Just a not-so-little intro...
I grew up in the States, so needless to say rugby wasn't in my blood from youth on as is the case with many here. In fact, I never even knew about the game until about 12 years ago. As a wee lass I loved hockey, but my interest in that game wore off when they started tinkering with the rules to make it more appealing to Americans. So for a few years I gave up on sports. But when I was in my twenties I stumbled across a game called Aussie Rules late one night. Wow...a game with more action than hockey, and with a lot less clothing, too! Yeah, I was intrigued. But, alas, it wasn't an easy game to find on tv, and when ESPN did air a match, it was usually at 3 am, and then sometimes just a clipped highlights show. Blech. Once again my interest in a sport died away, and I got into more important things, like getting married and buying a house and stuff.
Fastforward about a decade and a half. I'm bored, sitting at home one day, flipping channels. Movie. Animal show. Music videos. A mass of bodies tumbling all over one another. Talk show. Columbo rerun...wait. What did I just see? A mass of bodies? Was that the game I used to watch, Aussie-something-or-other? I flipped back to the mass of bodies, realized it wasn't Aussie Rules, but something much, MUCH better. This must be that game I recently heard about...rugby. I was immediately hooked. More structure than Aussie Rules, but not nearly as rigid as the gridiron football most of my fellow countrymen enjoy.
That was ten years ago. Since the first matches I ever watched were from the southern hemisphere, I am naturally a fan of the teams I first saw play. I wavered between Australia and New Zealand, finally settling on NZ, and the Crusaders. And yes...I mean, no...I mean, yes, Justin Marshall had a lot to do with it. But that doesn't mean I have rigid loyalty to any one team. A couple weeks ago I cheered the Rebels on as they trounced the Crusaders. (I do so love an underdog!) Being part Scottish, whenever Scotland plays I root for 'em (I know, I KNOW!). And yeah, I even went through a Sebastien Chabal stage...(I know, I KNOW!!). And, regardless of the team, I love any player with a funny name.
But before you get the idea that I only watch for the guys, nah, that's not it at all. I watch because rugby is one of the last pure sports on the planet. It's not all strutting and playing to the camera, and though I know egos are huge in the game (as they are in any sport), there's a sense of team over individual that I am just not seeing in most other sports today. There's conflict, but also camaraderie. There are men who fall down over and over again and keep getting back up (heck, if I fall down once, I'm staying down, AND taking a nap!). But more than anything there's that drive, that indefatigable determination to reach the try line, no matter what, and the equal determination to see that - again, no matter what - that try never happens.
However, I don't deny agreeing with two Super 12 (at the time) announcers as they were commenting on a play several years ago. After the clip was replayed four or five times to see if there was a grounding, one commentator said, "Ah, the rolling maul. It's the sexiest part of rugby, isn't it?", to which the other responded with absolute passion in his voice, "Oh, yes it is. Just look at all those sweaty, smelly great big blokes in there!"
Well, I sure was, but I'm girl.