Without a doubt the question that I am asked the most is 'Why are you so into rugby?' Generally the look on the person's face when they ask it is one of skeptical intrigue; in their minds they already know the answer and the next phrase often confirms this. 'It is because of the men isn't it!?' My response to them is always calm and measured in spite of feeling irate inside; yes there are attractive men that play rugby and yes I have eyes however my reasons for being 'so into' rugby go well beyond that.
Rugby unites people; it brings together people from all parts of the country and world and crucially it brings together 'my kind' of people. Segregation, abuse and loutish behaviour have no place in the sport and to a man or lady every single fan embodies the values of the game. These core values are respect, discipline, enjoyment and sportsmanship. Fans are gracious in defeat and I believe that the camaraderie between fiercely loyal fans of differing of clubs and countries is not replicated in any other sport. Since a young age I've always been happy to take that one solo seat a few blocks away from my friends/family and I have always met great people doing so. I did so at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff last year when England were pummeled by the Welsh during the RBS 6 Nations decider and instead of being ridiculed or mocked by the Welsh fans around me they bought me consolation drinks and handed them over with a smile. Rugby fans are welcoming and above all respectful, to one another, to their team, the opposition and to the officials. The people that watch, play, officiate and work in rugby are my kind of people and their presence is a huge part of my love for the sport.
The statement that 'Rugby is a thugs' game played by gentlemen' rings true and the phrase showcases the second reason for being 'so into' the sport; good old fashioned excitement! Over the course of 80 minutes, or 100 at the recent Aviva Premiership Final, there are rarely any dull moments; huge collisions, eye-watering feat, fierce rivalries and deft skills means that if you switch off for a second during a match you'll miss something. Of course sometimes there are sections of the game for the purists; 15 minutes scrummaging at Bath a few months ago pushed even my limits however those moments are the exception and not the rule. As the game continues to evolve and players are developing both physically and in terms of their skill levels and this will only add to what is already a hugely exciting game to watch.
Rugby is a physically dangerous sport, on a weekly and even daily basis players put their bodies and indeed lives on the line. Every single time a player steps onto the pitch, or goes into a tackle head first they are risking themselves, they know that if something goes wrong the permutations can be life altering and yet they play the game with unrelenting physicality regardless. Rugby players are hardy and brave individuals that put themselves through hell to entertain us as spectators and I have a huge respect for every single person that plays the game. Two individuals that epitomise the true spirit of rugby players are Matt Hampson and Henry Fraser, both were passionate lovers and players of this great game and both now are physically less able than they used to be. Their bravery, unrelenting positivity and passion epitomises the type of individual that partakes in the game of rugby and they alongside the players of the game today inspire us all. Not all rugby players are saints however all have a strong moral grounding that comes from playing a sport that is steeped in tradition and unquestionably strong values.
So to answer the question posed I do not write about or love the game purely for the men, I'm passionate about rugby due to its values, the inspirational individuals that play the game and its ability to unite people. I sincerely hope that next time anyone wonders why a young woman loves a 'man's game' they will stop and think beyond the stereotype.