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Soft rugby is not child’s play – the adults simply need to grow up
Has rugby really changed that much in the last five years? Has it become too soft or too dangerous? Has it stopped being a game for real men or started to become a game that parents don’t want their children to play?
Clickbait utterances from former players and journalists haven’t helped in what should be a healthy debate on where the game is going.
World Rugby, the body that gives us the laws, is not at fault though. Any governing body has to carefully compromise. That makes it slow-moving, ponderous and seemingly out-of-touch. They have to make sure they are legally sound, that every decision considers every participant and, inevitably, keep the game financially viable. That’s the nature of the beast.
Plenty of those pundits happily tear into World Rugby. Yet, if they found themselves in the committee rooms and board meetings, they wouldn’t gain much traction. It’s not how loud you shout. It’s how well you grease the palms of the voting members. And by greasing the palms, I mean persuade them with cogent arguments.
Kids rugby on the other hand, while by no means perfect, has plenty of the attributes that we should be persuading the adults to follow. Largely run by amateurs, exclusively played by amateurs and watched by non-paying supporters, there are enough unwritten laws that keep the game safe. It’s rare to see fights, punches or outright cheating. Coaches and parents do shout too much, but there’s not much swearing. High tackles and high ball collisions aren’t a big issue. In fact, at the youngest ages, in some countries, a high tackle is one above the waist!
Why does the adult rugby not follow this? If you read the front of the law book, there’s a charter on what rugby stands for. Frankly, it’s a panacea from the old days that, for all these years, has been believed but not actioned. It’s a social construct that’s never existed except when teary-eyed ruggers cuddle their ninth pint of a long evening and fall in sporting-love with their opposite number.
Rugby isn’t going soft. Rugby will continue to change with the times. It’s driven by the way individuals want to play the game, not by the laws or the national governing bodies. We instil the tenets on fair play with children, then forget them when it comes to the adult game. Time to become more childlike, don’t you think?