Matt Butler: Forget the jingoistic battle cries boys, it's only a game

View From The Sofa: Six Nations Rugby, BBC1

Robert Kabbas, the 1984 Olympic weightlifting silver medallist from Australia, used to train with Australian Rules players. Such as weightlifting was in his home town of Melbourne, it was more cost-effective to share resources.

And Kabbas and the other lifters would tell the egg-chasing contingent that he was training for a sport, as opposed to a game. "We don't 'play' weightlifting," he used to tell them. "You guys play footy – that is just a game, not a sport."

Those sentiments came to mind in the build-up to the Six Nations decider between England and Wales. Except that a parade of po-faced presenters and former players such as Lawrence Dallaglio and Brian Moore were not dismissing the match as only a game; rather, they were raising it up to be so much more.

The Marilyn Manson-style music, pyrotechnics and super-amplified crunches of bodies that served as the introduction to the BBC coverage was fair enough. After all, few of us want to go back to the days of buttoned-down presenters using received pronunciation telling us, ladies and gentlemen, to please take your seats, thank you very kindly.

But after Sonja McLaughlan's pre-match interviews with Stuart Lancaster, the head coach, and fly-half Owen Farrell, things began to get a little overblown. First, McLaughlan stood in the Millennium Stadium tunnel talking about Chris Robshaw and Gethin Jenkins "leading the troops into battle".

Then Dallaglio entered, a man who is no stranger to injecting a little drama into statements when he feels like it. "Francis Bacon," he said with faux gravitas, while standing stony-faced in front of one of the artist's paintings. "The Three Ages of Man. Is it about six, seven and eight? Or is it about eight, seven and six? The outcome of this battle will go a long, long way to determining the outcome of the match."

He was of course talking about the flankers on each side, Robshaw of England and Wales' Sam Warburton – a man who, according to Dallaglio, is "the spiritual leader of this side". Please. Give us strength.

Moore, standing pitchside, wasn't much more sensible, as he spoke as if he was leading a battalion for the big push, talking about concentrating on "what they have to do and nothing else".

Thankfully, the match was so breathless that the half and full-time pundits did not need to embellish the action with any more jingoistic references to war.

And equally welcome was Jonathan Davies, the only pundit who appeared to be enjoying himself – even before Wales posted their record win over England. Before the match he pooh-poohed the host John Inverdale's hyperbole-laden questions concerning "the occasion" with: "I am just fascinated about the game. I am hoping people talk about that, rather than the occasion."

And afterwards, with a justifiable grin like a Cheshire cat, Davies (pictured) refused to rub English noses in it. He was just overcome with the joy that his team had won.

"The occasion was wonderful, the game was fantastic," he said. And with those words, he summed up the match far better than Inverdale, Clive Woodward or Jeremy Guscott, the other pundits standing pitchside.

And quite right too. Because as Kabbas would tell everyone: It's only a game, boys. It's only a game.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy