Robin Scott-Elliot: French hits high notes in quest to save world's most pointless event

View From The Sofa: Rugby League World Cup, BBC1 Saturday

Not since the Zimbabwean election has the world witnessed a more pointless event than the Rugby League World Cup. Hang on, let's try that again: not since the Zimbabwean election has parts of north-west England, bits of Australia, a Scot who got his Perths muddled up, the O'Hanrahans in Toowoomba and 17 drunken Kiwis in the Shepherd's Bush Walkabout who thought they were watching the All Blacks witnessed a more pointless event than the Rugby League World Cup.

"Welcome to the highlights of England against New Zealand," begun Dave Woods, before muttering something about it not actually mattering one jot who won the game as having both lost to Australia and beaten Papua New Guinea they will play in the semi-final next Saturday. And that set the theme.

There are other games in other World Cups that become meaningless, but this competition has elevated it to a new level of pointlessness – weeks working out who will play, and probably get beaten by, the Aussies in the final – so thank the Great Loose Forward in the sky for Ray French.

There are those in rugby league circles who are irritated by French, believing he reinforces a stereotypical image the sport finds difficult to shed. Sod them. French is an enthusiast for a game he loves and his commentary reflects that with more "Ohhs" per minute than a leaky oil tanker.

The Ohhhs were in full flow on Saturday, emerging at a pitch appropriate for the state of play. A fumble around the halfway line brings the "Ohhhh" of a tenor warming up; a missed tackle within range of the posts and it's up to a soprano; a try and dogs start to howl up and down the New South Wales coast. It is not always possible to understand what French is saying, but you appreciate the sentiment. When Rob Burrow broke away to score for England, French was into his stride in a flash: "They won't catch him, his legs are going like clockwork." And time flies when you're having fun. England were 24-8 up with half-an-hour gone and Ray was enjoying himself.

But back came New Zealand as England gifted the giant wing Manu Vatuvei four tries, the Kiwi even finding time to stick his tongue out at the nearest defender in the manner of a cheeky (16st) two-year-old as he completed his hat-trick. Ohhh no, it was all going wrong, and just in case we weren't convinced a replay of an England player yelling "Fuck off" in slow motion as a decision went against them was dropped helpfully in. An apology from the DG and a producer's head on a platter at once, please. But hang on – it doesn't matter. Phew.

"It's been a great World Cup," suggested Woods with admirable optimism as we arrived at the end of the programme having taken in Scotland and Ireland's games. There was a win for a Scottish team that has excited as much interest in Glasgow (that's the second most important place in Scotland, chaps – after Brigadoon) as the Annual Upper Poppleton Morris Dancers "Hankies at Dawn" Dance Off, or AUPMDHADDO for short.

And Ireland have qualified for something, although it is hard to be sure what exactly as this competition is blessed with a bizarre format – perhaps in an attempt to disguise the pointlessness of the whole affair. But then where would you rather while away a couple of winter months? St Helens? Or Townsville, a place so good they named it twice. Is that the point? Does it matter? Ohhhhh knows.

Help is at hand for anguished Dons' fans

You may not be familiar with BBC Alba, the new Gaelic channel, but for the Setanta-less Gael in exile it provides a welcome fix of the SPL. On Saturday nights they show one of the afternoon's games in full and this week my miserable lot (Aberdeen) finally had their moment in the drizzle. As they headed for another defeat a replay revealed a banner in handy view of the despondent away fans – for the Samaritans.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine