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Rugby v Football. Which is best?

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John Beattie | 10:04 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

What's better, rugby or football? What do you think?

Our daughter, Jennifer, plays for Arsenal Ladies and I see her games when she is in her Scotland strip and I am growing to love football. Our son, Johnnie, plays rugby, as did I.

Football first. I like the fact that football lasts longer so games open up more. I wish rugby had an extra 10 minutes too. If rugby lasted longer, the game would be more aerobic and players would be lighter.

But football's main advantage is that the game doesn't stop. When I watch Jenny, she is constantly running and the ball can go from end to end with pauses happening only when the ball goes out of play.


Every top-class footballer can dance on a sixpence and, when we went down with Jenny to see round Arsenal's training facility at Borehamwood, I was staggered at how small, skinny and incredibly fast the male players were.

Football's easier to play for fun too. Four of us could get a ball, throw down some jerseys for posts and have a kick about. And it's simpler.

But is simplicity an advantage? One of rugby's attributes is its complexity.

Lineouts are difficult. Letter beginning with "P" for the front, "S" for the middle and the hooker shouts out "psychology", whereupon everyone is confused and a strange choreographed procedure starts. Mauling is difficult, the offside line is hard to police, rucks are impossible, and I love it, I love it.

Up until "Bloodgate" happened, I'd have said that rugby players do not feign injuries. Football players, on the other hand, do it all the time and, if I had to watch one more Bulgarian women's player appear to die while playing against Scotland the other night, I'd have gone bonkers.

I was alone in trying to start a slow hand clap while Bulgarians dived to the ground and it was me shouting: "She's faking ref!" All the football fans around me accepted it. A mystery.

In terms of health, you are probably healthier playing football as rugby's spinal injuries are a real concern and it is probably a hundred times more physical than football.

But sport isn't really about high-level competition is it? It's not really even about competition, despite the fact that we keep score.

Sport provides chances for us to learn about life and to meet friends.

Take football and rugby together. A young man or woman playing either game gets a new crowd of friends and has to learn rules to play by. I like that.

Rugby is more dangerous, more physical, more complicated and it's the game I grew up with. Football is faster, more open, and simpler.

But here, to me, is the big difference. Sport is a microcosm of life. And in every sport, there is a figure of authority, in ours it's the referee. And I think footballers show little respect for the referee.

You might think I am going to say that rugby treats its referees wonderfully? Well, no. I think rugby is getting ever closer to football in terms of how we treat referees and that is worrying.

Anyway, which is better? Rugby, just.


  • Comment number 1.

    John - I think that it was everyone's favourite outdoors brick latrine Jim Telfer who said that the quality of the fans in rugby directly reflect the quality of the game and its players.
    Having sat alongside Glasgow's finest pock-marked, raddled, baying mentalists at Ibrox and also with a mix of fans from all over the world at Murrayfield, I have to say that without exception, I enjoy the company of the rugby fans more.
    And your boy is doing well at present.
    I assume that you sit in the stands, turn to the punter next to you and often mutter "I taught him everything he knows"...

  • Comment number 2.

    I think there is a bigger difference between playing football and football as spectacle than there is with rugby as a game and a spectacle. This is probably just down to the staggering amounts of cash and financial interests in football. Either way the commercial aspects of football have somewhat overrun the game and I find it a real turn off. Rugby hasn't gone that far yet - only because the money washing around isn't as great.

  • Comment number 3.

    A good article John, although I disagree with your point that "the game doesn't stop" and "players are constantly running. Having played and watched both sports, in Football I always felt that alot of time was spent just wandering/lightly jogging up and down the pitch waiting for the ball to come in your direction.
    In Rugby however, forwards are constantly on the move, no sooner has the ball moved on from one ruck, there is another one to hit.

  • Comment number 4.

    A big problem for rugby is that it's not a very accessible sport in some parts of the country. Growing up in north(ish) east Scotland I've never played a game of rugby in my life. Football clubs were everywhere and as such, there was no choice for me and I still love playing 20 - 25 years on.

    I have however watched hundreds of games of football and with exception of a few sections of a few grounds am generally put off by my fellow 'supporters'...

    I love watching live rugby union. The respect for the ref, game and fellow fans all add to the spectacle. Hopefully the professional era won't destroy this.

    In short, play football, watch rugby...

  • Comment number 5.

    Me and my friends managed to convert a french exchange student from football to rugby a few years back, mainly through some very exciting matches between Cardiff & Bath (Heineken Cup) and the festival atmosphere at 6 nations matches. She said that the action seemed more manufactured in football, whereas the pressure grew more in rugby.

    Your remarks about the difference in fans between rugby & football reminded me of my college days when a bunch of us hired a minibus to watch leicester v Bath at Welford Road. Before the match we had a few drinks in a bar with fans of both teams who swapped good-natured banter about who was going to win. After the match about fifty teenage football fans armed with knives streaming out of Filbert Street chased us through the streets of Leicester. A great introduction to the phenomenon of football violence for the sole american but a real test of hamstrings for the rest of us!

    I know which side I favour and as much as I watch the odd game of round ball, there is one place I'd always choose.

  • Comment number 6.

    I enjoy watching most sports played at the highest level, which often excludes the women's version. I did try watching women's football and rugby and the quality on display was so poor, neither stayed long on my screen. If I want to watch the highest quality football, then Arsenal or Barcelona are a good choice, but the All Blacks show rugby can be a thing of beauty too:-

    I don't think it necessary to compare and contrast sports, as they do have a different appeal, not least to those who have played whatever game they're watching. Football is more accessible to players than rugby, as, for example, playing rugby on the tarmac and gravel of my school playground would have kept the local hospital busy. Football just broke a few windows.

    I wouldn't dream of going to watch a football match, having lived close to Hampden for 10 years and heard from a few football fans why they won't be returning. I don't begrudge whatever enjoyment those who do go to football get, but it's just not for me. As was pointed out earlier, rugby fans behave differently and that suits me just fine.

  • Comment number 7.

    I love watching rugby, but like many just cannot understand how the game can be expected to flow with so many potential infringements. The scrums are a nightmare to referee and so dull to watch nowadays. It seems that most scrums fail to set properly, so a free kick or penalty is awarded to get the game going again! The scrum halves NEVER put the ball in straight, and the binding is a joke. The scrums take so long to complete that I would like the clock to be stopped for their duration, then perhaps the players would stop using time up.
    On the subject of time, can we push for an end to wasting it at rucks by ignoring the ball as it lies there at the base? A 5 second limit should be imposed.
    I also object to the number of substitutions that are sanctioned in the modern game. Injury substitutes only, with perhaps 3 tactical should be allowed. If nothing else, this would help teams with smaller squads to compete. Don't tell me rugby is a hard, physical game when most players only play for 60 minutes!
    As for excitement, football and rugby are different beasts, but both can be great to watch, dull as ditchwater or somewhere in between. This year's Six Nations was one of the poorest I have watched. The last match between England and France typified the modern approach to rugby-losing is not an option.
    Given a choice to watch rugby or soccer and I would just be in favour of the oval ball, but unless the ball handling and try-scoring standard of the Scottish rugby side improves, I could just change that!

  • Comment number 8.

    Good article with key point being made on ensuring Rugby doesnt decline like Football on the referee respect. (You might also want to pass this warning onto Brian Moore when hes commenting on matches... as referee respect should be at all levels)
    However I disagree that rugby is less easier to play. The same as your footy example, with a min of 5 a side, you can throw down some jumpers as line markers and play touch rugby in the park.

  • Comment number 9.

    I grew up playing and watching football, then at the age of 15 started to play rugby. I never looked back; my love for the game of rugby grew and grew, while my pre-teen and early-teen love of football began to dissipate until it disappeared altogether. Now I look at the game of football with disdain and the players as a bunch of women. Actually, it's a bit of an insult to call them women as many women I know would never fall to the ground and writhe around in supposed pain waiting for the ref to blow the whistle.

    Rugby players by design can play with and live with a great deal of pain while our football counterparts have problems with a hang nail. I know that's a tough criticism for me to make, but it's how I feel about football.

    As far as extending a rugby game by another 10 minutes; well…it depends if we’re winning or losing.

  • Comment number 10.

    I used to watch football, into my early 20's. Watched rugby too, but only internationals. I gradully drifted away from football, put off by the play acting and the dubious officiating as much as the fans.

    I'm now firmly a rugby fan and only occasionaly watch football. This coming world cup for instance I'm hoping to be holidaying somewhere either without a TV reception or the U.S.

    Talking of the U.S. I really don't get how the "constant flow of football" makes it easier to watch. I much prefer the breakdown and phases of rugby to footballers punting the ball about the park. That very same constant motion causes most Americans I know to switch off football in disgust that nothing is happening. Stop/Start doesn't seem to harm American Football, in fact that game has been tailored over the years specifically for TV. I'm not saying that Rugby should follow the same route but rather than bemoning the breakdown it should be used to make the game more attractive to watch on TV.

  • Comment number 11.

    My balls are in both courts, avid Villa fan and Walsall Rugby club
    But I like to explain it this was:
    Wife understands football, but i never like taking her.
    Wife doesn't understand Rugby loves going to murrayfield.

  • Comment number 12.

    For me it has to be the round ball. And I like football in general (both to play and watch) more than Rugby. I think Rugby's main problem is the lack of people willing to play it. Scotland only has two professional Rugby teams, and neither seems to atract over 3,000 fans for their home games.

    yet 67,000 people turn up for Scotland games at Murryfield, even discounting the 10,000-15,000 away fans for Rugby Internationals, these are astonishing attendances. Apparantly 27,000 people in Scotland play Cricket, but only 9,000 people play Rugby - I do not know if this is correct, but I found it astonishing when I first saw it.

    Once a friend of mine (big Rugby fan) asked me why I prefered football to Rugby. I came up with the following reasons:

    1. There are less players on the pitch in football, and there is more space.

    2. Football is a much faster game than Rugby.

    3. There is a lot more skill in Football than in Rugby.

    4. The crowd is much more passionate at Football games, and the games mean more.

    5. Home and away fans are segrigated. I think this actually makes for better banter and atmosphere.

    6. Because more countries play football, we have two tournaments and as a result have a competition ever two years.

    However, I do feel that Rugby has some advantages to football:

    1. Video replays.

    2. Beer being allowed at the stadium.

    3. A "Home Internationals" competition is still in place with the Six Nations.

    4. Play is not stopped when the Physio has to come on.

    Rugby is slowly growing in Scotland. This is I think due to the fact that the football team has failed to quilify for a major tournament in the last 12 years, yet there is no qualifying for the Rugby World Cup. If Scotland were to qualify for Euro 2012, the Scottish nation would become football daft again.

  • Comment number 13.

    I was just thinking out loud with this piece watching both games now as we do as a family. I really would like rugby to last longer.

    Watching Jenny play for Arsenal ladies and her country I don't see the mad football fans, and last time I was taken to a football game (a doctor friend took me to Rangers) I thought everyone was well behaved, even the St Mirren fans who were in one corner of the ground.

    It does get to me that referees are being hounded in rugby now though.

    Saltire blue - you are right, rugby players live with pain. I suspect lots of football players actually take the field in pain too and play through the barrier, it's just that until bloodgate I'd have said there was more blatant feigning of injuries in football.

    Raining in Glasgow, horrible


  • Comment number 14.

    "Rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen, while football is a gentlemen's game played by hooligans." Can't remember who said it, but they knew their onions!

  • Comment number 15.

    I am in the same camp as down_the_slope where I would prefer to play football (as I have since 4) but now a days I much prefer to watch rugby as I feel it is far more exciting.

    the fans in rugby are far better, no doubts there, but I feel sometimes that it works to Scotland's disadvantage in rugby. I follow the Scotland football team everywhere and all the teams say that when they travel to Hampden they find it intimidating as the fans sing and shout the whole game yet the Tartan Army has an amazing reputation as being friendly. I would like the rugby fans to do the same! I was at the France game at Murrayfield this year and all you could hear was "ALLEZ LE BLEUS!!". I was sitting there thinking that if this was Hampden then the Scots fans would soon drown it out.

    Is this just a footballer's opinion or do you feel that the Scots rugby fans should find a voice at Murrayfield AND still maintain their reputation as respectful fans, like their footballer counterparts?

    ps: first blog so go easy on me haha!

  • Comment number 16.

    NavyBlueArmy, funnily enough I disagree with points 2,3 and 5 entirely. So much so that I'd reverse them and include them in a list of reasons why I prefer rugby to football.

  • Comment number 17.

    Lineout codes - A friend has just emailed me, after reading this blog, that he remembers being in a game where a bloke called Alastair Mcglashan was raging after one lineout when he told his hooker that eunuch begins with an E and not a U....

    Navybluearmy - I am not sure that segregating fans is a good thing. Isn't it a sign of a healthy sport when we can all sit together? And just to go against the grain about beer being allowed. I went to watch Toronto and they sold beer in the stadium and it was a lovely sunny day - but here's the rub, I am not sure that drinking at a sporting event is sensible. I do understand your thoughts about games "meaning more" though.

    Oh, and being an accountant I love stats. Actually there are fewer cricketers than rugby players in Scotland, and there are thirty odd thousand registered rugby players in Scotland.

    Still pouring in Glasgow.


  • Comment number 18.

    John, when I was young and fit I played both rugby and football, sometimes both on the same day. Because I went to a rugby playing school with high expectations of sporting achievement, the rugby was much better organised and played at a higher level than the football I played. Yet nearly everyone in my school rugby team played football outside school.

    I played rugby for 30 years from Irland to New Zealand before injury put a stop to it, but I still love playing football [5's] with the guys from work. After all football really is the beautiful game and played well is a joy to behold.

    For me the bigggest difference between the two is a matter of respect. Rugby supporters tend to have much more respect for opposing players and fans than do the followers of football. I know I could go into a pub anywhere in the world and talk about rugby without fear of violence because I might prefer blue to green or vice versa.

    I once took a footballing friend of mine to a Scotland v Ireland game at Murrayfield and he was amazed at how well the two sets of supporters got on outside and inside the ground, even after copious amounts of alcohol had been consumed. Try that at an Old Firm game!

    Coming from Ulster, I have always been proud of the fact that rugby transcends all religious, class or any other divides in Ireland. Would that football could do the same.

  • Comment number 19. or football?

    Last two football matches I went to included getting pelted by half empty beer cans and half eaten apple cores. Would never happen at a rugby match.

    Having played rugby and football and encouraged my sons to do the same I would rather go and watch a rugby match at any and all levels than a football match. I think it is mainly because rugby, for me, has a positivity about and around it whilst football carries a lot of negativity (fans, diving, fake injuries etc).

    Even is we Scotland, lose a match I still get a buzz when watching.

  • Comment number 20.

    I don't think either code is necessarily 'better'. They both have points to commend them. I must admit though, I do like the more charged atmosphere at football games. It adds a real sense of occasion. I have to agree with the posters above that the atmosphere at Murrayfield can be really quite flat, both at international and at Edinburgh games. On the other hand, there is an excellent atmosphere at Firhill for the Warriors games. Despite the small numbers attending, the Warriors fans seem much more lively than their Edinburgh counterparts. On Sunday, when Warriors played the Dragons, when a line-out was taken in front of the JH Stand the noise was immense. This, despite only 2,600 attending. I'd like to think that the more exuberant, 'gallus' Glasgow attitude could be generally encouraged in Scottish rugby. It definitely adds to the fun and to the occasion of the game and it also helps us move away from the idea of rugby as a sport only for the 'elite'. Watch Super 14 rugby on TV and you'll see and hear the sort of atmosphere I'd like to see here. The Southern Hemisphere supporters are loud, passionate and brash. We Scots need to lose some of our reserve and shout our teams on. I think the players respond to it.

  • Comment number 21.

    John, without wanting to dredge up a previous blog, do you not think that your concern about lack of respect for the ref (I watched Horsham v Folkestone on Saturday and heard one of the players say to the ref 'you must be blind...') is linked to fans' behaviour, and specifically the booing of players? We need a culture of respect to continue to permeate every level of the game if we want to see rugby continue with the values that set it apart. I don't see how you can expect one without the other. The players are just professional fans who get to have a say in the result...

    On the main point of the blog, rugby and football can be both dull and mesmerising, like life itself. Lionel Messi was beautiful to watch tonight in the Barca/Arsenal game. I agree it's a shame that there isn't more room in rugby for the kind of finesse he brings to a match, and your idea of extending the match time is an interesting idea. Is anyone at the IRB actively investigating these kind of ideas?

  • Comment number 22.

    I played rugby at school (the great referee, Alan Welsby, was my gym master) and football in a Sunday league. This was 45 years ago. The rugby we played, the game of the '71 Lions, was tremendous to play and to watch. The pretty much continuous tinkering with the rules since that era have, for me at least, destroyed the game as a spectacle. (Obviously I cannot comment as a player, but I think it is telling that neither players nor referees seem to be comfortable with, or indeed to understand, the current rules.)

    In contrast, football has tinkered little with the rules, but has benefited from evolution in equipment (particularly the ball), and increased levels of fitness and basic skills in the players. Unfortunately, as others have noted, player behaviour has become a major source of disruption in the game. (Fan behaviour is also an issue, but it is by no means a new one - think back 30 or 40 years to the travelling hordes of Manchester United and the animals at Millwall). Despite this, I still think that football is currently the better game to watch, although not a patch on the rugby I grew up with.

    Sorry to play the 'old fart' card, but I really do think that rugby at least was a better game when I was a lad.

  • Comment number 23.

    apeman_villian wrote:
    "My balls are in both courts"
    Ouch! That must hurt...

  • Comment number 24.

    I used to watch a lot of football and I was a mad Arsenal supporter. It was due to a cup final when I was in my teens that I started biting my nails. At that point the players were approachable - I've still got an autograph book with all the players from Arsenal (It was 1980 - I was just a teenager. But you just went up to the players, asked them politely and I never got refused. I think with the money that has gone into football it has put the players and now their wives on pedestals and the play acting has also increased. There has always been problems with football on the terraces and it has improved over the last 10 years but I feel safer at a rugby match.
    Rugby now is where football was 30 years ago. I was lucky enough to go to Scotland vs Ireland match at Murrayfield about 4 years ago. I was in a nightclub in the centre of Edinburgh and a number of the players from both sides walked in. It was fantastic - Donnacha O'Callaghan - what a gent. He spent 30 mins talking to a couple of drunk blokes - Would that happen in football now? We did buy him a couple of beers but he returned the compliment!
    I do worry about rugby - I have found at my own local club that the respect for both the opposition and the referee has diminished and I'm not so sure that people starting to play rugby today will have as many good friends from other clubs as I do today.
    Rugby is more complicated and I don't think the rule-makers have necessarily done anybody any favours with some of the rule tinkering (especially around ruck and maul) but it is still for me the better game.
    By the way our calls are Front Middle Back and we've been using them for 3 years and nobody has cottoned on - Yet!!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Two quick points on this topic:

    1. When I played rugby there were many times when I played through extreme pain just to try and show the opposition I hadn't been hurt or intimidated. Soccer dives, trips and fake injuries are pathetic (although they do have high comedy credit in an extremely pro-RU household).

    2. I detest beer being sold at rugby matches because watching the game is constantly interupted by people going off to buy beer or returning from buying it, or going off to get rid of it. This year at the 6N I was drenched by beer from an Italian fan "sitting" next to me who got so drunk he couldn't even hold a pint at the end of the match. It was a delight to be at Croke Park (for a number of reasons) but the main one was you weren't allowed to take beer to your seat meaning that you got 2 halves of interupted and very good rugby. If the stadia need to sell beer to create income then why not follow the Croke Park example. Oh, and I am not tee-total and felt dreadful in Dublin the day after the last Scotland match!!

  • Comment number 26.

    Growing up in South Africa & New Zealand, it is inevitable that I am little biased towards rugby, although I do enjoy watching a bit of football on TV. However what really does it for me is the atmosphere and the difference in tone surrounding the respective codes. Football so often has an ugly edge to it, fans being segregated, coins being thrown,a massive security presence, not to mention the unsavoury stuff outside the stadiums.

    I worked as a part-time steward for 3 years in the late 90's in NZ, at provincial games, Super 12 and test matches. Mixed crowds of up to 35,000, tremendous atmosphere and plenty of passion. The worst day I remember there were 6 ejections and one arrest. Usually the biggest problem to deal with was cold feet at night games. Of course the crowds were a lot less polite than they are in the UK and there was plenty of ribbing for the officials, but it was generally good humoured and sometimes very funny.

    And I can say much the same for rugby crowds in the UK, although politely clapping the opposition when they score does seem a bit much.

    But I was never assaulted by a sports fan until one evening on Princes St in Edinburgh when a Hearts fan, after a loss in the local derby, took a shot at me for no apparent reason, other than perhaps because we were on the same footpath. Happily I saw him coming and remembered what I learnt playing rugby. How to take a tackle.

  • Comment number 27.

    Brilliant article! For fans, rugby all the way. Football fans are too territorial over their team and in many instances aggresively so whereas rugby fans, its for the love of the game first, and their team second, football its the other way round, their team first then the football.

    For the game itself i'd again go with rugby, the respect for the officials still stands out for me and i'd love to see this kind of respect in football, secondly the respect for players too. In rugby on the pitch your mortal enemies, but as soon as the final whistle blows your happy to give your opposition a hug, football isnt like that. I play both at comparable levels, and quite often the opposition footballers whether theyve won or lost hold grudges for what has gone on during the game. In rugby you dont really get that. Secondly in rugby there is always somthing happening but with football its pass pass pass wait for the ball pass pass pass, there isnt pressure or intensity until you get in teh oppositions penalty box, in rugby, its always there. Thats just me though and i do love both games, but rugby for playability and enjoyment is leagues ahead to me. The simplicity of footy though is a huge advantage over rugby (which no doubt adds to its popularity in the long run)

    I strongly disagree with your desire to extend rugby, i once played 3 football matches back to back and yes i came off exhausted but the fact was i was able to play for 3 matches. In rugby even though its only 80minutes and i still sprint and tackle to the last second, there have been a few occasions this season (and every season) when that whistle goes and your body begins to shut down and your so physically exhausted you take a lie down because you so far past exhausted, aerobically rugby is demanding (for us back row players anyway, having to be every where all the time) but the physicallity of rugby puts additional demands on you and drains you in other ways too that football doesnt. As a rugby fan, sure itd be great to see another 10 minutes, as a player though i wouldnt look forward to any such change. I wonder, have you passed this suggestion to your son and what were his comments? he looked barely able to stand after quite a few of his phenomenal (as an england fan i loathe to admit it, Scotlands back row is in a class of its own though right now)performances during this 6 nations, whilst adrenalin would undoubtably carry him through another 10 minutes, as would it all of us, im still sure that he was silently glad when the 80 ticked by and the ref blew! (apart from wales, in that game we would have all given our left arm for another 10 minutes!)

    In summary for spectatorship and excitement and fun - rugby
    For pure love of your team - Football
    For pure love of the sport - Rugby
    For playing - Rugby
    For popularity and simplicity - Football

    For an extra 10 minutes in rugby, JB, you should know better than to suggest such a thing! Insane!!

  • Comment number 28.

    I have always been interested in one thing, JG spoke about wanting to put the quickest rugby players on the planet in a race over 60 metres (in his Q&A section), id like to see something similar, the quickest rugby players vs the quickest football players. Youd expect football players to be better but would they, remember the furthest they tend to have to sprint in any one game would only be 30-40 metres (barely half the length of the football pitch) whereas rugger players have to be able to comfortably do 100 metres if neccessary, as well as having the explosive power to be able to break the odd tackle. the demands are completely different for both sports.

    in a one off race a footballer would be expected to win over 100 metres (but could he acutally do it?) but could he repeatedly do it in say 6/7 consecutive sprints over that distance?


  • Comment number 29.

    Excellent blog John, and all credit to both your offspring for their achievements - must make you very proud.

    This is like comparing apples and pears isn't it? Both games have merits and demerits. I think there are a lot fewer differences at lower levels of the game for each. I find it very hard to watch top level football, because all the playacting, diving and ref abuse infuriates me, even though I love the speed and some of the skills on display.

    And I'd say that a goalkeeper is as brave as any rugby player to leap around like they do. (Anyone ever noticed how keepers rarely stay down yet strikers can't stay on their feet? Funny that...)

    But I do watch lower and non-league football, and it's much a more enjoyable game at that level. Players generally just get on with it even if the ref is having a bad day, and there's usually more good natured banter in the crowd too. More like rugby in fact.

    However, I wouldn't even think about refereeing football, even though I do so in rugby. Not because of the players, but because of the crowd. It's the one thing that spoils watching football for me. As a ref in rugby, yes there's an increase in what's called "abuse" - but I've never really found it "abusive" - more banter than anything. But the yelled obscenities I hear at football matches are something else entirely.

  • Comment number 30.

    In the 70's I can well remember even Mick Channon (he wasn't the quickest or fittest footballer around at the time) beating the likes of Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies over the 100 yards in the Superstars competition.
    However, with the increased levels of fitness, rugby players may now have the edge.
    What do you think of this?
    Even though Dwight Yorke was coming to the end of his career, so was Healey.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi - been working hard all day then took the bike for a spin in the hills

    Iknowsitnow - I remember Mick Channon winning that sprint!

    OccitaniaLev - glad it's just banter. I see referees pressurised from the touchline in our club game here (I probably do it myself as a coach) and I hear players arguing with referees on talkback when I am on air.

    Rickydoncaster - Who is the fastest rugby player around? There's a question. Probably some of the sevens fliers for Fiji or New Zealand is my guess. And excellent previous post - you are right, I guess it's the game you grow up with is the one you love.

    The smallerhalf - football can't be blamed for its relationship with rowdy fans, drinking culture and violence as they pervade society. But, yes there is more nonsense from football fans than rugby fans. I do think the central issue as to whether or not you show the authority figure in your sport some respect does have an influence.

    Daluaine - I'm with you. The politically correct thing is to argue for drink to be allowed to be sold, and it does help a governing body make some money, but I like a sober crowd. Plus, smashed people forget the game...

    LittleRew - ah, front middle and back, cows drink tea, club names, number systems where you subtract or add, the beauty of lineout calls. The most difficult ones I remember were when Ian "mighty mouse" mclauchlan, pound for pound as good a player as you could get, had us calling codes which varied depending on which side of the pitch you were. He was captain of glasgow and I was a young lad. I just jumped up in every lineout....

    revelston - rugby was a different game, I am asked a lot as to whether it is "better" now and I am not sure but I am sure the kids of today will look back on today's games as the golden era.

    Yes, it's the beauty of fans mixing with each other...


  • Comment number 32.

    I find it interesting that you've written an article on this. I've played rugby for 5 years, and I have to say its more fun to play than to watch, although if you play it it makes it better to watch, a kind of symbiotic relationship I guess you could say. The thing with football is that its so much more accessible to the masses, there's only the one offside rule, and tackles always have to be clean. The problem with rugby now is that they keep piling the rules on. I do prefer watching rugby, I do prefer playing it, although I must profess playing football is more fun if you get a bunch of good mates (luckily my mates are as bad as I am!) but that said I watched an absolute corker of a game in the football last week (Arsenal v Barcelona) and for the first time watched a whole game of through and genuinely enjoyed it!! However, club rugby will always be the best thing to watch in my eyes, international rugby can be a bit monotonous, unless Fiji are playing of course! :-)

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi John, just wondering if i could get yours and neil's views on the Edinburgh vs Connacht game? :P

  • Comment number 34.

    Iknowsitnow - brilliant link through, very interesting thanks! :-)

    I wonder who would win out of those currently considered in their prime. if you were to choose 5 footballers and 5 rugby players who would they be?

    Aaron Lennon
    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Arjen Robben
    Theo Walcott/Karim Benzema


  • Comment number 35.

    Tom Quin - I didn't see the game, but Connacht are beating enough teams to make most people think they are getting better.

    Let me chew over best five players

  • Comment number 36.

    I was going to say that football has been ruined by diving, feigning injury, players advocating for cards for other players by waving imaginary cards, pressure on referees by encirclement on the pitch, falling down under the slightest touch, disgraceful fan behaviour.....etc

    however, unfortunately we are see more and more of the "footballisation" of rugby....with all the above now slowly creeping into the game.

  • Comment number 37.

    Rugby is my preferred sport but I do play 5 / 7 a side football on a regular basis too.

    Up in Aberdeen football is by far the dominant sport (not really reflected by our truly awful professional team) with many thousands of players playing on a regular basis whether it be for a team or just a 5 a side kick about with friends / colleagues.

    I didn't start playing rugby until my 20's and like any sport my appreciation for the skills on show went up considerably after playing the game. For me rugby is the better game to watch as well, the only area that needs to be addressed is the scrum. Sort out the engagement and we'll stop having to reset it!

    Just a quick question off topic, but can you explain to me how an uncontested scrum never has to be reset!? You're not allowed to push until the balls been fed in, so in my understanding up to that point the uncontested scrum and the contested scrum should in theory be identical. Why the need for the big hit? Every single uncontested scrum is square and steady as the scrum half feeds it, simply employ the same soft "hit" and there will be far less time wasted waiting for the scrum half to feed his second row, sorry hooker! Turned into Brian Moore for a bit there!!

    On the subject of lineout codes I think everyone has a tale of spelling causing problems, mine personally actually involved the word "John". First 3 letters of "Mary / Loves / John" signified front, middle or back - simple you'd think?! We'd just changed the calls on the brink of kick off so nobody knew our hooker spelled "John" as "Jon". Cue "November ball", everyone looks at each other as the ball flies over our heads

  • Comment number 38.

    Hey abzrugby,

    Reason an uncontested scrum is never reset is because its just a lean, the players dont compete so the team that puts the ball in gets the ball. Beacuse there is no push, the scrum does not tend to collapse. So no need to reset the scrum.

    On the Football v Rugby front, I have always loved rugby played all through school nothing beats it, just the adrenaline rush from it, I never really got that rush from football. My cousins are big footy players and we always have this arguement but to be fair both sports have their good and bad points just personal preference really. John, I do like the concept of the game lasting longer, because in close matches it would really draw out the cleary better team due to fitness and the ability to keep on pushing for 90 mins.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks for the comment Joshua.

    The point I was trying to make was really about engagement at scrum time, there's no reason why there needs to be a big hit, it's just pointless and risking injuries.

    You're simply not allowed to push before the ball is fed, all the "hit" does is mask teams cheating by pushing as soon as the scrummage engages. If the teams were to bind together in the same fashion as they currently do for an uncontested scrummage then you wouldnt need to balance the huge forces they exert for no reason

  • Comment number 40.

    Regarding the scrum, this is a very interesting topic to discuss. Whilst under the older rules scrummages tended to be more stable, and collapse less, because of the bigger 'hit' on the engagement (you didnt have to be within touching distance) when they did go down there was an increased chance of a severe injury. This eventually brought about the changes with regards to being within touching distance (thereby reducing the force of the hit upon engagement and hopefully reducing the risk of severe injury) this brought about the problem of synchronisity though, because you were closer if a team 'engaged' slightly before another team, again this brought about problems with regard to stability of the scrum, so to try and synchronise the engagement the 'pause' was introduced, so teams going for an early engagement would be penalised. A lot of problems with this though is the difference in referees with many employing a different interpretation of the length of the pause. with some it's 'crouch, touch, pause engage' with others its crouch touch, ..pause ........engage' . because of the lack of uniformity of the call many front rows are left to anticipate the 'engage' to try and gauge an advantage, this inevitable leads to numerous penalties and or delays.

    The other massive problem, which causes a lot of problems with the scrums is quite obviously the binding, many referees either dont pay much attention to this, despite its importance on keeping the scrum stable, and/or dont seem to understand how it can stabilise/destabilise the scrum. Quite often we see binding on the arm going unpunished, and one prop dropping another due to extra leverage gained through an incorrect bind, but the referee giving the penalty against the prop who has just been dropped for not taking the pressure and not against the offending prop who illegally gains an advantage for not binding correctly. This appears to be at every level of rugby and seems to show a lack of understanding with this crucial area of refereeing.

    The scrum is undoubtably a focal point for every team, scrums can create the platform for the team and is a crucial set piece within the arsenal of any team. What can be done to help protect this and get rid of a lot of the issues surrounding this to help ensure that correct decisions are given.

    Referees across the board at every level undoubtably need training and clarification with regard to the binding, if decisions and offences are repeatedly missed and made wrongly at international level, club level and grassroots level it is clear this is an inherant problem. It costs teams games (possibly England v France?). It isnt the referees fault if they are not given the understanding and training to see these faults. who should make them aware and assess them on this (former front rows? - Brian Moore? lol)
    The binding aside the engagement itself and setting of the scrum is also an issue so how might this be rectified, does the RFU and IRB need to re-assess the whole process of setting the scrum, to ensure safety is still there, but allow more stability, or are simply a few more tweaks needed,and if so what?


  • Comment number 41.

    I will start this with response with a disclaimer, I don't know the correct terms for what I'm about to discuss!!

    In simple terms I think the hit is the problem pure and simple, now in my mind to create a stable platform the opposing forces created by the 2 teams needs to balance out. Now as I already said I don't know the correct terminology so we'll just leave units out of this but I'd imagine if we give the contested and uncontested engagements a figure of 100 and 10 respectively then the force generated with the 100 engagement is going to be more difficult to control than that of the 10, minor movements in the 100 one will be magnified much more than that of the 10 so it's going to lead to more collapses.

    With most scrums collapsing at least once at the moment we can say with the reset time involved each scrummage is taking over a minute to complete.

    My suggestion would be a far softer engagement where the referee is giving a few seconds to inspect the binding of both props, the assistant referee nearest to the other side of the scrummage would come infield to check the bind before the ball is fed, this would take about 5-10 seconds to complete and would greatly reduce the overall number of collapsed scrummages, injuries and general time consumed attempted to restart the game.

    Further to that the feed would have to be straight and we'd actually have more competition at scrum time with a greater emphasis on technique!

    What do you reckon to that idea Ricky??

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi, just back from a great game between Glasgow Hawks and Ayr, Ayr won with a bonus point and deserved it. Scrums were well refereed.

    I do completely agree that a softer engage would result in far fewer collapes


  • Comment number 43.

    I agree the softer engagement 'should' result in fewer collapses, however, to that end, that was why the 'touch' was brought in, to bring the packs closer together and therfore reduce the power of the hit on the engagement. How exactly would that be achieved though, front rows are already very close, once crouched hairs on top of heads are almost touching so you cant really bring them much closer. secondly, very few scrums collapse ont he engagement anyway so im not sure this is the issue, with the correct binding scrums will be kept up, a good 60% of collapsed scrums you see are due to an incorrect bind and i think this is the issue that needs to be addressed first, trying to reduce the engagement hit would take away the spectacle of the scrum and the comptetiveness of it also so im not sure that is the way to go, i like you idea of binding and using the assistance referee also though.

  • Comment number 44.

    Interesting comment Ricky which raises a good question - safety or spectacle? Watching a scrum come together with a huge impact that only leads to players falling over is not very exciting!

    Consider the way each side of the scrum forms, for the 2 opposing packs to become tightly bound together you don't see the second row ramming his shoulder into the prop at 100mph so why should it be any different for the 2 teams to complete the scrum in a safe and sensible way?

    Also Ricky, the competitive element of the scrum is only meant to come into play after the scrum half feeds the ball into it, before that it's just meant to be setting up the scrum. The hit is an ego thing, it serves no purpose whatsoever.

  • Comment number 45.

    I know exactly where you are coming from abz, and i agree with what you say, to an extent, however i personally do like the 'hit' part of the scrum but i do agree that safety should be a priority which is why i want to see the binding done properly, if the binding is done properly then the chances of a scrum collapsing are negligble because the combination of the oppposing forces, the contact and the bind stabilise the scrum and keep it up, if a bind is done incorrectly or not at all, one prop has an advantage over another prop and can cause him to 'drop', which is the dangerous thing. ie if i prop against you and bind on your arm or over your arm with twist i have leverage over you and can effectively force you to the ground making it look like you collapsed the scrum, penalty to me!
    The touch part of the engage was brought in to close the gap between the packs and reduce the 'hit' and thereby increase safety. It has done this but the effectiveness of this change has been nullified by the lack of the attention to the binding, the job has in effect only been half done.

    If you take away the hit and engagement of the scrum you end up with a 'rugby league style' scrum. I dont like that thought, but that is personal opinion and therefore always open to debate! :-)

    Yes i agree the hit is an ego thing, but arent most things in the sport?
    If you had an opportunity to put in a big tackle on your opposite number would you simply scrag him loosely or put in the big tackle? you put in the big hit because it means next time he may be half thinking about you and not the ball or the play and it can give you an edge. It also makes you feel good about the ego thing and can add to your morale during a game which leads to you playing a better game, its a similar context with the hit of the scrum, if you can eek out an egotistical advantage from the hit, it can give you an advantage in the game!

    In all sports we play to win, to beat others, isnt this an ego driven motive? to be the best on the day? no one goes out to lose or draw or come second. All ego related surely? ;-)

    I think we agree on the safety element, this has to be a priority. but the means to achieving it is different. I like your idea of the ref (and linesman) taking a few seconds to assess the binding it puts more emphasis on this and mean props know they have to bind correctly on the engage and keep it or they will get penalised, they will be less likely to try and 'old head' it.

    Question: have you ever played prop and so experienced the actual problem yourself? I have which is why i want to see the binding done correctly as i know this is as issue which needs to be addressed and if you listen to most 'former' front row players they all address the issue as well with regards to safety and the collapsing of the scrum, they concentrate on the binding issue, and not the hit itself. Brian Moore is the most prominent one that springs to mind who always criticises referees for their lack of refereeing and understanding in this area and the front rows for not doing it correctly. He is always calling for something to be done.

    i have never gone down in a scrum, nor had an opposing scrum go down on me from the sheer opposing forces or from the engagement, it has always been from my opposing number twisting and dropping me, or me doing the same to him as a result of extra leverage from the bind which is illegal.

  • Comment number 46.

    Ps i like how this blog was football v rugby and we have managed to go completely off topic to discuss a specific issue with the game of rugby, the scrum! haha! Sorry JB

  • Comment number 47.

    Got a nice text in on the rugby programme tonight from a football fan who has come over to rugby. That's what we like to see!

  • Comment number 48.

    Thanks for the reply John, i appreciate it.
    Would it be an overstatement of "enough" in this case though? 4 wins out of 15 in the Magners League this season?

    "Is being small, sometimes, an advantage?"

    I only asked as i feel your original question about "is smaller better" (regarding edinburgh/glasgow as a breeding ground for internationl rugby players) may have been answered for you as a fair number of young Irish players got the opportunity to experience winning against the seasoned internationals on display for edingurgh. This is something that will surely benefit irish rugby and is only achievable with the number of teams the IRFU have at this level of competition in the magners smaller better, a simple no on this occasion.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just to quickly return to the original topic; Personally, I prefer rugby in every way, and I play and watch as much as I possibly can.
    However, I accept that football is a decent game in it's own way, and is certainly easier to play on a very casual basis. The problem with football is the people involved, in my opinion. Players, managers and fans at the mid to high levels of football are (generally) ruining what could be a good game... Their attitudes to the game and to eachother are completely wrong, and (again my opinion) unacceptable a lot of the time.

    So to summarise - Football is good, football culture is awful. Rugby is better and Rugby culture is fantastic...

    I would talk about our lineout calls, but it might get censored... Suffice to say it's '**** the pig', with a brief trial of '**** piggy' when we went down to 2 pods. Had to abandon that due to one of the props having issues with Y being an "ambiguous letter"!

  • Comment number 50.

    You cannot compare these two games Football has been totally taken over by the money speculators which has led to most of the player seeking the I like watching both games but can only manage to watch football highlight a full game is too boring(unless Rooney is playing!)Now a Rugby Union game what an experience, especially live, I watch has many games as possible mainly at the Rec, Baths home ground but enjoy the game rather than following Bath. Its tough, exciting and very very entertaining for the full 80 minutes. But what I really find the best is the respect shown to the referee by the players and managers, he is in total control,yes I suppose there are mistakes made but the attitude of all involved is "get over it-and lets get on with the game" Also with video help on major decision like tries do help the referee, and I also think sin binning players for ten minutes although can make a tremendous outcome of a game losing a player in Football can completely ruin a game. Also I find most Rugby supporter are willing to have a chat over a beer before and after the game whoever wins. It would be very nice to be able to see more weekly rugby union on the BBC and hopefully I would like to think it may help to bring back some of the professionalism back into football.

  • Comment number 51.


    Yes, there is more respect for the referee in rugby but I see football attitudes creeping into our game as per latest blog. I wish we had our ethics back

    Ken_G lost me on the lineout code!



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