Some of you may have noticed there’s been a lot more rugby around of late while those more passionate have spent the last four years etching the 18th September 2015 into that sporting area of your brains with such anticipation and yearning to nearly rob them of the belief that the day will ever come.
It is of course the Rugby World Cup, the quadrennial international tournament bringing together the world’s top international teams to battle it out over six weeks resulting in Australia and New Zealand facing each other in the final this Saturday.
Formed in 1987, it came into being to create a truly global competition for the game which had relied previously on The Six Nations (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales) and the odd sporadic match between, say, England and Australia. It was a relief then, for rugby fans, when in 1985 the International Rugby Football Board, after much discussion and debate, announced it would go ahead with a world cup which took place across Australia and New Zealand two years later.
Rugby World Cup qualifier: Uruguay vs Russia. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Twenty-eight years on it has exponentially grown in popularity with wins twice each going to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and England the once.
With the final approaching this weekend and opportunity for either Australia and New Zealand to take an overall World Cup lead, we thought we would get Speakers Cornerites views on the competition and their view on the sport. Who’s wildly passionate; who likes a bit of international sporting competition; who approaches the World Cup the way one approaches an aunt’s birthday and who is ambivalent to the point of ignorant bliss?
First of all, we approached the account management team as they sit behind marketing and involved a 180 office chair spin to ask Deb her thoughts to which she immediately replied “Love it!”. Deb has Welsh blood running through her veins, which by some mysterious and otherworldly right, connects her to the game in ways not seen in other cultures. Living out west near Twickenham she’s hosted parents on the way to and back from the Welsh games while watching them herself at home or in local pubs with her significant other.
Next on my travels around Speakers Corner Towers was Sophie who falls into the international sporting interest category in that she watched the England games and the subsequent England-absent weekend matches but her interest doesn't, she admits, extend to club level rugby. Sophie was however in Wales at the time England lost against them and found the night out that night somewhat challenging on the mirth and misery front and disparity between them.
A scrum between Samoa (in blue) and Wales (in red) during the 2011 World Cup
Sitting next to Sophie is all round sports fan Adam. He can be often heard discussing the cricket, golf, rugby and football with Aston Villa being the main source of discussion in this area. Adam turned 30 recently and celebrated at north west London drinking establishment, The Chilled Eskimo, where he watched the England and Wales game with the previously mentioned Deb who, we're told, managed to drown out Adam’s collected friends on the cheering front. Although he says he was ‘too pretty’ to play rugby growing up, concentrating on football instead, watching the sport had been integral with family members being involved in the game and friends from Ireland and Scotland ensuring any Six or Home Nation match was filled with “banter, beer and happy days”.
Over to the Logistics team who are always furiously booking speakers flights, sending on their PowerPoint slides or drilling down on detail to an atomic level. Helena is someone who falls into the ambivalent category despite having a Welsh husband which by association actually moves her up a level by being exposed to matches and wild shouting in the home environment.
Over to Rebecca, who avoids watching rugby by going on hen nights which begs the question how many hen nights she has been on over the last 6 weeks.
Relative newbie Maddy’s response to my now repeated question was “Bloody love it” which to the more astute of you will put her above Deb purely on her use of profanity to illustrate her passion for the sport. This along with rugby mad parents hailing from England and New Zealand, being taken to Saints (Northamptonshire) games while growing up and having a Welsh rugby playing boyfriend very much elevates her as Speakers Corner most passionate rugby fan!
Rugby World Cup winning head coach and corporate speaker Clive Woodward
So that leaves us Nick and Tim Gold with the former jokingly saying his interests and passions turned to The Great British Bakeoff as England’s dream faded. Tim, on the other hand, has been more active than most and has actually gone to see a real live Rugby World Cup matche: Wales vs Argentina. His next will be the thrilling bronze final match between South Africa and Argentina this Friday at Olympic Park.
As for my views, my sporting interest starts and finishes with snooker. I absolutely love it and can be found each year up at Ally Pally and have been to finals at Wembley and matches up at the theatre of dreams, The Crucible, in Sheffield. Rugby by comparison I find confusing (which says a lot for a snooker fan I know). How a game can be won, between two giant H’s, by teams going forward when the ball is not is - to me - very bizarre. However, each to their own and respect for all!
The above illustrates a diverse level of interest in the game with nearly all, myself included, tuning in this Saturday to see how Australia and New Zealand get on given the level of competition that exists between the two counties. It just leaves us to wish them the best of luck and hope it's a fitting final for what has been an exciting few weeks (for most).
Image 1 courtesy of Rugby Store