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Rugby playing kissing ball

How hard is it?

Rugby fans are simple souls. They find the combination of even moderate sexual attraction and a little knowledge of their favourite subject quite irresistible. However, bear in mind you are dealing with a certain type of male – if you are looking for a sensitive, sophisticated, reconstructed ‘new man’, you are probably not going to find him at a rugby match – so you must be careful not to show that you know more than he does. That would be like ripping his testicles off – especially if you did it in front of his rugby-loving friends, who would be laughing heartily at him while you did it.

The model for all rugby girlfriends is Elizabeth Taylor, who declared ‘I prefer rugby to soccer. I enjoy the violence in rugby, except when they start biting each other’s ears off.’

Five Things to Know About Dating a Rugby Fan

  1. His favourite outfit: His oldest, most worn rugby shirt.
  2. His favourite outfit for you: His oldest, most worn rugby shirt. Bottoms optional.
  3. Likely first date: A rugby match of course, preferably featuring his own team – winning.
  4. Preferred holiday destination: New Zealand…or South West London in a quaint and sleepy Middlesex village called Twickenham.
  5. What he’ll be drinking: Beer. Fosters or Carlsberg most likely. If he shows a penchant for drinking aftershave, there’s really no hope.
  6. Books on the go: HIS: My Life as a Hooker by Steven Gauge. YOURS: The Bluffer’s Guide to Rugby.

How Did It All Start?

There were many proto-versions of rugby. It probably all started with some Neanderthals throwing around the heads of enemies from another tribe. Indeed that is a fair description of how the game was played in the Welsh Valleys until very recently.

The modern game is said to have begun at Rugby School when a future clergyman, William Webb Ellis, picked up the ball and ran with it because he was bored with playing football. ‘Totally understandable’ should be your line.

How Does the Game Work?

No one really knows all the rules, which is good news because it means you don’t need to bother with most of them. It is, however, essential to grasp the following expressions:

Try – grounding the ball beyond the line at the end of the opponents’ half of the pitch gets five points.

Conversion – a successful place kick between the posts after a try gets two extra points. Note that while feeble football players score by kicking under the crossbar, a proper manly rugby kick has to get over it.

Penalty Goal – a successful place kick between the posts from wherever an offence is deemed to take place gets three points. This can be something of a random element.

Drop Goal – dropping the ball and kicking it as it bounces so that it goes between the posts for three points. This is actually a lot harder than it looks.

Forward Pass – spectacular in American football but illegal in rugby, leading to…

Scrum – throwing the ball in the middle of a mass of men, usually eight from each side, holding on to each other so that they can then fight over it without using fists (unless the referee is looking the other way).

How Are The Teams Organised?

There should be fifteen men from each team on the field. This may be reduced when players are sent off, permanently or temporarily, for serious offences, or injured – although injured players can be replaced at the end of a period of play. You can call it a sign of declining manliness that players are now even replaced when the poor dears get tired.

Eight of the biggest players are forwards, collectively known as the pack, whose job it is to win possession in the line out, scrum, ruck, and maul. The front row in a scrum consists of a hooker – not as exciting as it sounds, but a relatively small forward whose job is to ‘hook’ the ball with his feet and pass it back – supported on either side by a pair of props, solid, sturdy lads who are hard to move. The second row are two locks, taller men who provide pushing power, and who tend to be useful in line outs. The back row consists of the unimaginatively-named number eight with a pair of flankers on either side, ideally combining speed and size.

The two half-backs are the glory boys of the team. The inside-half or scrum-half feeds the ball out from the forwards to the outside-half or fly-half, who decides what to do with it, whether to pass it out or to kick. He is usually the team’s specialist kicker.

There are, confusingly, four threequarter-backs. Two centres make space for two wings to run in the tries. Traditionally the centres were big backs who also specialised in tackling while wings were the lightest and fastest men on the field. However, recent years have seen fashions for faster centres and also for bigger wings like the enormous and frequently unstoppable New Zealander Jonah Lomu.

Finally, the full-back is the team’s last line of defence and often the fly-half’s rival as a kicker.

Still with us? While that seems an awful lot to remember, luckily you only really need to learn about the position your man plays. You can rest assured, due to the fleeting nature of rugby laws, that no one really knows exactly what’s going on. Least not the players. Especially not the ref. Quote the former Wales’ fly half Jonathan Davies, who on A Question of Sport said ‘I think you enjoy the game more if you don’t know the rules. Anyway, you’re on the same wavelength as the referees.’

Will his looks be affected?

In actual fact, rugby isn’t half as dangerous as you may think. It has far less injuries than games like hockey or even football, where points are given to injured players for artistic merit. This being said, your man will surely delight in showing off any scars he may have ‘earned’ in the game if he has ever played it. Whilst it is far more likely that these injuries were caused by a post-match drinking session, do not question the impressiveness of said scars. Time to perfect your best sympathetic-whilst-being-immeasurably-impressed face.

What Do I Do At A Rugby Game?

Although rugby used to be about as female-friendly as Freemasonry, that has changed radically in recent years. A lot of the most fanatical fans are themselves women, and there will usually be a contingent of wives and girlfriends at games at all levels.

Do not confuse rugby WAGs with soccer WAGs. Skimpy outfits are not a good idea when the normal rugby venue is more likely to be a freezing open pitch on a hillside than a warm superstadium. Several layers of thick clothes may not look stylish but the sort of people who go to rugby matches will not notice whatever you’re wearing.

You will be expected to cheer for your beloved’s team – and question every referee’s decision against it – but, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, it is permissible to applaud a good passage of play from the opposing team, so long as it does not happen too often.

Who Are The Names To Drop?

It is axiomatic that Southern Hemisphere sides are generally better than Northern Hemisphere sides. The Australian Wallabies, South African Springboks, and New Zealand All Blacks are always the teams to beat – especially New Zealand, where rugby is the only socially permissible leisure activity not involving sheep.

However, even tiny Southern Hemisphere countries like Fiji and Samoa – sometimes called ‘New Zealand B’ – are capable of humiliating much bigger nations.

For serious bluffing, commit the names of the clubs of the English Premiership, the Celtic nations and Italy’s Pro 12, and the Southern Hemisphere’s Super 15 to memory, and check on their standings at least once a week.

And who are the players to look out for?

If you’ve gotten this far but still resent the idea of spending every weekend for the rest of your romantic relationship pitch-side in the cold and rain, perhaps we can interest you with Rugby’s hottest numbers – and that number is 10, on their shirts, because they are inevitably fly-halves, and on the proverbial scale.

While rugby players are stereotypically thought to have drawn the short-end of the genetic stick, you’d be surprised at the amount of them topping ‘most sexy’ polls. Take Danny Cipriani, fly-half for Sale Sharks, who is perhaps better known as the on-then-off-then-on-again love-interest of one Kelly Brook. You may be familiar with Dan Carter’s torso from various billboard underwear ads; when not reclining in his pants he plays fly-half for the All Blacks. We also have to mention English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, mocked in rugby circles, perhaps unfairly, perhaps not, as the most boring player in the game, but who can forget that right-footed kick that carried England to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup? Although retired from international rugby, with his golden mane and boyish good looks, he’s definitely the silver lining for any female attendee.

Maximum Bluffing Value

Ninety per cent of rugby talk consists of ill-informed arguments about fly-halves. If you want to earn the respect of real rugby fanatics, take a few minutes to learn the names and key statistics of the less glamorous forwards of your beloved’s favourite side, and say they are the real heart of the team.

DO SAY: ‘Fancy a quick ruck?’

DON’T SAY: ‘Let’s try role play – you can be Jonny Wilkinson.’

Ellen Tewkesbury, John Winterson Richards


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