Rugby is a gentleman’s sport and to succeed in it, you need to have your wits about you


Much of New Zealand’s success comes from their ability to stay disciplined, as exhibited here by Ma’a Nonu (with the ball).

LAST weekend the Rugby World Cup (RWC) came to an end. I feel that this has been the best RWC tournament ever – not just because Japan did very well and almost made the final eight but also mainly because many nations have improved.

Rugby has always been known as a brute sport played by gentlemen and many people find that hard to comprehend. I don’t blame them because to a non-rugby person, the sport is about two fifteen-man sides tackling each other like gladiators in a ring.

Why rugby is a gentleman’s sport is because one of the most important skills that you need to succeed here is discipline.

A player is not allowed to talk back to the referee.

If he does, the referee can or probably will punish his team further. My most vivid memory of this behaviour was when Australia was playing South Africa in a Tri-Nations match. Australia won a penalty and their captain, George Gregan, went up to the referee to try and get some of the opposing players sent off.

George was known for being a loud mouth and when he yapped in the referee’s ear, the ref just blew his whistle, said, “Enough”, and reversed the penalty.

The sport also has many laws. Many non-rugby fans are always asking me, “Why is the referee always blowing his whistle?” The answer is simple – because the players are breaking the laws and are not following the rules. The most common fault that players commit is not releasing the ball when they have been tackled. There are many more laws and rules, and that is why rugby fans always say that the sport is a thinking man’s game.

To me, rugby is like working in a big company.

You can only make mistakes if you do not follow the rules.

During the Rugby World Cup final last weekend, the All Blacks had a 16-3 half-time lead. I remember tweeting, “Discipline will be the key in the second-half.”

Not long after the second half started, New Zealand had a player sent to the sin-bin (10 minute send-off, yellow card). Australia immediately took advantage and hit back with two tries.

The player sent off was Ben Smith. He could have been given a red card and not allowed to take any further part in the match.

But the ref reviewed the footage on the big screen and rightfully gave him only a yellow card.

When Smith made the tackle, he knew he had made a mistake and straightaway put his hands up to acknowledge he had done something wrong.

To me, that is also what discipline is all about – knowing when to admit you got it wrong.

In 2007, when France knocked New Zealand (NZ) out of the World Cup, discipline was a key factor. In that match, NZ also had a man sent off which allowed France to claw their way back into the game.

The referees, or men with the whistle as they are more famously known, are sticklers for discipline and law and order. If they see a player who is constantly not following the rules, they will reach for the yellow card in their pockets.

That is why many coaches are always incorporating discipline education in their training sessions.

Australia were quite disciplined when they took on the All Blacks last Saturday, but they were beaten because they were simply not good enough.

They lost to what many consider to be the best rugby team ever assembled.

It’s been an exciting six weeks of Rugby and what a shame it all had to come to an end. For many mums and dads out there who are trying to encourage their children to play sport, get them to play rugby. They will get fit and strong, learn how to work within a team, and respect the laws of life.

Former rugby coach, Sean Burke, once said to me: “Rugby is not about being the best. The sport is about courage and effort. So all you need to do is give it a try.”

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate World Champions New Zealand on their outstanding victory over the weekend. They are fantastic ambassadors of the sport on and off the field, and long may their traditions continue.

Ben Ibrahim is a TV host-anchor with Foxsports Asia. He is also a coach and former rugby referee. He has just started a new blog www.talking2giants.com – about sports, entrepreneurship and leadership.

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