If you’re anything like me, you may have about as much interest in rugby as you do in Marty Whelan’s new hair transplant. Unfortunately, there are going to be several moments in your life when you are going to have to pretend to appreciate the sport.
A modest knowledge of rugby can come in handy for situations like: charming that beaut in Coppers after a successful Six Nations match; having painfully awkward chats with your boss before work; trying to impress the other half’s rugby-obsessed parents or endure a lazy Sunday spent with them watching Leinster throttle Toulouse without falling asleep.
Unfortunately for me, my job involves a lot of serving pints to rugby fans, and my go-to reply of “yeah it’d be nice if Dublin wins alright” to their cryptic commentary at the bar often fell short and resulted in the same expression they would have if I had spat in their Guinness. (Also important message for all of my fellow rugby fan imposters: stop relying on name-dropping Ronan O’Gara. He now seems to wear a suit and sit in that box room with the bald guy and talk about champagne a lot.)
So, in my years of being surrounded by a sport I will never understand and a fleeting interest that makes me only barely appreciate running into Brian O’Driscoll on my way to the staff toilets, what have I learned?
The basics: Ireland are great, New Zealand are better, but never admit that or they’ll be onto you right away.
The main idea seems to be to have massive thighs and to try get the ball over the line without being thrown to the ground in a compromising position so that you can get a try (five points) and then kick the ball a ridiculously far distance (a conversion). If you do this without hitting the big metal bar or making the crowd boo, it’ll be two points.
A drop goal (kind of like a rogue kick that comes out of nowhere with no sneaking over the line like a ballet dancer on steroids) is worth three points, as is a penalty kick.
Kind of confusing right? You can see why this level of knowledge has taken me years to gather.
When they’re not playing on the Irish team, most of the players either play for Leinster or Munster or spend the majority of their time parking their jeeps outside the Shelbourne. Also, if you’re used to watching penalty-desperate football players-these guys do not mess around. Those funny hats they wear? It’s to protect their ears from being PULLED OFF by their team mates’ aforementioned massive thighs. Also, don’t pass comment on how fashionable the ones that look like faux-leopard print are; your comment will not be taken seriously.
And if all else fails, reel off these classic gems as you deem appropriate, you’ll eventually get the knack: “Ah, rugby truly is a game of inches."/“It’s all down to the bounce of the ball-that's the beauty of rugby.”/ “God, that was some line out, did you see that scrum?” And with that information lads and lassies, go conquer. Or at least try to get caught up in the conversion to rugby fandom. (I’m sorry; I’m never going to know enough to take this seriously, BOD and co. please forgive my well-intended ignorance.)
Follow Hannah on Twitter: @bananapop2.