Short of cutting off their heads ...

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The Independent Online
Those of you who have no interest in sport - that is to say, the vast majority - may have noticed that there is something called the Rugby World Cup going on in South Africa, and you may have assumed, because you know no better, that it is just another World Cup, another increasingly strident knock-out competition which goes on until someone wins, at which point it all becomes strangely quiet and everyone goes away as invisibly as snooker players, as if nothing had happened, which of course it hadn't.

You may also have noticed that although it is called the World Cup, most nations of the world are not represented, because most nations in the world do not play the game.

You may even have noticed that the game itself is a peculiarly formulated one, involving some periods of beautiful athletic play (2 per cent) alternating with periods of grown men scuffling on the ground like pigs in a sty (60 per cent) and other periods of an official blowing his whistle to stop the play for offences which no one on the ground can understand and, even if they do, which no one thinks should be penalised (38 per cent).

In any case, you know there is another game called rugby league which is often faster and better than rugby union.

You may therefore have decided to ignore the Rugby World Cup in South Africa. If so, you will have failed to notice a significant development in the coverage of sport.

This has taken place in the commercials which have been attracted to ITV by the rugby. There is a kind of beer (can't remember which) which throws at you film of past rugby stars scoring tries and then challenges you to identify the player. They conceal the identity of the player by that television trick which turns his face into a sort of shimmering mosaic pattern, all little squares, but does not affect the rest of the picture, like the process they reserve on the news for the faces of rape victims or prostitutes who do not want to be recognised.

After a decent pause for other ads, the beer (still can't remember which) comes back again and shows the true identity of the player by showing the film again without the little moving mosaic shapes across his face, and we say: "Of course! it was Ross Moriarty scoring that sensational overhead try in 1954."

I do not know what this process is called, but it is damned ingenious and I wish there were more uses for it.

In fact, there are other uses for it: for example, to disguise the identity of some of the players now out in South Africa.

England is one of the nations playing in the tournament, and although non-sports lovers may be disappointed to hear that England has no chance of winning the tournament, our lads are expected at least to be able to beat the minnows, such as Italy and Argentina. In the one match they have played so far, against Argentina, they only just managed to beat them.

There were, indeed, many English players who should have blushed for shame at the way they played. Many might have preferred to play incognito. And we now know that it is possible to appear incognito on television, thanks to this new wobbly-mosaic-hiding-the-identity technique. Why not let rugby players have the option, if they are playing like two-legged prunes, of concealing their identity by asking for their faces to be blanked out through the game? If criminals and prostitutes and bank fraudsters and convicted MPs are granted the privilege of having their faces turned into a jigsaw puzzle, how much more so some of the England rugby team?

In fact, I can think of other members of the British population whose faces might with advantage be compulsorily turned into moving jigsaw puzzles whenever they turn up on TV. I append a short list of suggestions for your consideration:

1. All MPs in a parliamentary session within 10 paces of the current Speaker.

2. All people at by-election result announcements who are not candidates.

3. And the candidates as well.

4. All guests on chat shows who have done their bit of chat but who are now sitting silent and gormless on the sofa while the new arrival spouts.

5. David Mellor.

6. Salman Rushdie, spotted in football crowd scenes.

7. Anyone seen in the company of the Royal Family who is not meant to be there.

8. Anyone in the Royal Family who does not want to be there.

9. Anyone in a sports crowd who waves at the camera.

10. Relations and girlfriends and boyfriends of Wimbledon players, so the commentator cannot say: "Oh, I think Agassi's mum really enjoyed that shot!" in the hope that the camera will cut to the offending parent sitting there grinning inanely.

Any other suggestions for instant anonymity?

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