OK, those words may fill you with excitement. Or they may fill you with trepidation and/or dread.
Never fear, Toria is here with a few words of advice. After all, I’ve embarrassed myself all over Britain. (Fortunately, this was mostly in the days before social media, so photographic evidence is thankfully rare.)
WHAT IS RUGBY?
There’s only so much someone new to rugby can blag. And you will be found out and look like a complete idiot in front of your friends.
If your fellow match-watchers have more than a basic knowledge, following the tips here in a slightly condescending article in the Grauniad will only serve to make you look even more stupid.
If you really want to start learning about the game, here are the basics:
Rugby for beginners: a guide to the rules of rugby union (video by RFU – a bit England-focussed, but has some useful stuff.)
Or an even shorter version from the Telegraph here.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to do a Jack Whitehall and have a go at playing rugby yourself, especially after a few pints. You’ll find any silky skills from school days are strangely absent.
Here are my tips for watching a game:
NEVER BOO. Don’t slow-clap either. It’s not a fucking pantomime.
DO NOT EVER PRETEND YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SCRUMMAGING unless you are a twenty-year veteran prop, and even then you’re probably not au fait with the current laws and how they are applied haphazardly even at international level. You simply cannot blag scrum knowledge. Boring, binding, bending and collapsing – it’s a real minefield. Appreciate a well-set scrum where the front rows don’t pop up or collapse – they are true battles of wit and strength.
IF you are feeling brave: you can comment once or twice only about how crooked the feed is (when the scrum half – number 9, usually the littlest guy on the pitch – puts the ball in). No more than that. It’s never straight. And the referees seldom blow for it. (Let’s face it, modern-day hookers are rarely able to lift their leg high enough to strike either – if the ball went in straight, it would just sit there until one pack pushed the other far enough to reach it. Utter farce.)
BREAKDOWN – If this is successively a mess, a pile of bodies, and the scrum half (little guy 9 – remember?) is having difficulty pulling the ball out, you can make a comment about how ‘he’s not keen on reffing the breakdown, is he?’ Recognising not rolling away, or not releasing, or being self-supporting when competing for the ball isn’t something even international referees consistently get right. They often ignore the minor transgressions to focus on their own pet offence. An intelligent team should be able to play the individual referee – as the All Blacks do – rather than be constantly pulled up.
ROLLING MAULS – Feel free to query out loud if there’s an obstruction or ‘truck and trailer’. No one will agree with anyone else. They’re worth cheering on though, with a deep yell of ‘heeeeeaaaaaavvvvveeee!’ Like a well-set scrum, a well-constructed rolling maul is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
TRIES – Check for the ref’s arm before you over-celebrate, there’s a good chance he’ll have to check with the TMO (Television Match Official – a bloke who’s supposed to spot dirty or illegal play that the ref has missed), and the try may still be disallowed.
PENALTIES/CONVERSIONS – Again, please don’t boo. The English/Irish thing is to hush. While I’m not a fan of silence, it may not a good idea to piss everyone else off around you.
CLAP GOOD PLAY – by either side. Yes, it may stick in the craw to do so, but this is a major part of being a rugby supporter.
POW! Yeah, massive hits are great to see. Well, FAIR and SAFE massive hits are. However, if it’s a Lawes-like late tackle on a defenceless, smaller player, that’s nothing to be admired. Similarly, tip or tackles or shoulder barges. Remember, that player should be able to get up afterwards, not be carted off on a stretcher.
INJURIES – If a player is injured, be patient. Unlike in football, if a rugby player stays down, it usually means it’s not good news. No player would voluntarily be stretchered off, and if they limp or are carried off, a sympathetic clap is the norm.
DO NOT SING OR DANCE TO THE SHIT MUSIC CLIPS PLAYED AT BREAKS IN PLAY. Every proper fan hates it. If you want to hear a five-second clip of badly piped music, go to a bloody pop concert, not a rugby match.
ABOVE ALL, NO FUCKING MEXICAN WAVES. Nothing could be more disrespectful to the players near-killing themselves on the pitch than that shit.
D’YA HEAR ME? NO FUCKING MEXICAN SODDING WAVES!
Wear the colour of the team you’re supporting. Not the opposition. Not many colours are truly neutral. (And yes, I’ve turned up more than one match having made this vital error – it’s easier than you think.)
However, don’t go OTT. If you’re not comfortable in a rugby jersey (and they can be rather warm), don’t wear one. Don’t be a Full Kit Wanker either. Please. Smart-casual is fine, and will get you into most bars and clubs afterwards.
If you’re a neutral supporter, don’t worry what you wear. It’s actually much easier to watch and enjoy a game as a neutral.
NOVELTY WEAR/FANCY DRESS has its place (usually at Sevens tournaments), but remember that you probably won’t be wearing that daff head all day. Or Morph suit. Or onesie. Unless you’re on a stag do. In which case, none of the above applies. Except the sodding Mexican Wave. Just. Fucking. Don’t.
In any event, it’s worth having a fall-back outfit stashed somewhere, just in case. (I remember turning up at the local rugby club to find a stag do there in bear onesies. One chap had managed to rip a massive hole in the rear of his, displaying his worldly goods to the…ummm, world. Being on my bike with a well-stocked saddle bag, I managed to stitch the massive gash up with judicious use of a few cable ties. However, you can’t usually rely on an ex-Girl Guide turning up at the right time.)
If you’re not sure what to take to a game, this may be a useful guide.
You’re going to be drinking for most of the day, so the most important step to not embarrassing yourself is to eat, and that starts with having a decent brunch. Something to absorb the alcohol is essential.
Even if a formal pre-match meal is planned, you’d be surprised how much drink floats around before then. (Several times, I’ve been the best part of bladdered prior to the starters arriving.)
Remember to eat during the day too. Post-match, find some grub. A pastie, a pie, whatever. Even a snack before you wobble off to bed can help alleviate the crushing hangover.
No one will want to buy you a half. Don’t even ask for one, that’s just embarrassing. Instead, either refuse a top-up (avoid double-parking) or when it’s your round, get yourself a pint of water or a glass of lemonade. Your choice to not drink or to pace yourself should be respected. Plus, nobody wants to cart a legless friend home.
While I’m on the subject: get your rounds in. No one like a freeloader. However, treating friends who are genuinely short of funds is acceptable, and honourable. In my experience, good deeds are reciprocated.
LOO BREAKS – If you need to go to the loo during a match, wait until a break in play before you force people to get out of your way. If you know your bladder is weak, stick to shorts until after the rugby finishes. Or, chew gum instead of drinking.
REFILLS – If you run out of drink during a match, wait until a break in play. Or just fucking deal with having nothing to drink. Don’t ruin someone else’s experience just because you’re prioritising alcohol over watching rugby. That’s just fucking selfish.
YOU WILL DRINK MORE WHEN YOU’RE NERVOUS. So many tense matches, I’ve been paralytic before the final whistle. Once I recognised my habit of raising glass to mouth when stressed, I tried food instead. Two four-finger KitKats in five minutes later, I was even more jittery with an additional, massive sugar rush. I haven’t found a solution to this yet, as in these circumstances I also pulverise nails and chew gum like a demented masticating cow. Gah.
DO NOT INVOLVE YOURSELF IN DRINKING GAMES IF YOU’RE ALREADY HALF-CUT. It’ll only end in tears. Well, that’s wrong – it’ll end up with you puking your guts up. Or totally embarrassing yourself during Fuzzy Duck. Or passing out. Finding other people to talk with or a well-timed disappearance may be your best option to retain whatever’s left of your dignity.
Enjoy yourself, even if the result doesn’t go your way.
AVOID BEING A POOR WINNER OR A SORE LOSER. Remember, if your team wins, try not to rub it in the face of any mates supporting the opposition. Be dignified – what goes around, eventually comes around.
There’s being a rugby supporter during the Rugby World Cup, and there’s being an utter cockwomble. If you want to piss your partner off so they’ll never speak to you again, follow this advice. And don’t expect any fun in the sack any time soon.
(Important tip: if you want beer in the fridge, buy it and put it in there yourself. If there’s no room in the fridge, buy ice or stash your beer outside/in an ice bucket/in another fridge. It’s not rocket science, is it?)
DO NOT behave like this if you’re not a bona fide rugby supporter with understanding people around you – you’ll be single/friendless before you know it.
Aww, fuck it – go out and enjoy yourselves. Just don’t be a total twunt. Please.
Toria Lyons writes rugby-themed naughty fiction and would absolutely love it if you bought her fabulous novels and helped support her rugby habit. Tweet her @Toria_Lyons