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Will Greenwood on Rugby Kindle Edition
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Greenwood adheres to the outdated philosophy of 'no pain, no gain' which, while it is applicable in some sports, is simply nonsense when applied to rugby (or boxing) where the objective is physical domination. Pain in athletics is training for races, pain in rugby is being in a contest. It's taken far too long for the rugby authorities to acknowledge the seriousness of concussion on the human brain. Assuming, of course, that rugby players are human. Greenwood's assessment of players never venture beyond those he played with and against. He heaps praise on Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll and Richard Hill, although one suspects the latter is because Hill was one of Woodward's favourite players. Many would argue that Mike Gibson was a better centre and certainly more versatile than O'Driscoll while the late Jack Kyle is held in even higher esteem in Ireland.
One wonders how he can say that Lawrence Dallaglio, who lost the England captaincy as a result of a drugs scandal, demands respect.Maybe as a player but in choosing Dallaglio, Greenwood shows he is unable to think outside the box. He praises Jonny Wilkinson for his perfectionism although Wilkinson missed four drop goals in the 2003 World Cup final before slotting over the winning points. Like all fanatics Wilkinson found it difficult to adapt to life after sport and Greenwood's belief that Wilkinson was 'a crackpot' is perhaps his most accurate observation. He is scathing of Chris Ashton who he described as a 'diving coward'. He does refer to other sportsmen such as Darren Clarke, Colin Mongomerie, Phil Taylor and Mary King but gives the impression of trying to be an amateur psychologist and comes over as an amateur writer.
Greenwood mentions the places he's been able to visit as a rugby player, Dubai and Bulgaria. He believes rugby broadens the mind, although swearing and boozing can occur anywhere and is not confined to sport. He seems not to realise that the human condition is universal, not specific to sport. His missives are far from new for anyone involved in sport at whatever level whether in an individual or a team sport. Sport is five per cent fitness and ninety-five per cent in the mind. It seems rugby players, like their soccer counterparts, are more dense than most although in ruby, at least, they don't argue with the referee.
Greenwood recognises that rugby has changed from when he first started playing. It was more about friendship than science. It's now a way of life and a full-time profession. Greenwood does not have a problem with modern rugby but is concerned that younger players may be missing out of a fuller life. In Greenwood's time the gap between Rugby Union and Rugby League closed although there are still people in Union who regard themselves as superior beings, socially as much as psychologically. Greenwood recognised that disharmony between club and country is at the heart of the Union game, although lack of leadership and internal politics are also major factors.
He also recognises that scrums are killing the game with twenty per cent of all matches taken up by endless resets, collapses, standing up, falling over and general messing about. In addition, Union players cheat. When a sin bin has awarded scrums will often collapse a couple of times in order to waste two minutes of the sin bin time. Greenwood argues that rugby league scrums, 'damages their reputation and brings smirks of derision from union purists'. Yet one doesn't have to be a rugby league fan, however, to welcome the speed with which games are re-started as opposed to Union's failure to deal with the problem of boring, boring, time-wasting scrums. Defences dominate Union and the game has become unwatchable on occasions.
Greenwood argues that there has been an over-reliance on the physical side of rugby at the expense of the brain. Eddie Jones, who has recently been appointed the England coach, spoke of northern hemisphere rugby becoming 'stodgy'. He showed what he meant by revitalising South Africa and Japan. Greenwood was looking forward to the 2015 World Cup in England and one can only assume he was disappointed by England's elimination at the group stage. Those of us who are neutral observers of the game were not surprised given the fact that the press over-hyped England's chances in the first place. Neither was it down to Stuart Lancaster, his coaching staff or Sam Burgess. England aren't good enough to compete against the best and those who run the game are too myopic to recognise their contribution to the team's decline. Whether Eddie Jones can revitalise England is moot.
This is the worst sports book this reviewer has had the misfortune to read since falling asleep while scouring Sammi Hypia's autobiography. Although tempted to give it one star there is sufficient genuine human interest in it to upgrade it to two, although, even if armed with a penny, this reviewer would not feel inclined to purchase or recommend it under any circumstances.