David Flatman: 'Whooping' can turn out to be a whopping great mistake

From the Front Row

Whether we are in the office, on the roads, down the corner shop or at home with the in-laws, there is a code. This code is basically a system of behavioural boundaries that, when obeyed, help maintain decorum and facilitate the polite, unabrasive ticking along of life. Now and then – as a result of being human – somebody oversteps a mark and, until the episode is acknowledged and corrected, calm is lost.

It will come as no surprise to learn that rugby, too, has its codes. I'm not talking about the official ones here, more the unspoken, time-honoured ones. Call me biased, but I've always thought that the prop forward shoulders a lot of responsibility in this area, and this is why it disappoints me so much whenever I see one letting the side down.

You see, as a front-row forward, one is only ever one scrummage away from being physically and publicly humbled; this is why none should ever celebrate too aggressively a powerful surge or favourable decision from a referee. Put simply, gob off too much and all you do is pump motivational fuel into the veins of the man on the other side, making yourself look less of a gentleman all the while.

No, a dominant scrummage or awarded penalty should be met with as little facial expression as possible, as much through sporting respect as through the desire not to damage your own reputation.

How many times have we seen a prop win a decision and mark the occasion with a self-promoting shriek, maybe a fist pump and, if things have really gone south, a patronising head-tap for his opposite number? And how many times have we seen the same man have his head inserted into his backside minutes later? I watch this stuff closely, and it happens an awful lot.

The bad news is the rotis spreading. Once the cauliflower-eared arbiters start misbehaving, the masses will follow. This is perhaps the only sense in which a prop forward could ever be labelled a trendsetter. Sadly, a new phenomenon has crept loudly into our game: whooping. Before I lambast those I regard as offenders, allow me to demonstrate some self-awareness; I am a grumpy old git and I know I am. I am also, some might argue, incapable of doing anything remotely whoop-worthy on the field. So those who dismiss my views as those of an under-talented dinosaur might well have a point.

I am not, however, one of those bitter old goats on the wrong side of 30 who hate the new generation, regardless of how they play and behave. There are some brilliant blokes who fit squarely into what I would call the new generation. Every time I meet these guys I observe that, despite being massively talented and having achieved huge things while so young, they remain humble and real. They get it. But there are also a number of players in England who, for some reason, feel it is acceptable to jeer, mock and abuse their opponents during a game. These players are not all kids, there are grown-ups doing it, too.

Not for one second do I think we should all play in silence, nor would it be possible never to utter a word to an opposing player. But verbal pressure at the line-out or the odd "take that, sunshine" is vastly different to the – dare I say it – Americanised whooping, back-slapping, head-tapping and self-congratulatory affirmations that we are used to seeing in the NFL.

In my view – and it is only my view – this is not what our game is about. I always loved watching Sean Fitzpatrick play, partly because he was so good, but also because – I always noticed – he wore the same mask whether he won or lost. He never gloated, patronised or taunted his adversaries, knowing this would only rile them and knowing, invariably, it's the noisy, cocksure ones who are the least threatening in battle.

It would be silly for me, sitting in this privileged position, to arrogantly assume moral superiority through words and to pour scorn on all those who fail to live up to the behavioural standards my father imbued in me. But, in fact, were I to put together a list of 10 rugby "do nots", there is a decent chance I would be guilty of having done eight or nine of them. This, whether we like it or not, is life in the front row.

One thing I hope I have never done, however, is openly disrespect the bloke opposite me who is giving everything for his team. And this doesn't just go for fellow prop forwards; it goes for all players. Sure, I've celebrated victories, be they big or small, as they happened, but there isa big difference between cheering with your buddies and projecting your celebrations on to your momentarily overpowered opponents.

In essence this is when pride becomes boastfulness. And we don't boast, or at least we shouldn't. Get your head down, do your job, take the win and have a good old sing-song in the bath afterwards. Crikey, I am getting old.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen