So, the Rugby Union World Cup is over. The All Blacks of New Zealand leave English shores with their hands on the trophy, like many expected them to do. From a sporting perspective the tournament was a great spectacle, even if the rules are a tad baffling, leaving one feeling mostly confused or scratching your head.
Gain lines, breakdowns, going off the feet, going in from the side and hands in the ruck are the type of phrase I found myself nodding sagely to when in truth I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. Rugby Union is a complicated sport, but it is engrossing at the same time.
However, as is typical in this country when the rugby is on, for some reason people queue up to bash football and footballers. It baffles me.
If this behaviour were to trickle into everyday life, we’d be perpetually unhappy. Why spoil your enjoyment of something by moaning about something else? People watching Eastenders would sit slagging Coronation Street off. Customers at Starbucks would sit over their tepid coffees whilst complaining bitterly about Pret. Why can’t people just enjoy the rugby without having to resort to moaning about another sport – namely football? Those same people who then laud the honour and nobility of rugby in comparison to the dirty immoral world of football are often quick to forget Bloodgate. Get off your high horse.
Anyway, having tuned into the World Cup during the last month or so, there is a lot that is good about the game of rugby. It will never be what football is to me but it possesses an enormous amount that is to like. In a world of Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains, what lessons should football and in particular Bradford City take from rugby?
1. We need our own dance…
For some reason, the Haka seems to have a big effect on everyone. Is it time that Bradford City marched out and did some form of dance to intimidate the opposition? The Haka is a challenge from the Maori people, so perhaps the side could evoke that spirit and perform a challenge from the good people of Bradford. A mass ‘come on then, I’ll have ya’. With tongues out like the Kiwis of course.
2. … and a sing-song
You cannot help but be impressed by the rugby teams when they line up and belt out their national anthem. Shaking with pride, tears rolling down their faces, gripping onto each other and shaking – it’s impressive stuff. Our players should pick a rousing song like Midland Road Take Me Home and then line up and belt it out before the customary handshakes. If someone could cry that would be excellent. Billy Knott looks a passionate fella so I nominate him to lead the waterworks. The opposition would wonder what the hell was going on.
3. Get hench
These rugby players are big lads. I’m sorry Reece Burke and Devante Cole, but there is no way you can possibly call yourself a physical specimen compared to some of those rugby players. Phil Parkinson should scrap any form of cardio fitness from now on, get the protein shakes in, and set about removing any sign of a neck from our players so that their chin neatly slots into a giant ball of muscle. Bigger is better it seems.
Once that regime is successful, we would then need to get skin tight shirts for the lads. In turn the people of Bradford would instantly become fitter and leaner in a bid to squeeze themselves into these shirts (a neat policy idea there for you Mr Cameron).
4. Wear black boots
The All Blacks wear black boots and they look pretty mean. Footballers wear an assortment of bright colours on their feet and look like characters from a children’s TV show, not sportsmen. One of the star players of the World Cup, Australia’s David Pocock, went a step further and used to put tape over the logo on his boots. Our players should do the same thing. Back to old school football, not a bloody fashion show.
5. Be polite and call the ref Sir
Having the referee mic’d up would be a bold step for football. The average vocabulary of a Premiership footballer is little more advanced than “it’s all about the three points” and “f*** off” but the signs of intelligence are higher at our beloved club I reckon (the recent Face2Face quizzes involving the players verify this – to a degree, Nathan Clarke).
The rugby lads are ever so polite to the referee, calling him Sir and saying please, so City should follow their lead and show some manners. Hell, if it helps Big Jim get even one decision a season then it’s a big step in the right direction right?
I was rather surprised to see The Times write this headline about the New Zealand captain Richie McCaw – “McCaw is a cheat, but that is his job and what makes him great”.
At our next game, I expect City to field 15 players and for Ben Williams to simply take down the goalposts, making it impossible for the opposition to score a goal. That is our job apparently and is what can make us great.
7. Teach Rory McCardle how to be Dan Carter
Dan Carter scored a drop goal from 40 yards in the World Cup final. It was a mighty swipe of the boot. With Rory’s ability to launch the ball, he could be better utilised in the opposition half emulating Mr Carter. The New Zealand number 10 also happened to win Player of the Year this week, so he’s doing something right. Watch and learn Rory, you could be the next Messi.
8. Great defence is great, but you cannot beat flair (and wingers)
The reason New Zealand won is because they were the best team going forward, and they are blessed with good wingers too. The South Africans tried to batter them into submission through sheer brutality but in the end the All Blacks had the skills to win. Against Australia in the final the Kiwis faced a team with a fearsome defence, but in the end their sheer commitment to attack, allied with skill, won out.
The above challenges faced by the Kiwis are familiar ones but at times, Bradford City can be a very predictable and risk-averse side, particularly at home. We are all familiar with the opponents who come to VP for a point but hope for a smash and grab, and then walk away dusting off their hands in a breezy fashion with all three points in the bag. I’m not saying Parkinson has the talent that the All Blacks have at his disposal but still, unleash the wide men, get on the front foot and lets press forward quickly as a unit instead of playing with isolated attackers. That should help our home form.
9. Don’t mess with the atmosphere
We know this already but there is nothing worse than the sound of the crowd being drowned out by an irksome radio host over the tannoy. This was truer than ever at the Rugby World Cup, and Bradford City should always always take heed of this. Let the crowd take the lead. Thankfully, our club is good at this and long may that continue. When some berk is brought in to drown out the crowd at key moments is the time that we need new owners.
10. Stop the scapegoating
Refs are human and humans make errors. Even with the assistance of slow-motion, multi-angle replays and an extra official with a handy TV in front of him, rugby officials still made cock ups. Although we have witnessed some staggeringly woeful referees at City over the years, it does help to know that technology isn’t necessarily the answer to everything. On top of that, at least our refs don’t sprint straight off the pitch and down the tunnel without saying a word to anyone after a bad call. The public evisceration of the same referee was worse than the childish behaviour you see in football every week. Refs get it wrong, so do players, so do managers and so do all of us.
11. Get more Aussies and Kiwis in
Reading the papers, it seems the Northern Hemisphere is dead in terms of sporting prowess. The Southern Hemisphere has taken over. Ignoring Brad Jones, it appears that the best policy is to send scouts down under to scour the land for more James Merediths.
12. Reward pitch invaders
Instead of frogmarching pitch invaders out, or even arresting and charging them like they did with that fat somersaulting chap at Reading, it seems that rewarding pitch invaders is the thing to do. A young lad ran onto the pitch after the final and ended up with a New Zealander’s winner’s medal, and acres of positive headlines. It appears this should now be the policy at Bradford City in order to create a nicer atmosphere. Lovely stuff.
13. Pick your strongest side. Stick with it
England, as England do in World Cups in most sports, performed dreadfully. That could partly be down to the fact that the coach Stuart Lancaster kept chopping and changing the squad. At one point, most English men under the age of 30 were under consideration to be picked. In the end, they played like strangers and crashed out early. For Stuart Lancaster read Phil Parkinson early this season. Players coming in and out of the squad in different positions led to a number of poor displays and the results told. The swapping of personnel seems to have settled down in recent times and results have picked up. Fingers crossed things stay that way.