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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot