It’s time to join me and Sam in kick and clap club

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

12
Have your say

AS England get set to take on Wales this weekend, unionistas like myself are dreaming of our heroes going all the way and a repeat of Sir Jonny’s drop-goal heroics back in 2003 in the World Cup final.

The fact that the start of the tournament has hardly been noticed by my colleagues here at the Evening Post may not surprise you.

Talking of mauls, they’re when the players decide to have a standy-up cuddle and a bit of a rest. There’s no make a tackle and run back 10 metres nonsense in this game. A ruck, for further reference, is when the players decide to have a cuddle, but on the floor

Given that we’re in the other code’s heartland here in Wigan, I’m surrounded by league fans who regularly point out the deficiencies of my chosen sport.

So this quick guide to the kick-and-clap World Cup will hopefully mean they, and of course the legions of leaguers in the borough, don’t miss out.

The tournament - which is the eighth instalment - will take place over some six weeks across the country and will be contested by 20 nations.

Some of the best players union has ever produced have set alight previous World Cups such as Jason Robinson, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers, Sonny Bill Williams and Brad Thorn and hopefully this one will be no different.

New Zealand’s All Blacks are the reigning champions and overwhelming favourites although history tells us that the World Cup pressure cooker is where their air of invincibility often slips. The most famous of these occasions were against Les Bleus in 1999 and again in 2007.

Unlike its league counterpart in 2013, where only a couple of teams had a realistic chance of winning, this tournament will be competitive before the semi-final stage. There’s probably four or five teams who have a genuine chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup (named after the lad who picked up a football and ran with it, therefore inventing rugby, so the legend goes.)

And yes, league fans, he picked the ball up and ran with it, not picked it up and kicked it. We’ve all heard that one. And it wasn’t that funny the first time. Anyway, England’s chances have been boosted by the emergence of a relatively unknown Yorkshire lad called Sam Burgess.

The 26-year-old centre - or flanker, depending on whether he’s playing for club or country - only started playing the game last year and has emerged from nowhere. What he was doing up to the day he signed for Bath no-one really knows apart from he had spent a bit of time down under on a gap year.

There are quite a few Wigan links to the England squad. Former St John Fisher student Owen Farrell is having to settle for an initial super-sub role behind first choice fly-half George Ford, whose dad Mike, the Bath coach, you may also recognise.

Farrell’s dad, Andy, is one of England’s assistant coaches and in his playing days was, like Burgess, another late-bloomer having only taken up rugby at the age of 31 in 2006 when he made his debut for Saracens.

Unfortunately, Chris Ashton, another Wiganer, has missed out on selection having fallen out of favour with head coach Stuart Lancaster in recent years.

On the pitch, England play in white, copied from league’s “Wall of White”, but don’t be surprised by the fact their shorts have pockets. The backs need them to put their gum-shields in when the ball is caught up in a rolling maul for 20 minutes.

Talking of mauls, they’re when the players decide to have a standy-up cuddle and a bit of a rest. There’s no make a tackle and run back 10 metres nonsense in this game. A ruck, for further reference, is when the players decide to have a cuddle, but on the floor.

I was an outside back in my playing days, so I’m not an expert on all that kind of stuff, I’m more of a catch the ball and hoof it kind of player. Scrums are competitive, unlike the waste of time they are in league, and lineouts are contested in the air, making them much more interesting than a simple pass, tap-and-go from the touchline.

Please note there are no 40/20s because a few years ago the IRB rejected pleas to adopt the rule due to concerns players like Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter wouldn’t be able to resist trying it every time they touched the ball.

Drop-goals are worth three points, as opposed to one, despite a bid after the 2003 World Cup by then England coach Clive Woodward to have them ramped up to 10 points each.

Tries are worth five points therefore disproving the league myth that all union scores are divisible by three. And, finally, the union version of the “big screen” is called the television match official or (TMO). So there you have it, I hope you enjoy the World Cup.

Swing low, sweet chariot.