England stating that as they wrote the rules of the game that they should have the final word on whether the score should stand. Scotland, Wales and Ireland disagreed and so an international body was set up which now had around 100 members.
For those in the USA who aren’t familiar with the sport, you should try watching it as the USA have a team in the World Cup this year. It is rather like NFL with points scored for a Try (Touchdown) and less points scored for Conversions (Field Goals). The ball can be kicked forward but only thrown sideways or behind. It has none of the stop-start nature of NFL nor any of the body armour either though the crunching tackles and sometimes horrendous injuries are very similar.
The tournament lasts from today until the end of October and starts off with 4 Pools each containing 5 teams with the winners and runner ups advancing to the Quarter Finals where from then on teams will be knocked out on a match by match basis. The toughest group or Group of Death as it is known is Pool A which has Australia, England, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay competing for the top spots. Ordinarily Australia and England along with the every brilliant New Zealand are the favourites to win each World Cup with South Africa, France and a lesser degree Wales always there or thereabouts.
One of the interesting things I like about the Rugby World Cup is the brilliance of the Pacific Island nations. Teams from tiny places like Fiji or Tonga can beat everyone and if they had the money and resources of the bigger nations would no doubt be champions time after time.
I will do my usual and support the Home Nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland as well as Romania, my wife’s team who back in the 1980’s had quite a good team as the Communist leader Ceausescu promoted it but after Communism the sport was seen in a bad light and sadly Romania has replaced by Italy as the new team on the European block. However depending on the fixtures I will always find someone to support as unlike some sports, no teams really cheat or act unsportingly which is what drives me away from many sports and sports teams.
In the last World Cup Argentina had a storming tournament and they beat a number of supposedly better ranked teams. Canada and the United States will no doubt be hoping to perform similarly well in this tournament.
Matches are being played at 12 stadia across England plus one in Cardiff, Wales. The final will take place on Saturday 31st October at Twickenham. On a personal note, I will always remember the 2003 World Cup when with just 20 seconds remaining, England scored the winner against Australia in Australia against all the odds.
In the end, I don’t much mind who wins as I just like watching an uncompromisingly tough sport played very fairly which can’t be said about football.