Right, a new category for this blog - sport. I tend, not surprisingly, to collect images that use sand in any way, and the picture above comes from an advertising campaign last summer by the major sponsor of the English Rugby team. The campaign was designed to promote interest in the game amongst the country's youth by setting up beach festivals where England players would show up, sometimes in exotic costumes. The campaign culminated on an urban beach in London. Now, given that English rugby had just suffered a series of humiliating defeats in the southern hemisphere over the summer, it struck me that an image of the sport based on sand, not the most tough or durable construction, might stand me in good stead for the winter internationals (although, of course, I hoped not). After further defeats and endless hand-wrung column inches in the press, and accusations flung around about the ability of the new coach and manager to coach and manage, we came down to yesterday's match, always one of the high profile and emotional conflicts, England versus France. Aha, I thought, time for the resonance of my sand image. And I'm in France right now, so, for a match billed in advance as "le crunch," I was prepared for putting up with the far-from-impartial enthusiasm of the French TV commentators, the triumphant headlines in today's newspapers.
BUT, in an extraordinary game, England not only won, but, to put it bluntly, thrashed the French (they were leading 29-0 at half time). The headline in the sporting press is shown below. In other reports "le crunch" became "le crash," and humiliation was a commonly used word. So, it was just a game, and does not necessarily signal the renaissance of English rugby - but what a game!
I should mention, for American readers, that yes, rugby is peculiar in some ways (being required to throw the ball backwards does not make immediate sense), but it is a great sport. I am, after all the years I spent in the States, a fan of American football (should I admit, the Philadelphia Eagles?), but I remain an ex-rugby player at heart; and you could watch two rugby matches in the time it takes to get through one NFL game.
And one more connection between rugby and sand. Points can be scored by kicking the ball between the posts, the ball being placed these days in a kicking "tee." But it was not that long ago that the ball would be set up for the kick by an assistant running on to the pitch with a bucket of sand, out of which the kicker would build a small pile into which he would carefully embed the ball.