The best of tries, the worst of tries – World Cup Week One

Jack May 25 September 2015

The last thing anyone needs in their first term at Cambridge is yet another time sink. The classic adage of picking two from enough sleep, decent grades, and anything resembling a social life can at times seem hopelessly optimistic.

With this in mind, the opening match of the Rugby World Cup should be greeted with genuine trepidation by the class of 2015, because for the next six weeks, to the above trifecta another option must be added: watching the rugby. England, presented with the opportunity to get it done on a rainy night in west London by offering up ‘one for the purists’ (also known as those who view exciting, dynamic rugby with a deep suspicion) instead opted for a rather different approach.

There are two types of rugby match that are frankly boring to watch: the horrendously lop-sided blow-out, and the rainy, mud-smeared, knock-on plagued match which makes you question who on earth decided this ought to be a winter sport. Friday night’s match threatened to be both, but somehow managed to be neither. The ball was flung from touch line to touch line with a frankly embarrassing abandon, some shoddy tackling from both teams meant that thunderous runs shook the stadium seemingly every minute, and Fiji even had the good grace to squander 11 points from the tee so as not to embarrass the host nation.

Do not be mistaken; this was not necessarily good rugby. England have serious work to do at the scrum, at the gainline, and most worryingly given the twin presences of Sam Warburton and David Pocock looming over the next few weeks, the ruck. Fiji arrived as promised, lacking discipline, but few predicted England more than matching them at the penalty count – the final tally read 12-10 to Fiji’s credit.

Putting aside fears of England failing to make it through the pool of death, one thing can absolutely be said of Friday’s match: it was enthralling. To make matters worse for rugby-loving Cantabs, the television match official has made headlines by repeatedly interrupting play, as refereeing debutant Jaco Peyper repeatedly relied on technology rather than his own judgement. If this trend continues, matches will regularly take up more than two hours of precious Michaelmas time. Students across Cambridge will almost inevitably spend much of their first month at university fighting to wrest their attention back to their studies from the ITVPlayer in the corner of their screen, and it will be marvellous. Who needs sleep anyway.