Much was made of referee Nigel Owens’ put-down of Scotland’s Stuart Hogg, who had attempted to win a penalty by diving during his side’s Pool B defeat to South Africa at Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park. Owens reportedly said “If you want to dive like that again, come back here in two weeks and play.” My, how we laughed….
And on the eve of the rugby World Cup John Jeffrey, the chairman of the World Rugby match officials selection committee, reportedly told referees to crack down on what he called “football culture, of simulation, players appealing to the referee,” and horror of horrors, “diving.”
The phrase bandied about by the egg-shaped ball fraternity is usually “we mustn’t become like football.” But if people are throwing themselves over and disrespecting referees in rugby union the blame can hardly be laid at football’s door. To think a player at Saracens or Wasps watches Manchester United’s Ashley Young impersonate a sniper victim and then copies the crime in the Premiership is just plain daft.
To quote Christian Day, chairman of the Rugby Players’ Association “The game is becoming more and more professional, and more and more competitive and professional people will always look for the edge.” Rugby is not copying football. It is reading from the script that says: the bigger the rewards, the lower people will stoop to grab them.
After their humiliation at the World Cup (something rugby and football have in common lest we forget) the RFU have finally got round to sacking their coach, and are apparently prepared to spend whatever it takes on the best man. This is what humiliating defeat does to governing bodies blowing in the gale –force of media and public opinion. And here rugby is aping their football counterparts at the F.A.
They have had a zig-zag approach to coach recruitment for years, careering this way and that, not just changing managers but disowning any philosophy in the bruising aftermath of tournament failure.When home-grown did not work millions were thrown at Fabio Capello.
English football has tried to buy itself out of a pickle and now it appears the RFU will send out their head hunters abroad for the first time, armed with a big cheque book. For the RFU, as it has been with the F.A. for years, it is an admission of defeat. Though as rugby looks at a foreign coach perhaps there is a bigger question, again for both sports. Why do other countries so rarely want our coaches, at club or international level? Anyone for the Stuart Lancaster/David Moyes dream team?