x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Rugby is a laughing stock now

Fellow football fans, grab some paper and write down the following three names - Tom Williams, Steph Brennan, Dean Richards.

Fellow football fans, grab some paper and write down the following three names - Tom Williams, Steph Brennan, Dean Richards. Now store that paper in your wallet and produce it with a flourish whenever some tiresome rugby bore starts droning on about "soccer" being full of divers, cheats and wimps who go to ground at the slightest suggestion of a mistimed tackle or stray elbow. Football is, of course, full of divers, cheats and wimps - but we do not want to start admitting that to rugby bores, do we? Not when it is far more fun to remind them of the three "Bloodgate" miscreants.

Williams was the Harlequins player who - it was proven last week - faked injury during a match by popping a blood capsule into his mouth. Brennan was the team physio who colluded in the deception. And Richards was the Harlequins chief who claims he was following other clubs' lead. Who would have thought it? Big, tough rugby players sneaking into their local joke shop to stock up for some pre-meditated cheating.

But come on, gents (well, they do say rugby union is a gentleman's sport), why stop at blood capsules? There are plenty more tricks available - and all at pocket money prices. Surely a severed rubber finger could be used to get an opponent sin-binned? Or plastic dog dirt laid on the pitch to get a scrum moved forward? Itching powder down your opposite man's shirt during a line out, perhaps? Or just go for broke. I would like to see a player emerge from a maul, staggering around in mock agony while wearing one of those plastic arrow-through-the-head novelties.

At best, he may get a penalty try awarded. At worst....well, he could not make rugby any more of a laughing stock than it is right now. Will Batchelor is a writer, broadcaster and self-confessed cynical sports fan @Email:sports@thenational.ae