Admit it, international rugby is better than football
Give me Nigel Owens over Howard Webb any day
I love club football.
Each season I delight in watching my team, Arsenal, play glorious, free-flowing football, threaten briefly to wrestle the Premier League title away from the Chelsea/Manchester duopoly, then, like clockwork, come February, lose our heads, self-combust and end up just scraping fourth over Tottenham.
It is box to box, heart in mouth stuff replete with local legends, cup giantkillers, tribal loyalties and pie eating goalies like Sutton United’s Wayne Shaw.
How I wish the same could be true at the international level. You’d think that the veritable smorgasbord of glittering foreign talent in the PL couldn’t possibly compare to the stars on offer at the World Cup or Euros.
Yet every 24 months, one Champions League star after another barely bother to turn up at the biggest tournaments on earth.
Pleading exhaustion after a year of top level club football, they sullenly mooch around the pitch, insult their travelling legion of fans (a la Wayne Rooney) and generally play without heart, hope or fear of losing performance related pay.
In internationals all the irritating flaws of clubs are magnified on a superhuman level. Egotistical refs, national politicking, incompetent or corrupt governing bodies- all the things club fans moan about are writ large on the greatest stage of all.
Pool games boast minnows like Honduras, North Korea or Kuwait being devoured by whales like Brazil or Italy whilst knock out games are mind numbingly dull exercises in tedium as safe, dull tactics are deployed to eke out a 1-0 win or a fluke triumph on penalties.
Compare all this to the joy of international rugby.
There, passionate fans throng the stadiums, watching characters like Nigel “This isn’t soccer” Owens and Romain “I’m a referee, not a coach” Poite preside over intense, enthralling, end to end encounters. The tackles are clattering; the passing slick, skill is in abundance and diving is only done over the other team’s try line.
Hands are shaken after games; grievances left on the green and brown battlefield.
The post match interviews demonstrate just how much funnier and erudite the rugby lads are – just look at how the upbeat banter of Red Rose internationals repeatedly overshadow the mumbling, monotone “I just wanna play football shtick” of disgruntled soccer players.
And of course, in rugby there’s actually a chance that one of the Home Nations might win something. 17 games unbeaten for England contrasts rather favourably with the Three Lions’ record of successive defeats in extra time to the Germans on penalties (or worse, 2-1 to Iceland after an hour and a half).
Even Wales (!) stands a chance of winning something in rugby, reaching the knock out stages at successive World Cups – a feat which their footballing equivalents haven’t threatened to do since 1958.
So if, like me, you’re tired of repeated let downs by the prima donna practitioners of the so-called ‘beautiful game’, do yourself a favour and switch over to the free scoring gladitorial contests that are international rugby matches.