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Carry on splashing

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Ben Dirs | 09:49 UK time, Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Anyone who has played rugby union at any level must surely find it laughable that, in a game where cheating is rife, a man swallow diving over a tryline can have caused such a splash - if you will pardon the pun.

Whether it is props spinning their "dark arts" in the scrum or flankers "playing on the edge", the technical nature of rugby union's rule book makes it a cheats' charter, whatever those who like to bang on about the sport being a gentleman's game would have you believe.

And how very English that when a gem of a wing like Chris Ashton, who has already equalled the record of six tries in one Six Nations campaign after only two matches, is unearthed, fans flock to message boards and blogs to pillory him for his arrogance.

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Over in Wales, Shane Williams has been prematurely celebrating tries for years - and Welsh fans love him for it. But in Wales, rugby union has always been the game of the people, whereas in England its rather more buttoned-up fans have a tendency to believe it should reflect some superior moral code. "Act the goat in football, if you like," goes the refrain, "but our sport is above all that."

Not that I wish to reduce this issue to a class debate, because it is slightly more complicated than that. For example, boxing, perhaps the most working-class sport of all, has one of the strictest moral codes, however difficult that might be for some to believe.

Boxing has had more than its fair share of loons but there is nothing more poignant in the whole of sport than the sight of two men who have been battering each other for 12 rounds falling into each others' arms at the final bell.

And witness the vitriol aimed at Naseem Hamed throughout his career - a man who often celebrated victory before he had even entered the ring, once while reclining on a magic carpet, an awful lot of his countrymen cheered when he was defeated, delighted that a man who had shown such disregard for the sport's ethics had finally got his comeuppance.

Comparing Ashton with Hamed directly is crass - while Hamed's contempt for his opponents was flagrant, Ashton's is only a perception. "I just want to be myself," is the England and Northampton winger's take on his exuberant celebrations, while England coach Martin Johnson has passed it off as a bit of fun.

And while Hamed's disrespect often extended beyond the ring, anyone who has heard Ashton being interviewed will know he seems like a thoroughly decent chap.

But the key difference between Hamed and Ashton is that society has never looked to boxing for its role models. More correctly, respectable society, or that part of society many English rugby union fans believe themselves to be a part of.

When they see Ashton belly splashing over the tryline, some rugby union fans see the dreaded influence of football, or American Football, or even worse rugby league, which Ashton used to play. They see it as an erosion of the values of their once great game.

But those fans do not have to look far for the real villains in their sport: players cheating all over the pitch; players crowding the ref; eye gougers; drug users; players feigning injury. Rugby union is no nobler than any other sport.

And those same fans should reflect on some of the dour afternoons spent watching England in recent years - afternoons they will never get back. How they could have done with a couple of 'Ash Splashes' to lift the gloom.

Ashton is walking a tightrope, of that there is no doubt. As with Hamed, there will be those, even from his own country, who are repulsed by his chutzpah and who will be willing him to fail. I hope most fans are more understanding than that. With Ashton, it is a case of "the kid's alright, just feel the joy". Unless he ever drops the ball, of course...

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  • Comment number 1.

    Ashton's victory dive is fine...right up to the point when he drops it and we lose as a result, then we'll crucify him.

  • Comment number 2.

    England seem to have found a real gem of a player - confident and sure a bit cocky but he's young and I think that we can all live with that. He is a pleasure to watch- even as a Welshman. Just keep his feet on the ground and don't drop the bl**dy ball.

  • Comment number 3.

    Can you compare Hamed, someone who put on a show of supreme confidence whilst each time being at a risk of humiliating himslef as he went toe-to-toe with somebody, and ashton who, once clear of the opposition, mocks them with his pathetic 'swan dive', i think not.

  • Comment number 4.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with it at the right time - i.e. after a game is won and the horrible moment where he knocks on is meaningless. He showed vs Italy that he knew it was right to wait until try #4 before cracking open the truimphalism and to me, that's fine.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry, but your opening 2 paragraphs give entirely the wrong message, this is a game where the official in the middle is RESPECTED, and while rules are stretched or officials interpretations are played to the limit i'll admit, there is NOTHING LIKE THE CHEATING in the "beautiful game". Diving is diving, just call it cheating for goodness sake,....simulation...seriously..grow up!! The ref gets intimidated by 20 mouthy yobs on inflated wages, or if they get more than a tickle then they go down like they've been mortally wounded. We may knock 7 bells out of one another but you respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly.

  • Comment number 6.

    I personally don't mind it, I think its a sign that at last England have found a player who clearly LOVES what hes doing. I am concerned however, that one dropped ball over the try line could over shadow all his beautiful rugby before hand...

  • Comment number 7.

    How long have we waited to see some tries being run in ? The last few years have given us glipses, but nothing more, now we appear to have a guy on the team sheet who can score some tries and folks are knocking him ? Classic English mentality.

    Keep scoring Chris, take no notice of the detractors and silence them with your tries .... just don't drop the bloody ball over the line in a tight game :)

  • Comment number 8.

    I am not a fan.
    I remember breaking the line in one game from centre and had only the full back to beat. I could have outpaced him to the corner but instead tried to step inside to go under the posts. I was tackled just short of the line. I was extremely annoyed with myself and since then I have made sure to get 'points on the board' first. I see this in the same way. Its a unnecessary move with a risk factor which has no value.
    I may not have such a problem with it if we are 25 points up as the game is won but in a tight game which could still go either way, I feel its a risk that has no value. Showboating can be a good part of sport but there is a time and place.

  • Comment number 9.

    I can't help feeling that this whole swan-dive controversy is a complete non-story. It is incredibly trivial, and in no way represents an insult to the moral standards of the game, or any of that claptrap.

    The English press are just being smug. For once, they have something to talk about other than the boring nature of England's play, and rather than revelling in the extraordinary feats of Mr Ashton, they seem to be claiming that his tryscoring record, and moreover England's general good play, are "normal", and that the extraordinary thing is the swan dive.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ashton says that he should be able to celebrate tries however he likes, thus the swallow dive is justified.

    Yes, you can celebrate how you like AFTER you have scored, not before!

  • Comment number 11.

    Don't see the problem..... individuals have been celebrating tries for years, why is it an issue now? Inevitably he will carry on doing it until he drops the ball and then everyone will come out and say I told you so.... Personally if he carries on playing like he does, he can celebrate how he likes.

  • Comment number 12.

    5. At 12:10pm on 22 Feb 2011, duncan coull wrote:
    Sorry, but your opening 2 paragraphs give entirely the wrong message, this is a game where the official in the middle is RESPECTED, and while rules are stretched or officials interpretations are played to the limit i'll admit, there is NOTHING LIKE THE CHEATING in the "beautiful game"

    I'm sorry was I imagining the blood capsules incident?

    That was certainly testing the officials and everyone watching to the limit wasn't it? Lol. It's like a Halloween party. "oh no don't compare us to those crass overpaid football oiks"- no I won't, one thing I will say is that rugby union cheating is a lot more elaborate, contrived and cunning than anything I've seen in football.

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't have a problem with it. Now, Dan Luger and his 6-gun shooting mime................!

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh please Duncan, don't kid yourself. As the article rightly points out "players crowding the ref; eye gougers; drug users; players feigning injury" is basically cheating but trying to be sneaky about it. Get your head out your backside

  • Comment number 15.

    Not sure about the excessive stereotyping Ben and I'm not sure Ashton's dive is the right opportunity for giving rugby union yet another kicking over 'bloodgate', gouging and cheating - there has been plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth about that and some stern punishments to boot.

    As for the dive itself I think he looks a bit of a berk but I like a bit of showboating in a winger and it even makes crag face Johnno smile.

    To be honest I'd rather be talking about the upcoming matches this weekend. Roll on Saturday.

  • Comment number 16.

    5. At 12:10pm on 22 Feb 2011, duncan coull wrote:

    Sorry, but your opening 2 paragraphs give entirely the wrong message, this is a game where the official in the middle is RESPECTED, and while rules are stretched or officials interpretations are played to the limit i'll admit, there is NOTHING LIKE THE CHEATING in the "beautiful game". Diving is diving, just call it cheating for goodness sake,....simulation...seriously..grow up!! The ref gets intimidated by 20 mouthy yobs on inflated wages, or if they get more than a tickle then they go down like they've been mortally wounded. We may knock 7 bells out of one another but you respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly.

    Rubbish! Eye-gouging abounds, punching, stamping, spear-tackling, you name it. The ONLY noble thing about Rugby Union is respect for the officials, but only because it is enforced. Rugby Union is a dirty game which shows examples of cheating from virtually every player in every game. The majority of penalties given are for players DELIBERATELY breaking the rules in the hope that they'll get away with it. A lot of fouls in football are committed by players at least attempting to get the ball. Yes there is more "simulation", diving or whatever you want to call it, but the only reason it doesn't happen in rugby is that it can't. Don't kid yourself - you're not watching a game with a higher moral code, just one in which cheating has to take on different forms.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ben - I've certainly seen quite a few column inches written on Chris Ahton and most of it seems to be old fashioned mischief-making of the "Phil Space" variety. I've not heard any loud muttering from England fans about his behaviour other than to predict that sooner or later he will drop the ball to hoots of derision all round! I've certainly not heard any comments about his behaviour being ungentlemanly or some sort of act of graceless chavness. I don't think that he is setting out to show disrespect to his opponents. He is just a young man enjoying the exuberance of the occasion.

    There has certainly been quite a few highly predictable comments from England's usual detractors but their real gripe is the fact that Chris Ashton is scoring tries...full stop! It creates what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance" i.e. does not square with deeply held beliefs. If you've been brought up to believe that England are always totally dull and unimaginative.... obviously completely at odds with your own creative, joyfully expressive celtic/latin/antipodean (delete as applicable) roots, then England scoring a try is always hard to fathom! If someone can run in six then your synapses are likely to melt!

    As you rightly point out, Shane Williams has been showboating shamelessly for years to near universal acclaim. David Campese used to do it. Even Ben Cowen did it against the All Blacks (when dropping the ball would have been truly catastrophic). None have been reprimanded or even commented upon negatively.

    Chris Ashton's biggest sin is a combination of being English and scoring a hatful of tries. Some folk just can't bear it and in that vein perhaps he borrow a few tricks from football, run to the corner flag and grind his hips suggestively...why not run to largest section of opposition support and cup his hand to his ear? If it winds them up...well they'd just find something else to feel wound up about if he didn't do who cares?

  • Comment number 18.

    But those fans do not have to look far for the real villains in their sport: players cheating all over the pitch; players crowding the ref; eye gougers; drug users; players feigning injury. Rugby union is no nobler than any other sport

    Lets take these in order:

    players cheating all over the pitch: I'll admit cynical fouling, why give 7pts when you can only give 3 but the refs bin you and the opposition can go for a line out or try to make the man adv count rather than take the simple 3, so really, why bother so much ( Louis Deacon vs Wales, def try scoring opportunity )

    players crowding the ref: the very odd exception in rugby (if you note its usually around very foul play, like a high tackle/illegal tackle) rather than the rule in i'm sure it is a rule in football given that everyone does it. Give the ref too much hassle in rugby and you concede 10yds which could mean the difference between a lineout or 3pts against. I do believe football used to have that rule but they've actually DISMISSED it....touch foolish but then again refs were too scared to use it eh!

    eye gougers: Very rare and getting dealt with accordingly...just need to sort out some of the ban lengths, but otherwise it is heinous, ask any player and it is viewed in the same manner as spitting in football.

    drug users: Very few and again dealt with accordingly, either driven out never to return or very low profiles thereafter.

    players feigning injury: really want to go down this road....One high profile case involving a london club. One swallow does not a summer make!
    I really cannot be bothered listing all that goes on in football but rather will state this....both are contact sports...wether football admits it or not,...perhaps it needs its rules amended given all the passive aggressive shoving /pushing that goes on in the box for crosses etc. If its non contact then enforce the non contact,....but then again , you can't even make your mind up on including video technology for balls crossing the goal line... but then again , it wouldn't have mattered in the germany game!
    Needless to say, you've just been floored by a hard, but FAIR tackle, no one would begrudge you moment to regain your senses. Whereas in football, you get some opponents hair in your eye and you go down clutching your face as though you've just been with a haymaker.....hmmmmm

    Rugby union is no nobler than any other sport: Whilst we are no saints , we are far nobler in spirit and deed than the "national game"!

    PS..Hamed was a showman..contrast his efforts to anything Ali did ...beat his opponents mentally before actually getting in the ring...whilst Ali was a little more subtle the idea was the same, unsettle your opponent beforehand...

  • Comment number 19.

    I can't an issue with his dive....until he drops it of course....But seriously there are enough ills in rugby that we could be discussing instead of how a player scores and celebrates his try.

    We still have the issue of the mess that passes off (or attempts to pass off) as a scrum nowadays. Then there is the subject of deliberate cheating only costing teams 3 points and a possible yellow card. Where even journos and pundits insinuate that the player did the right thing by cheating as it meant that his team didn't concede a try.

    That's just two areas that I know have been discussed, but still no solution has been put forward to sort those things out. I think we should look at these type of issues which really do have an affect on the quality of a game and not criticise a player who clearly is doing no more than enjoying his rugby.

  • Comment number 20.

    "We may knock 7 bells out of one another but you respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly. "

    Tally ho! A good old fashioned, good natuired bit of eye gouging, stamping and neck breaking is good for the soul of a growing lad don't you know! Now back to Oxbridge to light our farts and run the country!

    Ridiculous. Try telling the players who've been blinded that thier sight was taken from them fairly and honestly.

    I love Rugby Union but it's people like you who ensure it will never truly be a "beautiful game"

  • Comment number 21.

    If I dived like that, I just know it would hurt. And besides winding myself, I'd drop the ball anyway, because holding it in one hand is actually quite hard. Perhaps that's why I squirm whenever he does it.

    But then I'm not Chris Ashton - one of the best wings in the world and clearly a very confident, exuberant chap.

    When I was a kid rugby players didn't celebrate scoring tries. They modestly hung their heads and jogged back quickly before anyone could make a fuss about it. I thought that was just a bit too humble and modest. Where was the joy?

    So I don't mind it if Ashton dives a lot over the coming months - mainly because it'll mean he's scoring lots of tries. And if he cuts it out and just hugs people, that'll be fine too.

  • Comment number 22.

    To be fair the majority insults and complaints I've heard about Chris Ashton's dive is from our hypocritical Celtic neighbours. There were some genuinely furious Welsh fans after the game, who wanted to cause a lot of pain to Chris Ashton for his 'disgusting disrespect'. I just shrugged and mentioned 'Shane Williams' but oh no, somehow that is COMPLETELY different. Get over yourselves.

    Seriously, if I hear someone mention 'Swallow-Dive' again, I might cry. It is such a rubbish, rubbish story. Well said Mr Dirs, on where the real villains are - let's have a tantrum at them.

    Of course, as a flanker/centre, hands in the ruck don't necessarily make you a villain, in my opinion...

  • Comment number 23.

    Ashton isn't the first to dive theatrically, and he won't be the last! He's also not stupid enough to not realise the ramifications if he does a Lequizamon and blows a big game.

    For those of you who have played rugby, take yourself back to being 23 years old and the pleasure of scoring a try (for those of us in the pack, the feeling of shoving the opposite team off the ball or driving them back in a scrum). Multiply that 10-fold, add in the atmosphere of Twickenham and 80,000 screaming fans and I'd defy any of you to not feel like you want to do the same!

    There's no doubting - it is showmanship... but he isn't mocking the opposition... he's celebrating his achievement and the support of those around him! We've waited since 22nd Nov 2003 to enjoy something other than the odd glimpse of optimism. Wales have had 2 grand-slams since, and I haven't met a Welshman since who doesn't thrive on bringing it up. For once, let's not be English about this... how about we enjoy the moment and cheer the man on, don't kill his ambition and make him second-guess his ability and his own finishing!!

  • Comment number 24.

    Ashton will be fine untill he drops it then heaven help the poor fella!

  • Comment number 25.

    Don't see what the problem is here. You're scoring a try for your country not some local old boys team. I bet he feels ecstatic when he knows he is a shoe in for a try, so why not slam that ball over the line like he's enjoying it?!
    After all, Rugby, like Football is a sport and therefore entertainment. Ashton entertains and delivers points, end of discussion! There is no more at stake here than a competition and entertainment....just like football.

  • Comment number 26.

    As long as he crosses the line and grounds the ball then whatever else he does (within the laws of the game) is fine by me. As with Princeblahblah I think this is a complete non-story and it is infuriating that BBC interviewers can't focus on asking question about the game, the tactics, and points where the team excelled rather than witter on about something as meaningless as his mode of celebration.

  • Comment number 27.

    The difference in Rugby is that apart from malicious and dnagerous play which should not happen its not cheating unless you get caught. As you say Ben playing on the edge of the rules. Both sets of players know what the score is and play accodringly.

    Bloodgate was a dark day in the history of the game but merely served to highlight practices which had become rife since the advent of the professional era as teams now have a lot more to lose fiancially.

    Personally I have no problem with him celebrating. He would be the first to admit he had made a mistake if he dropped the ball, however no doubt the fickle meadia would say otherwise.

    There is a moral element to rugby in that players appear to respect ech other and the Referee a lot more but there also seems to be an elitist attitude among the fans which is perhaps one of the reasons the RFU has pretty much failed to diversify the fan base in the last 10 years its been trying.

    Talented players should be encouraged, and if they want to celebrate they should this can only be good for widening the appeal of the sport. From those that have played rugby we all know that if the opposition has been offended by his actions he will eventually recieve a physical reminder of their dipleasure unless he scores in the last minute.

    I do accept it is not good coaching for all the under 10's trying to emulate him but neither is carrying the ball in one hand into contact!

  • Comment number 28.

    We may knock 7 bells out of one another but you respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly. "

    fair and honest meaning , within the spearing/ gouging ,and you can't ruck anymore in the modern game, so no fear of getting a bit of shoepie for lying on the wrong side. As for neck breaking????

  • Comment number 29.

    messien - I think you make a fair point - to a point. But I would argue that what Hamed did was far worse - yes, he was at risk of being humiliated, but the point is he was doing even worse to his opponent. Beating someone up for the delectation of a baying crowd is one thing, actively seeking to rob them of their manhood is another. It's slightly sinister, whereas what Ashton does can be passed off as a bit of fun.

    duncan coull - Have to echo what has already been said - yes, diving is cheating, I'm not saying it isn't, but then so is not rolling away from the ball at the breakdown, or boring into your opponent at the scrum, or deliberately collapsing the scrum, or any of the myriad methods of cheating available to players in the game. As someone else has said, players cheat in union, they just have to be more sneaky to get away with it.

    Hookers_armpit - Not sure there is any excessive stereotyping - it is what it is, rugby union is a largely middle-class sport, played and watched largely by middle-class people, some of whom seem to believe that their sport reflects some higher moral code, ie Duncan above.

  • Comment number 30.

    Don't like either - both are arrogant in media situations - but Hamed was there by himself win or lose. Ashton is part of a team who put him into position to score a try for them not to go on an ego trip to publicize himself and humiliate his opponents as he seems to be doing. What do his teammates really think of him? Also you are right there is a lot of cheating and gamesmanship in rugby - far more than there used to be due to the greater emphasis on contact - all of which slows the game down and combined with tedious antics like Ashton's makes the game ever less entertaining and more dumbed down than ever. People should be attracted to rugby not PR focused showponies like Ashton. By the way one season in and he is being touted as a Shane Williams? A player who has scored tries all his career whether in good or bad sides and has had to often make things happen himself. Can Ashton really produce like that when the chips are down - is he near as entertaining? Doubt it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Comment #5 - perhaps you could explain how deliberately trying to blind someone by forcably inserting your thumb into their eye socket is consistent with your statement "respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly"?

    or how chewing on a blood capsule and then instigating an elaborate cover up is "stretching the rules".

    Unfortunately you fall squarely into the delusioned rugby stereotype that does more damage than good.

  • Comment number 32.

    He just wishes he was Shefki Kuqi that's all. It's not his fault Kuqi is a god amongst men...

  • Comment number 33.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with the way Ashton scores / celebrates his tries. When I was coaching the U8s on Sunday after the England game, virtually every boy wanted to score like that. What the game needs is players like Ashton who will both enthuse and inspire children to play the game. Keep it up Chris

  • Comment number 34.

    An absolutely pointless comparison between Ashton and Hamed. Please why did you have to find such an acute angle to write about Ashton. Surely just giving facts and opinions about the upcoming game on saturday is enough.

    As for Ashton splashing over the line, if he gets a couple against France I may just try to the same in my front room:)

    An Englishman in France

  • Comment number 35.

    Lets be honest, it is not really that outrageous... He does a big dive over the line and smiles about it in mid air!!! As mentioned by several of you and by Mr Dirs hmself, if he drops the ball am sure the press and many fans will crucify him, but he is a big boy and playing for his country so am sure he can handle this.
    If you don't like it then that is up to you but to say it is lowering the tone of rugby union, is definitley a bit extreme. I love my football and I know this sport has far more problems in the diving departmnent than rugby.
    Let us enjoy a good and possibly to be great rugby player and maybe look into some of the real controversies of the game, most of which are pointed out by Brian Moore week in week out in commentary!!!

    P.S. My heart felt sympathies to all our New Zeland counterparts at this point in time who are really suffering with a tragedy.....

  • Comment number 36.

    italia 90: "What do his teammates really think of him?"

    Let me think - he's scored 6 tries in the last 2 games and 9 in 9 games... you're right... they probably hate him!! The time for comparing him to Shane Williams will be in 10 years time when his career is coming to a close, not now. If he ever wins the IRB Player of the Year wholly unjustifiably - then we can say he's just as good!

  • Comment number 37.

    What an absolute waste of column inches this blog is, Ben. Where you removed from the World Tiddlywinks Competition reporting schedule or something?

    The lad scores a try and grounds the ball whilst diving over the try line - EXACTLY how we were taught to do it at school 25 years ago. In fact, if you grounded the ball with a gentle tap, you were made to do laps of the pitch as punishment!

    There is alot of mischief making going on here and trying to create a problem where there isn't one - leave Chris Ashton to do what Chris Ashton does - score tries and entertain crowds.

  • Comment number 38.

    I've got no problem with Ashton's diving celebration, for all I care he can goose-step up and down the line every time he scores (okay slight exaggeration there, perhaps that would be going too far) as long as he keeps doing the business on the pitch it's not at all relevant.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi Ben,
    Sorry to bang on about this, but this really frustrates me.
    An entire blog about the swallow dive (which I love by the way) however 606 is cancelled - a place where I would have been able to chat about the up coming games as a whole (not just one insignificant part of it!).

    Please can you do a blog on the whole match, surely you've started typing one already?

    Back to the swallow dive, I reiterate other users when I say it's long as he never does it in a tight match!


  • Comment number 40.

    Ashton is, at present, a fantastic winger. His celebrating and confidence is part of his game. Try to take away either and you start to change the player, and probably for the worse. If you have a choice between a great international winger who will score 6 tries in two games and maybe, one day will drop one, or an average winger who scores 2 tries. Sorry, Ashton every time.
    P.S I was at Twickenham for the Italy game, and no matter what people may say the crowd absolutely loved Ashton.

  • Comment number 41.

    normanrich - Hold your horses, plenty of time for facts and opinions about Saturday's match, it's only Tuesday... in fact, have a look on our rugby union index and there's quite a lot there already...

  • Comment number 42.

    Ben you idiot...i wonder why there is such an influence of Rugby League on Union, go on ask yourself!

    Maybe because Union have looked to League for; rule changes, coaches, how to tackle, how to run, how to pass and cherry picked the best players. Isn't it amazing how Union are now starting to throw the ball about ala League, so do me a favour and keep such stupid comments to yourself.

  • Comment number 43.

    i wonder how he would feel if a French player does that this weekend to England? i suspect it would annoy him intensely, which is of course the point - wind up the opposition in a disrespectful way. i think he's a clown. We don't need this in rugby - it's all part of a wider, creeping footballisation of the sport.

  • Comment number 44.

    I usually like Mr Dirs' blogs - whatever the sport but I have to say, as I rarely comment, that this is a complete "non-story". So what if Ashton throws himself over the try line. The story should be about England's team actually playing running rugby and having players in a position to score tries (however they are subsequently celebrated).

    Lazy journalism, I'm sorry to say - still harping on about a try celebration that for many people was first viewed in the opening game. I find it hard to believe a blog has been written about this trivial issue three weeks into the competition! Sorry.

    As a teacher would say, "Try harder Mr Dirs please." (pardon the pun).

  • Comment number 45.

    Im Welsh, and am currently enjoying the style of rugby england are trying to play. Admittedly they have beaten a poor welsh performance and an abysmal Italian one but hey ho, you can only beat what's in front of you (See Wales vs poor scots 10 days ago!!!). I like Ashton and he is a good finisher and there is nothing wrong with celebrating tries shane has done it for years, however running in tries unopposed with no one in front of you, and no one beaten by your own skill does not mean you can celebrate so exuberantly. He has the potential to be a great finisher and a world class wing, but one v one he is very poor if you watch him play and he needs to perhaps tone it down! Just my honest opinion

  • Comment number 46.

    Ashton's dive is quality. But he will drop one at some point and I wouldn't want to be in his position when Martin Johnson catches up with him.

  • Comment number 47.

    If you look at it properly you can see the ball is firmly locked between his wrist and fingers. Any risk there is of him dropping it is the same if he were just running across the line normally. There isn't really an issue except journalists like yourself keep stirring it up.

    I normally have time for your writing but you've fallen into a poor trap. What's worse is the fact you're talking about it 2 weeks after the tabloid hacks did it to death.

  • Comment number 48.

    What a ridiculous blog. Ok so you do get alot of 'playing on the edge' and props will always try to outdo the 20st+ opponent oppisite them but to brandish rugby as the same as any other sport is wrong and is that not just playing smart?!

    Show me any other sport where teams from grass roots to international share a dinner after, where you 'tunnel' off the opposition, where the ref's word is law. It is very very very rare to ever see a player argue with a ref, even when the ref is a mere mortal physically compared to these guys.

    The Aston Dive, why not - until he drops it and then write your blog but try and keep it to that issue, not the moralities of rugby.

    Ben don't give up the day job.........but then again!

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    There is nothing wrong with celebrating victory in a gracious manner. Swan diving is debatable, but really not that bad so long as you are well ahead. I wouldn't do it, because I have seen too many players drop the ball and look like fools. I have always felt the Christian Cullen had the right approach to scoring tries. Scorch the tries put it down quitely, walk back to half way and do it again. If you look at the score board at the end of the game and you have won, then you can celebrate a bit. Look him up on youtube
    just one example, but that is class, not only as a player but as a gentleman of the game. Humility is more attractive than showboating

  • Comment number 51.

    I suppose this blog has done what it set out to do, stimulate debate and get readers writing in to, in the main, disagree with your comments Ben. Gouging, drug taking and feining injury - all have which have occurred agreed, but you make it sound like a regular occurance which we all know is not the case. As for crowding the ref, I'd like an example of when other than every other saturday \ sunday at a football match, no matter what level is being played !

  • Comment number 52.

    Love your tries Chris, but the swallow dives do nothing for my nerves which are always in a very bad state until we manage to chalk up the win. I suppose I will need to keep the Valium handy on Saturday.

    Good luck against France
    Lara xxx

  • Comment number 53.

    Wow - amazing how critical people get towards the authors of the 606 blogs! Surely this is light-hearted post doesnt deserve such abuse!

    Anyway, as a Scotsman I would absolutely love it if we had a player prolific enough for us to notice his special celebration!!

  • Comment number 54.

    As you say Shane Williams has done it for years with little comment at all so why teh fuss now. I mena I remember him doing so against SA in a match Wales were getting stuffed in which then really did look wrong and drew only mild critisism for that.

    Ashton is a very good young player making a big impact and scoring many tries his finsihes jjsy show his enjoyment in doing so they aren't aimed ta the opposition at all. His confidence in raising his hands is only ever after he has outpaced his marker at which point well he can celebrate surely as baring falling over he is going to reach the line isnt he.

  • Comment number 55.

    The celebration is part of why he's so good. He loves scoring tries, he's not afraid of scoring them, he's confident. I've been thinking for years that Edwin Van Der Saar would eventually get caught out when playing around in front of his goal, but I've yet to see it. I hope I never see egg on Chris Ashton's face for England, not like on Steve Ovett's many years ago as he made his trademark wave of triumph on the home straight at Crystal Palace, only for John Treacy to do him on the line. I was living in Ireland at the time, so you can imagine it wasn't forgotten in a hurry!

  • Comment number 56.

    The 'Ash Splash' is not a problem, even if he drops one - we lose 5 or 7 points, so what? What bothers me is if he damages his shoulder or elbow and he's out for the rest of the season, which would seriously affect his and Englands World Cup preparation, we are already at least 12 months behind NZ in terms of being near/at peak performance come World Cup time - I know this hasn't always been much of a problem, as they usually peak too early, but I fear it will be this time

  • Comment number 57.

    I remember years ago playing under 14s our coach would ban us for a game if we dived for a try. his comments where, "you could drop it, get hurt and it looks daft".
    There is no doubt Ashton is one of the inform wingers around at the moment but he is a role model and young kids will copy him. if they tried the dive on our pitch last weekend they would have ended up in casulty with half their teath out.
    Finger in the air before crossing the line? fine
    Swan dive over it? too much
    will the french do it? Prob not. remember they have dropped the ball over the line before

  • Comment number 58.

    I for one have no problem with how Ashton celebrates (our own beloved Shane has done the same for a long time) but I'd rather this be the high water mark of celebration, rather than the first step on a path to the kind of disrespectful garbage shown by any second-rate footballer after a one yard tap in.

    The bottom line is that rugby is about class. Anyone can hijack that word to fit their own agenda, but the definition of it in rugby (especially in the tough finishing school of North Notts where I played) is a mindset of playing hard and doing the right thing on and off the pitch, whether you're playing for Eaton or Mansfield 3rds.

    There are worrying trends in the game, especially at the top level, that merit a line being drawn in the sand. Respect isn't about pretend pre-match handshakes or stitching the word to the sleeve of your shirt; it's about respecting the laws, history and, most importantly, the spirit of the game. Players are always going to play hard and, at times, cross the line. But in doing so they have to be prepared to accept the consequences and those consequences must be strict. Eye-gouging, dropping scrums and any other serious cheating show a lack of class that has no place in the game we love and must rightly be punished. Setting our house in order and being seen to do so is one thing that puts us above certain other sports. I see no problem with taking that further to keep the game classy.

  • Comment number 59.

    It amazes me how much has been made of this relative non-story. Seems simply to be a case of trying to start some controversy, as otherwise there is nothing to criticise England for in the first two games (good in parts and a solid away win v Wales and then a really good performance v Italy).

    As for those criticising foul play in rugby, note that it is exactly that - foul play. Eye gouging and spear tackles are both very heavily sanctioned.

    As for the type of cheating that is stretching the boundaries of the law, that's no different to the shirt pulling and holding that goes on in football, or a batsman not walking in cricket. The laws of the game and the tactics of the game now mean that you play to what the referee will allow, and if you transgress you are penalised. Unfortunately, all professional sport inevitably compromises some of its principles because winning becomes so important, but rugby is a long was from selling its soul in the way that football has over the last 15-20 years.

  • Comment number 60.

    Disrespect in rugby?
    I'm not a fan of the swallow dive but it is nothing comapared to my visceral hatred of the ridiculous triumphalist 15 seconds of music that blares out at Twickenham when a try is scored. That is far more disrespectful than anything Chris Ashton's done. It's like a bully in a playground shouting NerrNerrNeNerrNerr! to a kid he's just hit. It makes me cringe that that is being projected as symbolic of our national character.
    It doesn't even create atmosphere, if anything it just insults the crowd by implying that they can't cheer unless orchestrated by a bit of tasteless music. I won't go to Twickenham again until they stop it.
    We need a campaign to stop it!

  • Comment number 61.

    Speaking of boxing, didn't we all love Ali. That man could 'dis' his opponents with style.

  • Comment number 62.

    There are far worse things in rugby to complain about!!! He's great, he scores and he's young. Hush up you Toffs

  • Comment number 63.


    I feel exactly the same way about The Proclaimers or Runrig being belted out at Murrayfield!

  • Comment number 64.

    What is the difference between someone being offside in rugby and offside in soccer? Both players know the rules, both know they hand over possession if they get it wrong, both realise that living on the very edge will provide them with the best chance to succeed.

    It's no different to 'No-Balls' in cricket, 'holding on' in boxing and 'false starts' in Athletics. Why aren't these people held up as cheats?

  • Comment number 65.

    Many years ago playing for my school, the opposition wing had just broken clear to score their umpteenth try of the match, when he turned to goad us chasing plodders, who’d given up the ghost and were concentrating more on what was for lunch and which girls we happened to fancy that week. His outburst of unsportsmanlike behaviour caused the try to be overturned by a clearly irate referee.
    I’m not comparing Ashton’s celebration to this – he is not arrogant and in the face of the opponents; to put it simply, he has the ability to do that and so he does. The former example is, however, in keeping with the tradition of rugby or at least how we view it – that unsporting behaviour is not to be tolerated.
    The referee in question was our coach and P.E. teacher; erstwhile of a Morpeth rugby team that played both Roslyn Park and London Irish in the 1970s, and was perhaps disgusted by such a gesture lacking in gentlemanly cordiality as many have come to expect from the egg shaped game.
    It is a highly charged physical game, but the only celebrations that really annoy me are the gun-pumping, macho, neck tensing celebrations that occur much more often and end with a cursory punch/ kick of the ball into the crowd. These seem to be widely accepted but Ashton’s pre try celebration is of joy, not of a chest thumping gym-bunny trying to show the crowd what a hugely macho man he is.
    Some people will talk about the context of the game and therein we have a case of double standards. No-one will have a problem if he does it scoring an all important winning try against France/ Aus/ New Zealand/ South Africa, but to do it against lowly Italy seems a downright disgrace. I would say the very fact that Ashton celebrates the same way regardless of the opposition shows that it is what it is; a try celebration. Just as Robbie Keane used to do that cartwheel type thing, and Alan Shearer used to raise one arm, Ashton is creating something for himself that the spectators enjoy – a spectacle and an act of relief. He has a smile on his face when he does it and that means (for me at least) it is free of arrogance, it is free of anger and bad sportsmanship.

  • Comment number 66.

    This is disrespectful - just look at how many players have criticised him for it (and also read JG's blog on here from a few weeks ago for his opinions)

  • Comment number 67.

    Comment #5 - perhaps you could explain how deliberately trying to blind someone by forcably inserting your thumb into their eye socket is consistent with your statement "respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly"?

    or how chewing on a blood capsule and then instigating an elaborate cover up is "stretching the rules".

    Unfortunately you fall squarely into the delusioned rugby stereotype that does more damage than good.

    at #32

    Gouging is a heinous act, and in no way is anything to do with respect your opponent enough to have a crack at him fairly and honestly"?
    Foul/ Dangerous/cowardly/ criminal play , there's nothing to even remotley cover it.

    or how chewing on a blood capsule and then instigating an elaborate cover up is "stretching the rules".
    As for the above, all got their commupence in one way or another

    please inform me of the rugby stereotype, as my definition may differ

  • Comment number 68.

    Think its a bit unfair to class Ashton as too arrogant or cocky. If you've seen the bloke interviewed you can see he is genuinely happy and excited to be playing for England.

    I wish a few more of our players could play the game with a smile on their face like he does. A bit more personality and engagement from our players its whats needed and a welcome contrast to the morose, whinging, monotoned footballers we get nowadays.

  • Comment number 69.

    at #16
    The ONLY noble thing about Rugby Union is respect for the officials, but only because it is enforced.

    No ref = no game, or maybe football might be better without a ref.
    All refs should be respected....

  • Comment number 70.

    I wonder if the notion of progress and evolution are lost on some people? It may be sad for you that rugby couldn't remain amateur and exclusive only to those whose parents could afford to send little Tarquin to a 'proper school' - but to the rest of us, it is inevitable so why not accept it and move on.

    I dont particularly endorse the musical interlude after a try, or the fireworks at Murrayfield that leave you glaring through the smoke for the first 5 minutes - but I accept that it's neccessary for a more commercial audience. Rugby has never been so open and welcoming to all ages, genders and races, and yet you choose to highlight the obscure and irrelevant to soothe your egos.

    Sport has always existed to entertain - a fact not even the most stubborn could argue. So close your eyes to the dive, fingers in ears during the music and perhaps try and enjoy the game being played out by two sides with immense pride in wearing the same colours as those that came to support them! To #60 - perhaps your avoidance at Twickenham is a good thing - I pity the poor man sat next to you!

  • Comment number 71.

    Also - I too join the clamour to ban the post points song. It's awful! No-one wants to hear it and it only lasts a few seconds anyway - what's the point. At a Falcons game some years ago at Kingston Park, my dad's friend Big Al, hoisted himself up and disconnected the speakers at the back of the stand to raptuous applause from all those in attendance.
    Ban this filth!

  • Comment number 72.

    It's his call to do it or not, I don't care either way as long as he keeps scoring, what a finisher.
    Some say it's disrespectful to the opposition, there's a very simple way of stopping him celebrate, tackle him once in a while, until then tough luck. Keep being disrespectful Chris, you've got my vote.

  • Comment number 73.

    Dirsy, seems to me like you've used this article to have a bit of a pop at Rugby Union. How you can compare a celebration from a genuinely nice guy with the way Naseem Hamed used to treat his opponents is a disgrace.

    For all you people defending footballers out there, just watch one match and see how the players treat the officials. Also, yes there are cheap shots but you don't see or hear any players whinging about it, they are simply caught on camera and given SEVERE punishment in order to stamp gouging out of the game. a 12 week ban for a head butt or a 4 week ban for diving would soon stamp down on it. As for crowding the referee, the referees in football crow about the 'respect the ref' campaign but until they start punishing dissent properly and sending people off it won't change. It'll be four weeks of games finishing with 9 a side and then players will soon stop.

  • Comment number 74.

    On the subject of Chris Ashton's diving, wouldn't it just make a lot more sense for him to score and then he could celebrate? And then no-one could comment about the way he runs in his tries???

    I remember the Frenchman who was showboating a few years back, who was busy lapping up the fans' admiration as he sauntered in to under the posts... lost his grip on the ball and knocked it on with his knee.

    I'm not Welsh and I suspect Shane Williams' premature celebrations are only wildly proclaimed in Wales - I for one didn't like that just as much as I don't like Ashton's nowadays.

    Keep the celebrations until after the score has actually been made. Although I am anticipating with relish the swallow-dive that goes awry... :o)

  • Comment number 75.

    What's all the fuss about?

  • Comment number 76.

    Good luck to the lad.

    I was gutted to see him leave league and move to union. In league he was recognised as a great talent, as you're seeing now, and it's great to see him fulfil that potential. Luckily we have plenty more in the pipelines (not an invitation to approach them too).

    Union has long been seen as stiff upper lip and all that stuff, so it's good for you that there's someone showing passion in a positive way.

    As for the showboating...we mere mortals can only imagine what it's like to pull on the jersey of your country and get over the white wash. Why not celebrate them in your own little way. It must be such a rush having thousands cheering you.

    Go on Chris, do it for the north and do it for league!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    I think you'll find that is not the English public, whether the "more buttoned-up fans" or otherwise, who is responsible for this ridiculous debate about Ashton's celebration. The furore was created and is being perpetuated by the lazy and unimaginative media, of which you are a part Ben.

    You can bet that if Ashton was wearing an All-Black shirt then "journalists" such as Ben would be eulogising about the skill and entertainment value of this precocious talent rather than sniping.

    Give it a rest and just focus on the rugby please.

  • Comment number 78.

    Even if he did drop it I wouldn't dislike the lad. He scored 4 tries against Italy, I wouldn't have crucified him for scoring 3. In a more important match I guess we'll see, but its doubtful that many other wingers would have run 90m against Australia to score. As for rugby union not being more respectful than football, the whole notion of that is laughable. Gattuso walked off after losing to Tottenham, head butted a coach and only got banned for 4 games. If a rugby union player did that he would be saying bye bye to his career.

  • Comment number 79.

    I Don't see what everyone's problem with Ashton he is a great winger and if winning games means him doing the swallow dive then so be it
    i play rugbty myself and i know the sheer jubilation that goes through you when you score a try and this is only at amateur level with about 50 fans watching if i was to score at twickenham i'd probably do a backflip or at least try

  • Comment number 80.

    All these non rugby players who claim that cheating is rife. Every team bends the rules to gain an advantage, in any sport. Its the competitive nature of sport, particularly top level sport. If were going to talk about cheating and breaking the rules it happens with every dive in football, every drug taker in athletics and cycling, every false appeal in cricket. And there are similar stories in each of these sports you can compare to "bloodgate". Rivaldo getting hit with a ball in the face or Gattuso's headbut. Athletics and cycling -- the many cases of drug abuse. The betting scandal in cricket.

    Please dont criticise other sports until you take a long hard look at your own.

    As for the swallow dive - LOVE IT! Im an english rugby player and proud. And im an american football fan. Passion and entertainment should not be forgotten!

  • Comment number 81.

    usedtobefast - Did you actually read the blog? It's just that you seem to have missed the following statements: "Comparing Ashton with Hamed directly is crass - while Hamed's contempt for his opponents was flagrant, Ashton's is only a perception." And: "And while Hamed's disrespect often extended beyond the ring, anyone who has heard Ashton being interviewed will know he seems like a thoroughly decent chap."

    As for those saying I'm using this blog to have a go at rugby union, or football, or whatever it is I'm supposed to be having a go at, the only point I've made is that people cheat in rugby union as they do in any other sport - hence: "Rugby union is no nobler than any other sport."

    TheScarlettWarrior - I once saw a kid at school run the entire length of the pitch, beat about 10 men and touch down, only for his effort to be overturned by the referee for "me-ball rugby". It was against our local rivals, and the ref was our coach...

  • Comment number 82.

    The English have the Irish, Welsh, Scots and of course the French to hate us, not even considering the Southern Hemisphere. All for matters that occurred hundreds of years ago and have nothing to do with rugby. As an Englishman, I am certainly not going to have a go at Ashton celebrating a try. He may celebrate before it's scored, but when he does, it's a done deal (unless he drops it). Just enjoy those moments and sneak a look at your Welsh/Italian/Irish/Scots friend at the same time, who no longer can complain about England's play and has to resort to such trivialities.

  • Comment number 83.

    I don't really care about the "sportsmandship" or whatever of what Ashton does, but if I were an England supporter I would rather he scored the try before doing any celebrating. Kitch Christie, SA coach when we won the 95 World Cup, was an absolute fanatic on the basics of the game, grounding the ball for a try being one of them. Part of the Bok drills back then included grounding the ball, and I have heard an interview with James Small years back where he said one of the biggest rollickings he ever got was for not taking this drill seriously.

    Anyways, I hope the authorities don't feel the need to intervene, at least allow for the possibility that us punters can witness the occasional showboating stuff-up!

  • Comment number 84.

    Anyone who has played rugby union at any level - I have played rugby at a variety of levels and the thing I remember above all else is that it is a team sport. The connection with your team mates goes beyond any other sport I have played, football really doesn't compare. I only mention this because I think that understated celebrations are as much about respecting the work put in by your team mates as about respecting the opposition. Of course everyteam has a showman and I think this is fine, Chris Ashton seems like a great bloke and he doesn't go too far, I have no problem with him. I would though like to look at it from the reverse angle and say how delighted I am that so many players in the modern era are such modest sportsmen. While football is often so narcistic it revolts me, rugby through it's traditions has maintained dignity.

    Startledcow, you infuriate me. You make the incorrect assumption that the traditions of respect and dignity in rugby are all about private education. It isn't true, the Welsh back line of the 70's was made up largely of miners son's but also included University educated players such as JPR. As children players need to be instructed in an unwritten code of behaviour. I know that if I had celebrated with as much energy as Ashton when I was at school my coach would have said I couldn't have been working hard enough.

    Well I have said my piece.

  • Comment number 85.

    LewiceLewice - I couldnt agree more! My issue is with those that believe rugby should have stayed within the public school environment! I don't care if the players come out of Eton or off the local council estate - if they're good enough, they get the shirt!

  • Comment number 86.

    Not sure if anyone's mentioned this but I got bored of re-reading the same football v rugby union arguments.
    The reason Ashton should be applauded is that he has injected a level of excitement and interest in the game that has been sadly missing.
    On the subject of cheating in rugby union, the reason we've had to endure so many years of painfully dull games is the endemic cheating. The @duncan_coull "why give 7 points when you can give 3" attitude has made it impossible for the governing body to devalue the penalty and make it more worthwhile to score a try, if a penalty was only with 2pts then surely there is more incentive to score a try. Unfortunately in this "noblest" of sports this would only mean more penalties.

  • Comment number 87.

    For a 'non-story' as a lot of people are calling this, 85 comments isn't bad.

    I think it comes down to the general view that everyone is allowed to be patriotic apart from the English. The people above who have commented about Shane Williams are exactly right. he's been doing it for years and no one cares. I'm delighted that there is an Englishman who score tries consistently and clearly loves doing it.

    One word of warning though...

    When I was in slightly better shape I played junior county rugby with a current Premiership and occasional England Second Rower. In a county game he burst through from the 22 and had a clear run through to score. He gave it a big dive to ground the ball under the posts. He landed heavily on his knee, ruptured his ACL and was out for about a year.

  • Comment number 88.

    I have no problem with the swallow dive; Ashton knows the risks if he drops the ball which I cannot wait for....!!)

    I do think celebrating so vigorously when all he has done is caught a pass and sprinted unopposed under the post. For me its not a disrespecting the opposition, or the opposition fans, rather his own team mates. In those situations maybe rather than a self-congratulating swallow dive, perhaps ground the ball and thank the player or players who put him in that position in the first place.

    A lesson for all players of all ages.

  • Comment number 89.

    its entertainment for the english side
    hes a good player, once in a while is ok but it
    gets annoying after a while its a kin to rubbing the
    the sides nose in it gareth thomas had his own actions
    i suppose as long they dont go the way of soccer hugging
    kissing etc its ok

  • Comment number 90.

    Oh, yes Ben! It does happen! I'm glad you've seen such a similar incident! We were beaten 50+ nil that day!
    St school my house team was so much better than the opposition (we had ten of the first 15) that we weren't allowed to scored in the second half of the house championships. It's all about fair play, eh? ;-)

  • Comment number 91.

    Ashton excitement?? I would hardly say he is an "edge of your seat" player!!! He has a great reading of the game to pop up on the end of moves, but he largely goes over untouched due to work by others such as Flood. Even his "wonder-try" against Australia, the key to that was Youngs and Lawes. All Ashton had to do was sprint up the line unopposed and step inside a standing still fullback while at full pace. Great try, one of the best iv seen in a while but any winger worth his salt should score from 90 metres with one player to beat.

    Im afraid he still looks suspect defensively against better teams and has not shown the ability to repeatedly beat his opposite number one on one. Until he develops in these areas im afraid he's not going to be as exciting as Gear, Rokokoko, Bowe, Williams etc

  • Comment number 92.

    For every england fan who complains about in what shape Ashton decides to cross the try line, would you rather he swan dived over twice in a game, or didn't cross the line at all? This is just picking on something because we can't complain that England are playing rubbish. Personally I would rather see flamboyant try scoring than dour games decide only by penalties.

    And after the NFL references, take Deion Sanders as an example. Famous for dancing his way into the end zone, or high stepping holding the ball out in front of him. Always said that he was not doing it to mock his opposition, he did it to express how happy he was that he was lucky enough to be in the position to score the touchdown. I think that Ashton does the same thing - he doesn't humiliate opponents, he is enjoying being able to score tries for England.

    If he drops the ball, then he will get pilloried. But as long as he keeps scoring tries, I am fine with it.

  • Comment number 93.

    82 has clearly bitten on Lievremont's hook!!

  • Comment number 94.

    At the risk of being cynical I suspect that Ashton's agent might have something to do with it. The swallow dive has put him centre stage and an obvious target for advertisers. I bet the agent is instructing him to be even more noticeable if he gets the chance and in his place we would all grab the chance to increase our value and income

  • Comment number 95.

    85 Startledcow

    I think that you're raking up the whole "public school" rugby thing years after most of us thought it was dead and buried. Sure, if you hail from the South East you would likely as not have learned the game at a fee-paying school. All the same, plenty of working class lads come through on the club side (think of Jason Leonard...a real Essex lad). If you come from the Midlands or South West, both rugby strongholds, chances are you would come from a state school background and been introduced into the club sides by your dad. Welsh teams tend to be dominated by working class lads from the former industrial areas (although several of the more vaunted Welsh players were grammar/public schoolboys). Union players in Northern England and Scotland tended to be more "posh". It's mostly a matter of tradition and varies from place to place. It's very simplistic indeed to suggest that Rugby Union players and fans fit some sort of stereotype.

    In a game that is so tough, where you depend so much on the effort of your fellow players around you, worrying about redundant notions of social class seems more like the obsessions of an old-school socialist playwright than someone who has actually "packed-down" in their time!

    The only people who have truly got up my nose over the years were the clowns at Blackheath who, being the oldest club in the country, used to simply chant "TEAM!" to suport their side, rather than the name of the club. We can really do without that.

  • Comment number 96.

    The celebration could be worse........... he could kiss the badge

    Leave him be, he seems sensible enough to understand one dropped ball and whoops !!!!

  • Comment number 97.

    Ashton pulls out of the dive!!! I would direct you to Will Greenwood's article in the Telegraph Sport a couple of weeks ago where he points out, quite rightly, that Ashton doesn't even have the bottle to hang in the air. Instead he chickens out and pulls his legs down to the ground.

    You think its going to be one of those epic celebration moments e.g. Jason Robinson 2003, but no, it turns out to be a damp squib.

  • Comment number 98.

    I don't really see what the fuss is about - let him celebrate! Of course if he drops one it would be hilarious (like that time Will Carling tried to run round under the posts and got carried into the dead ball area). England fans should be less concerned with Chris "Cocky" Ashton swan diving, and more concerned with Dylan "the toaster" Hartley popping up every time the heat goes on in the scrum; if they get a ref who calls it, it could be a long afternoon...

  • Comment number 99.

    On the subject of the behaviour of football players: I reckon it's down to two reasons

    1. When compared to rugby, theres far more money in football. More is at stake for the players and the club in question, hence the heated atmosphere when things don't go your way. (I'm not suggesting football is purely now a money sport here, but it does play a significant role).

    2. Far more bad decisions occur in football matches than in rugby matches. Granted, refereeing of the scrum needs to be sorted out, but aside from that it is rare for an incorrect decision to be made in rugby mainly thanks to the TV referee. Compare this to football where there is no video ref, and it's clear to see why footballers get frustrated when clear decisions don't go the way they should.

    Now this doesn't excuse the behaviour of people like Gattuso post-match as that sort of conduct is disgraceful and should never be accepted in any sporting arena, but these reasons do go some way towards explaining why some players choose to get angry at the referee - often more is at stake financially (and of course for pride) and not only does the referee often make the wrong call, but he has the last say and not as much help as in say, rugby or cricket.

    As to the swallow dive celebration, I think it's great. He's not taunting the opposition, he's celebrating doing what he loves and sharing that with the other England players and the crowd, and contributing to what always is a fantastic atmosphere. Also, I don't think he'll drop it unless someone barges him in the air which is of course illegal. It looks like the sort of thing he'd practice (especially now due to the needless media storm that has been kicked up), and if you look at the positioning of his body, he knows what he's doing. Enjoy it while there is still someone wiling to put on a show, because if he ever drops it he will be in a world of trouble, even if he drops it when the team has a 40 point lead.

    And to those suggesting that rugby players are far too noble to try to wind up other players on the pitch, the teams always give a little chat to one another, it's about trying to get under the other player's skin and affect their decision making. Part of being a good player is being able to rise above it and usually the players seem to forgive each other after the games no matter what goes between them in the match. That, to me, is what sets rugby apart form other sports.

  • Comment number 100.

    Ben - talk about being 2 weeks late. This topic has been done to death across the media already.


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