Sue Limb: The Cotswolds are rugby country

I take rugby so seriously, I join in the Haka in front of the TV

I take rugby so seriously, I join in the Haka in front of the TV - Credit: Archant

Sue Limb: Crouch… Touch… Engage! Nowadays girls play international rugby and men assemble amuse-bouches with violently trembling fingers on MasterChef

Owing to the madness of the international rugby union scheduling, I was recently obliged to watch rugby continuously for approximately seven hours. There were only brief intervals for tea, a quick rinse of the eyeballs, and making sure my family hadn’t taken advantage of my distraction to install a proper ‘wife and mother’ behind my back. (I believe you can order them on the internet these days.)

I take rugby so seriously, I join in the Haka in front of the TV. In fact I stuck out my tongue too far last season and wasn’t able to pronounce Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogerych - wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch for a week. I had to hire somebody to pronounce it for me.

I always get embarrassed by the way the home nations just stand with their arms on one another’s shoulders looking sheepishly at the All Blacks while they’re doing their Haka. We really ought to come up with a similar display, but the only British equivalent I can think of is the Hokey-Cokey, which, whilst bracing, is lacking in the primordial aggro required for the situation.

I’ve been a rugby fan ever since I was a small girl, although the word ‘girl’ would have been an insult to me – I wore shorts whenever I could and insisted that my mother call me Norman. I wasn’t a transgender tot, it’s just that the misogyny was so widespread, any girl worth her salt was a tomboy. I could see that the female destiny (making sandwiches) was evidently inferior to the male destiny (watching sport on TV).

Nowadays, of course, girls play international rugby and men assemble amuse-bouches with violently trembling fingers on MasterChef, so things are slowly improving. Rugby has changed too. The forwards are now as massive as German wardrobes, the teams are multiracial, and the best ref, the wonderful Nigel Owens, is openly gay. Nigel is from Carmarthenshire and sounds a bit like Harry Secombe when berating the players. I sometimes wish he would launch into If I Ruled the World at half time.

As a teenager I had a crush on Richard Sharp, a fair-haired, fleet-footed Balliol winger whose jaw was broken on a tour of South Africa, with some assistance from the Springboks. As a result I boycotted Cape Apples long before it became politically necessary.

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Over the years there have been a number of dreamboats. Jean-Pierre Rives springs to mind. He captained France in the 1970s and 1980s and somehow managed to keep his film star looks and long flowing blond hair intact despite being regularly ground into the mud every weekend.

I suppose nowadays Billy Twelvetrees, the Gloucester and England prop, would be the schoolgirls’ choice. I would probably be nurturing a little crush on him myself if I could remember where I’d left my libido.

I am trying to get into football, but compared to the monumental hunks on the rugby pitch, footballers seem weedy and histrionic. And rugby’s mysterious and complicated - I still haven’t the faintest clue what the rules are. I couldn’t tell the difference between a ruck and a maul and the esoteric catalogue of fouls is beyond me – though when a bloke stands on another bloke’s face, that’s a foul, right?

The Cotswolds are rugby country. Minchinhampton even sounds like the sort of injury a guy could get in the scrum. There’s an antique music in the names of the teams: Saracens, Wasps, Harlequins… but the appeal of rugby remains primitive: thirty huge blokes beating the **** out of one another in pursuit of a ball that isn’t even round. Magic!


This article by Sue Limb is from the January 2015 issue of Cotswold Life. For more from Sue, follow her on Twitter.