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Gentlemen of ill repute

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Robbo Robson | 14:19 UK time, Thursday, 20 August 2009

I'm confused. How on earth can a sport populated by lovely gentlemen - as opposed to the thugs and hoodlums that populate the game of football - be brought into such ill-repute?
What has happened to the good old game of rugger?

I get a lot of flak every time I touch on the subject of rugby union from the chaps who see the whole sport as a byword for the old values of Corinthian spirit and decent fellows having a good old rumpus.

Well we can put that one to bed, I reckon. Union has always been to my mind a sport that's mostly about rule-bending.

When you think about it, the game was even conceived through cheating when some public school numpty picked up the ball during a game of football.
Harlequins' Tom Williams with fake blood
All them set-pieces when great concrete lunks pile on top of each other until they resemble a giant laundry basket. Players getting vaster and vaster to the extent that lifts in the hotels they use will have to change them warnings to "Maximum persons - eight or one lock-forward".

Drug tests not being taken, accusations flying andnow Dean Richards, who always seemed a reliable, honourable type - despite the kind of hangdog demeanour that makes Chris Waddle look like a perky terrier - has been banned for three years for his part in a player using blood capsules.

It's shoddy stuff. And what's worse, for all them great steaming hunks of manhood, it's theatrical!

What next? Artificial blood-stained limbs being snuck into a ruck so they can bring on a new forward? Hurriedly applied vampire make-up so that a half-baked winger is removed for being a danger to the opposition's necks?

Compared to the pretty flagrant tumbling we've seen from the slickest hair and feet among football's mighty egos, it's nothing short of Oscar-winning.

But then I've always been right uppity with this 'thug's game played by gentlemen' garbage that your more la-di-dah fellas try to maintain. You get commentators mildly chiding a couple of Blutos as they swing wildly at each other with mallet fists. 'Ho, ho! A bit of handbags there!'

I went into a fast-food place the other day and somewhere in me meat patty there was what looked like an eyeball. When I complained, the manager told me it was a Schalk-burger. How that fella still gets to have a career in the sport is beyond me.

Granted the attitude of the blokes on the pitch is not matched by the supporters who watch it. Thank God, eh? You wouldn't want to be escorted from the ground by a copper just 'cos the bloke next to you took exception to what you were shouting out, bashed his head into your shoulder and spat fake gore all over your silly Hot Gossip-style skintight lycra rugby top!

Rugby's ethics are being really compromised. League - where the play-of-the-ball and tackle areas are so much clearer - sorted out a lot of this skulduggery years ago. If Richards is a scapegoat, then it looks like they might need to find another few before this chapter is closed.

Yes it's a man's game. But coming off the pitch like you're in some sixth-form skit with joke-shop dribble coming out your mouth is hardly butch, is it?

But enough of minority sports... (can you see those Twickers hackles rising, chaps?)

There are days when life can't get much better. Wednesday was one such.

Burnley's hammering of Man U was wondrous - it's great to see the mighty SAF left red-faced at the end of a game. All right he was red-faced at the start of the game but you know what I mean.

There was a load of prattle beforehand about the dressing-room at Turf Moor being a tad cramped for the pampered principals of the top division. Poor lambs. Not enough mirrors, nowhere to put me hair-gel, can't do me pre-match keepy-uppies like we do in the acreage of Old Trafford's ravishing halls.

Fergie was magnanimous in defeat it should be noted, but I bet the United players were wishing the dressing-room was the size of an aircraft hangar after the match. I expect it was less hairdryer and more wind-tunnel from the gaffer after a dead feeble effort.
Sir Alex Ferguson at Turf Moor
'Course United are capable of putting in tawdry efforts like that, but last year they had Carlos the Jackal on the bench and the Madeiran magician to terrorise them 'n' all.

Currently they have Berbatov, who's so laid-back it's not hard to imagine him resting against a wall in a sombrero, Wazza, a great player but already looking a tad burdened by being the main threat, and Michael Owen who looks for all the world like a kitten in concrete boots.

In fact I have to say I get right hacked off with the idea that 'cos the bloke's at United his England career will suddenly be on the up. Jermain Defoe must be laughing into his mineral water with Spurs being top. (Top four side this year, I tells ya.)

It's probably just a blip but there's no denying that with the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, Fergie is trying to replace three players in one. Two games in and I'm not for bold conclusions but here it is. To paraphrase the fount of all knowledge, Mr Hansen "You can't win anything with kids - or a past-it goalscorer with dodgy hams upfront."


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