I seem to be a sucker for punishment. Having volunteered for the London Olympics in 2012 as a Games Maker; when the Rugby Union were advertising for volunteers for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2015 last year, I immediately jumped at the chance.
I have history. I first played rugby at school at the start of a chequered career. I first played Rugby Union at my first Secondary school: Baughurst Secondary Modern, near Tadley in Hampshire. My parents then moved to Yorkshire and I started at Ashfield Secondary Modern in York. The first time I played rugby there it was of course the other discipline: Rugby League, so I had to relearn the game with fewer players, less scrums and only 1 point for a conversion. I managed quite well and got up to ‘boys’ standard and played for York boys and Hull boys. We got hammered and it was my one and only representative match. They were so big and brutal, and by comparison we were so weedy and weak. Still it was an experience. Later I joined the Royal Air Force (my blog passim), and yet again I opted on the first sports afternoon for rugby. The PT (Physical Training) Instructor lined us all up and asked what position we played, I said second row and he divided the teams up according to the positions they said they played with about 20 reserves sitting on the touch-line. The game got under way, and I was tackled. I attempted to get up to play the backwards, a la League, to a hopefully waiting team-mate behind me. To explain, in League if a player is tackled and doesn’t get up he plays the ball back between his legs to a waiting player behind him, unhindered by the opposition. This is called the ‘six tackle’ system. After the sixth such tackle, there is either a scrum down or free kick, although the rules may have changed in the last 48 years so I may have got that wrong. Anyway I was dutifully trying to get up and play the ball between my legs and about 4 big guys from the opposition jumped on me and started a wrestling match to get the ball. This is called a maul and generally the man holding the ball wins it and passes the ball back to a waiting scrum half or whoever. Now these guys started trying to wrestle the ball away from me and I shouted REFEREE! The whistle went and we all stood up. The ref asked me what the matter was and I said I was trying to play the ball back and these hooligans jumped me; they shouldn’t do that. He pulled me to one side and asked me where I played my previous rugby, and I answered Yorkshire. Then he asked the fateful question: How many players were in the teams you played in? Well 13 of course I replied, patiently he asked me to count the players on the field in the same colour shirts. There was 15 a side of course. He said have you played rugby union or rugby league before and I replied I don’t know it’s all rugby to me. He asked to take a break and watch the game and I realised there were differences between the games, besides the number of players. So I played Union from then and had a reasonably successful playing career in the RAF, ending in Germany playing for the station team where I was posted to. I remained a second row, and although I was tall (6′ 2″), I wasn’t very heavy so had to use a lot of muscle power. I think this is what caused me a problem with my back and on one memorable occasion I was stretchered off a match against an army team. I had physio and the doctors said to me I must give up playing rugby because I have a displaced 2 and 3 vertebrae and it could cause permanent damage if a I carried on. I still get twinges in my back so I’m glad I took the decision to quit rugby and never played again from the age of 29. My biggest regret is not being to play at higher levels, but the decision I took was the right one; I wouldn’t like being in wheelchair.
So to the Rugby World Cup which I shall refer to as RWC in this blog so it saves me typing it out all the time. This is what I’ll look like:
There’s a few other bits of kit like a rucksack, water bottle, fleece and a rugby shirt, but I get to keep all the uniform. I am attending two matches so far; 20th September, New Zealand v Argentina and 27th September Ireland v Romania both at Wembley. I’m in the Spectator Services Team which could mean doing anything from directing people from the tube station, manning car parking to showing people to their seats and anything in between. I’ve done two full days of training at Twickenham and at Richmond College and I’m ready as I’ll ever be. So keep an eye for me on ITV who are showing all the matches, and in due course I’ll blog all my activities on RWC 2015. Enjoy the games!