Kenny’s Kickabout

‘Offside test’ no longer a reliable instrument of rugby knowledge

Kenny shares some insights gained from his travels around Hong Kong Stadium on the final day of the Sevens

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 12:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2015, 3:06pm

My colleague Tim Noonan averred on Sunday that the attraction of rugby for many female spectators is in large part to do with watching physically fit men run about.

His thesis was supported by comments from one interviewee, a girl named Jessica (not her real name), who referred in glowing to terms to the "specimens" on show.

It is hoped none of the players read the column - the objectification of men is a serious issue and can be very damaging to male self-esteem.

It got me thinking about the levels of actual rugby fandom at the Sevens, though. My own observations tell me that sections of the audience have little interest in rugby and come primarily to ogle each other.

With this in mind, it seemed to me the best way to further probe these very pressing questions would be via what was referred to as the offside test: asking women to explain how the offside rule works.

It is widely accepted that offside in football is quite beyond female comprehension.

Would they fare any better with the rugby version?

A selection of the best answers: "When there's a yellow card"; "Something to do with passing forward when the other team is behind; "If you're about to score nobody can be in front of you"; "When the ball goes out on the touchline".

For the record, none of my colleagues who write regularly about rugby know any of the rules.

In fact, such knowledge is generally avoided by sports writers and those who claim it are viewed with great suspicion.

Did you hear the one about the Scot and politics?

You don't hear them quite so much nowadays. Those jokes that start off with an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman - and sometimes also a Welshman - walking into a bar, and end with each of them confirming some national stereotype or other: thick Paddy, drunken Scot, English toff, that sort of thing. Political correctness - or more likely the exhaustion of the genre - has probably been done for them.

I only mention this as the whole scenario will have played out in a thousand ways and with a thousand punchlines this weekend.

And, as a Scot living abroad, I was curious to know how the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom might play into the social brew, as it were.

My findings were somewhat disappointing. Nary a Scot I encountered wanted to "go there" - so divisive has the question become, I gather, that people are on eggshells in social situations lest they unloosen a hail of brickbats from the other side.

It used to be that Scots exempted themselves from the old rule about no talk of politics or religion in company. What has happened to them? They cannot be accused of drinking any less, certainly.

From Russia with love and a score to settle

I had hoped to report tales of anti-Russian sentiment at the stadium over the weekend. Foreign correspondents will know the feeling - "tensions" at least furnish you with copy; sadly for the news cycle.

However, players representing the world's newest pariah nation received only the most half-hearted smattering of boos as they took to the field to face Japan yesterday.

Not to worry. I will, instead, convey the major incidents from the match, which the Japanese won 19-14 in extra time.

Hostilities got under way with the Russians well fired up - they considered that one or two of their opponents looked a bit effeminate; seeing the Japanese engage in conversation with players from European teams before the game had also riled them somewhat.

After racing in front with two tries, they attempted to camp on the Japanese 10-metre line, calling a plebiscite on the question of whether they should remain there (the results are still being counted).

The Russians came unstuck as the Japanese mounted a comeback and ultimately clinched it in sudden death.

Vladimir Putin declared his team's elimination unacceptable, however, adding that all options for settling the score would be considered.