Spectator sport

What the Premier League could learn from ski racers

15 February 2020

9:00 AM

15 February 2020

9:00 AM

What we have learned in the past few weeks:

1) Don’t play rugby in a howling gale, even though for the Scots that was a balmy early spring day and they really should have beaten England — who, whisper it, are beginning to have a scrum-half problem. Dare we say that Willi Heinz needs more variety to his game? Not 57 different ones, but more breaks and switching direction of play would be welcome. Though I imagine he has heard that gag before.

2) England should scour inner-city schools for raw rugby talent. Ellis Genge, a star of last Saturday’s game, was raised on a Bristol housing estate and has a similar background to Kyle Sinckler, his fellow denizen of the front row. Genge’s put-down of England’s detractors — ‘You have a lot of sausages saying whatever comes into their heads’ — was, with his try, the silver lining to the angry clouds scudding across the Edinburgh sky.

3) Nicola Sturgeon should forget about Brexit and independence for the moment and turn her attention to the more pressing issue of reuniting Finn Russell and Gregor Townsend. From afar, they look like two good blokes who should have a drink together (though something soft might be wise).

4) Have France changed all that much? After the first half against England, it looked as though they had. But there have been two second halves since then, and they have been unconvincing in both, especially against Italy. They should still
win the Six Nations, but not without losing one game.

5) Set, set and set yet again. How long was the clock actually running in the Ireland/Wales game while the two packs were setting for the scrums and generally arsing about? The amount of time the forwards wasted on absurd paramilitary jostling must have been getting on for eight minutes. That’s 10 per cent of the game wasted. And that’s cheating the public out of a significant portion of the action. Why don’t we stop the clock the moment the ref blows for a scrum and only start it when, miracle of miracles, the ball actually arrives in the scrum?

6) A lesson for the Premier League. The Hahnenkamm downhill race the other day on the fearsomely precipitous Streif course at Kitzbühel — where ski racers can reach almost 90 mph — was won by Matthias Mayer of Austria. There were some horrific crashes which could only be watched through your fingers. Not for the first time, I thought the pitiful, injury-feigning, ground-thumping, face-clutching, play-acting practitioners of the Premier League should be forced to watch this test of supreme courage and commitment. The racers’ only concern after a crash, battered, bruised and ligament-impaired as they may be, is to get to their feet as quickly as possible and wave a ski pole to the TV cameras and crowd to assure them they are OK. Are there any braver competitors in modern sport than downhill racers?

7) Love can be culturally complicated. Watford’s new Brazilian wunderkind, João Pedro, has been enthusiastically romancing his 15-year-old Brazilian soap starlet girlfriend, unaware that the, er, age of consent here is 16 as opposed to 14 in Brazil. She has gone back to Brazil and will not return to the UK until she’s 16. Awkward.

8) Genius and legend he may be, but it’s increasingly easy to distinguish between Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and a warm summer morning. The old boy has moved effortlessly from moaning about fixture congestion to bellyaching about his players’ lack of match fitness after Storm Ciara led to his game against West Ham being postponed. At what point does rest stop being a good thing and start ruining our lives? Nobody ever says./>

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