There are only two games left of Rugby World Cup 2011 and it is mandatory for all New Zealanders to watch the game and pretend they understand it. There are commentators on the telly who are there to explain things, but unfortunately they seem to speak a language all of their own. To be fair, it must be difficult recognising which player has the ball when they’re all wearing the same uniform, while simultaneously trying to find a way to slip an anecdote of your own playing days in, but our commentators manage to do this AND create new ways to put words together at the same time!
In case you’re not sure what the heck they’re trying to say, here are some translations of common rugby terms and phrases. Note – the most important thing is not to take phrases like ‘coughed the ball’ too literally.
Ruck – When players use their boots to try to get the ball away from other players. If players get too enthusiastic about this, it can result on unsightly scabs.
Taken out – When a player’s ability to be part of the game is compromised by an injury inducing tackle or occasionally a gammy knee, or a players lack of co-ordination. Often, the player causing the injury is completely within the rules, or can get away without being cited because, as we all know, referees are blind/biased/out of their depth.
Sin-bin – This is where players have to go for 10 minutes when they are given a yellow card by the referee for a serious infringement of the rules. This leaves their team a player down, giving the opposition an opportunity to score. As far as I can tell, there is no actual bin that player have to go it. If there was a nasty, smelly skip that players had to spend 10 minutes in, I’m confident that the number of players behaving badly would significantly decrease.
Drop-kick – While this term is used to describe a friend’s ex in a derogatory way, in rugby the drop-kick is something different altogether – it’s a way to score points for your team! Let’s be honest, the drop-kick seems to be a poor substitute for the good old five-point try (with the possibility of a two-point conversion), in fact, it could be said that it just feels wrong! That said, in 2003 the drop-kick became more widely accepted by the ladies when the then remarkably attractive Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to victory over the Wallabies. There have been lots of attempts this RWC to be the king of the drop-kick, with the worst attempt to be Jonny Wilkinson 2003 by Jonny Wilkinson 2011.
Hospital pass – When player A passes the ball to player B and player B has no options except to try to land in a way that will break the least bones.
Nice hands – Something commentators say about a player who is good at throwing the ball, catching the ball, or running with the ball without dropping it.
The top two inches – To you, the beginning rugby fan, it probably seems like rugby is all about running with the ball and trying to get it over the line. You’d be wrong. As commentators are wont to say, especially after a team loses, rugby is all about ‘the top two inches’ – in other words, it’s a mental game, it’s all about ‘mental toughness’ – the ability to think about nothing but strategy, victory and how to overcome the enemy, ahem, opposition. NB. When a player has an afro, it is permissible to change to the top five inches, depending on the size of the fro.
Attacking rugby – When a team is spending the game trying to get the ball over the line to get points. Unlike the rest of the time when they are presumably not trying to score at all.
Bomb – high kicks, no not the type that Can Can dancers do. I might be oversimplifying things, but who cares.
Ping – When the referee penalises a player. A word that’s more fun to say than whistle or penalty. Ping! Ping!
Coughed the ball – when a player involuntarily lets go of the ball, usually a knock on while running with the ball. To experience this, hold on to a cushion and run from one end of a corridor to the other. Get someone to grab you half way down. The motion of you letting go of the cushion, is the ‘cough’.
Engine room – the two locks, numbers 4 & 5. They’re huge, they’re strong, they might have cauliflower ears and they’re the ones who ‘drive’ the scrum forward. The only locks you need to care about our Anthony Boric, Brad Thorn, Samuel Whitelock and Ali Williams, who are a combined height of eight metres. Brad Thorn is the little one at 1.96m.
Goose step – a bit of a knee in the air move designed to confuse the opposition before you suddenly change speed or take off in another direction. At his best Joe Rokocoko used to do this brilliantly.
Got all the skills – similar to a triple threat in musical theatre (can sing, dance AND act), a player who has ‘got all the skills’ can kick, pass, run… and presumably remember the rules of the game. Probably helpful at this level of the game.
High shot – Tackling someone above the shoulders – usually a sign of thoroughly bad sportsmanship, unless it’s your own team and then it is the result of too much speed and unfortunate timing.
Niggle – Usually a minor injury that causes discomfort to a player, but not enough to take them off the field, such as Buck Shelford’s infamous injury to his… shall we say, manly, parts.
Hitting their straps – An overused phrase, originally from horse racing, used to describe a team who are beginning to play extremely well together. This is similar to ‘playing out of their skins’.
Playing like a young… - Used sparingly, this phrase is a compliment to a rising star and help the audience understand what the player has to offer. It’s can also be used by commentators to remind fans that they have a vast store of knowledge about all the history of the sport or to cover a lack of knowledge about the career and playing style of some of the current players.
Back to basics – A phrase used when a player or team has tried something innovative which failed to succeed. This is when teams focus once more on running, kicking, passing and holding on to the ball.
Rugby bingo can be played while watching a game on TV and is a good way to while away the time during less than exciting games. Simply create a list of rugby clichés and distribute amongst your group. Each player marks off the phrases as they’re said by the commentators and player marks them all off first wins. You can tweak the rules to make your own version of the game – perhaps counting the times a particular commentator says a certain phrase. There should be statistics websites measuring these important things.