Wogan's world: Rugby rekindles my love of sport

Discussion in 'European Champions & Challenge Cup' started by Teh Mite, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. Teh Mite

    Teh Mite TRF Legend

    Feb 16, 2005
    Northampton, England
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    I’m not much for beating anything, even a good thing, to death, but to return to my well-meaning, if tedious, rant of last week on the sad passing of sport and sportsmanship, scarcely had the ink dried on my quill, before glorious evidence to the contrary paraded itself before me.

    Last Saturday, in bracing Reading, Berkshire, I watched a thrilling Heineken European Cup rugby match between my club, London Irish, and the Irish province Munster. My club are known as the “Exiles”, because many are exiled from the Pacific Islands and the Antipodes. Munster is where my emotional rugby heart lies, having been born in Limerick, where, in Thomond Park, resides Irish rugby’s very soul. Talk about being “torn between two lovers”.

    Munster’s followers had come in their thousands, from the furthest corners of Cork and Limerick, to be met by even more thousands of London Irish fans.

    Both wore their team’s favours and jerseys, waved their scarves, chanted their songs and loudly banged their drums. They did this shoulder to shoulder in the stands, with no bad language, no aggressive behaviour, not a hint of fisticuffs, in front of a barely discernible security presence. They even kept a respectful silence during opponents’ penalty kicks. And make no mistake, these rugby followers are every bit as tough and fanatical as their football counterparts. It’s a much more physical game, and this one epitomised it. There was hard running, ferocious, back-breaking tackling, almost savage rucking, barely controlled physical mayhem, but nobody cursed or even argued with the referee. Nobody pretended to be hurt, nobody tore off their shirt and ran around like an eejit when they’d scored. At the end of the game, the teams shook hands.

    As the fans streamed home, there was no triumphalism, no bad losers, just people who’d come to support their team.

    I returned to Limerick a couple of years ago for a dinner they said was to honour me. A former school rugby team-mate stood to deliver my valedictory address: “Wogan,” he said, “was a prop, but his heart was at fullback. Certainly, it was in that position he was most frequently to be seen, when things got rough up front. And he found himself in that position, the last line of defence, when our opponents’ big lock forward broke through and surged towards our try-line. Only Wogan stood between him and a certain score! Wogan had two alternatives: crash-tackle the huge fellow, or stand aside. Wogan stood aside.”

    Heatedly, I denied this as a foul calumny. And I can certainly assert that I never said to the big fella as he passed: “Good luck with the conversion.”

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