England’s roller coaster ride at the World Cup will prompt thousands of budding rugby players, men and women alike, to buy shiny new boots, don their scrum caps and get involved.
Here on The Rugby Blog, we will be following the exploits of one such lady that has dived head first into the mud without a second thought. She prefers to remain anonymous, so we shall just call her Mrs Jonny.
Here is the first hilarious edition of Mrs Jonny’s diary.
As my friends and I nursed our post-world cup final headaches (it wasn’t just Jonny ‘Old Soak’ Wilkinson drowning his sorrows that night), we headed to the park for a little kickabout. Somewhere between the post-party banter, the was it / wasn’t it a try discussions and our mid-morning coffee, I somehow convinced myself, and everyone else, that now – after 28 years and zero experience – was the time for me to learn rugby.
I’m not sure exactly where this sudden urge has come from. I suspect it’s a mix of post-world cup bravado and curiosity, a little feminist why-should-the-boys-have-all-the-fun voice in my head, and the desire to do some winter sport that doesn’t involve poncing about in a gym. Plus plain old stupidity.
To put this in context, (starting with the most obvious), I’m a girl. I had never – until two weeks ago – kicked or passed a rugby ball. I play a little hockey, but have never been that big on team sports (I’m too grumpy and intolerant). I’m not unhealthy, but I’m not exactly at the peak of my fitness either. And, most worryingly for me, while I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as ‘dainty’, I’m hardly one of the scary beefcakes one normally associates with ladies rugby.
And so it was, with some trepidation, that I attended my first training session last night. My boyfriend (who is genuinely concerned for my safety / sanity / femininity) took me to the park last weekend to check I could handle the difficult concept of holding a ball and running with it, but otherwise I had no experience and no idea what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised. The 20 or so other girls there were very friendly and mainly wholesome, outdoorsy types with thick west-country accents and rosy cheeks. I was by no means the smallest or the largest person there. The coach – a gruff ex-military man who clearly loves his little team – made sure the new arrivals (I was one of three!) got stuck in. We spent a couple of hours doing exercises (but no tackling practise, thank god) and – that ubiquitous sports training regime – running through cones.
The most terrifying moment came towards the end of the session when we practised a set piece. The forwards (who apparently don’t seem to mind being described as ‘warthogs’) did a line-out. The scrum half – a gobby little pipsqueak who I bet really pisses off the opposition – picked it up and then passed it along the line of backs until it reached yours truly who was on the far wing.
I knew I then had to run forwards and “dive” to the ground as if I’d been tackled, but what I didn’t realise is that this was so the rest of the team could practise a maul (or is it a ruck?). With me at the bottom. Anyway, from my vast telly-watching experience, I remembered that you can’t keep your hands on the ball once you’re on the ground so, thank god, I let go. By this time, the other 14 girls on the pitch were all charging towards me and pipsqueak was shouting her head off. I was just lying on the ground screaming, at which point the coach came running over, swivelled me round 90 degrees in the mud so everyone else could clamber over me and instructed me to put my hands over my head ‘for protection’. No sh*t!
But I survived, tired and exhilarated, and I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, the team is looking forward to (hopefully) winning its first match of the season this weekend, and the coach is thrilled that the three new players all drink. Perhaps this is my kind of game…