The Early Morning Kick Off – 21 October 2011

Preamble : As the Rugby World Cup (RWC) reaches the knock out stages, this weekend sees the last 8 teams go head to head in 4 potentially pulsating encounters. Wales play Ireland, then England play France, and that’s just on Saturday morning. Mouth watering contests them all, but are they? Andrew Watson looks at this weekend and the RWC as a whole from the armchair fan’s perspective.

“The Early Morning Kick Off”

So how do you watch the Rugby World Cup? Whatever you do, it doesn’t feel right does it? An alarm clock buzzing away in the early hours, what’s that all about? And on a saturday morning too, when you may have only just gone to bed! Whatever the attractions of the World Cup, you can’t disguise the fact that this one is played at a damn awful hour. How can you get excited about a rugby match when wearing your pyjamas?

These early morning kick offs pose several problems for the keen rugby viewer. For a start, family members insist that you must keep the volume down so you don’t wake them, yet rugby needs noise to create atmosphere and vitality. Furthermore, Phil Vickery sounds even more dreary at half volume.

By half time, as the adverts light the room, you still can’t draw back the curtains as it remains pitch black outside, and the rest of the world is still asleep. Strong black coffee is the rugby supporter’s drink of choice at this ungodly hour, rather than the strong black stuff that is the usual preference. It is even too early for bacon sarnies!

As the early match draws towards its conclusion, rays of light slowly begin to shine through the gaps in the curtains as the sun rears it head for the first time. Yet pulling the curtains back to welcome in the day can lead to another problem, as the sun is so low and so bright at this hour that you can suddenly find the screen half bathed in light, and you can’t see the action. It’s not often that you curse the sun, particularly in October!

Now the more savvy of you, or dare I say it, those with a little more coming through the door at the end of the month, may have invested in Sky Plus, a modern day phenomenon, perhaps alien to the traditional beer swilling rugby type, but it is definitely here to stay. This clearly offers a far more civilised option, as the astute rugby viewer is able to watch the match at their leisure at a more decent hour. Furthermore, the Sky Plus viewer can skip through the adverts and the pundit’s chat so the match is over in half the time, but that is no way to watch a proper match, as any rugby connoisseur will tell you. You need to breathe it, sweat it and live it through the full 80 minutes to feel the tension and emotion of the game. This weekend’s matches won’t be for those with faint hearts or watching through Sky Plus on fast forward!

And then, just as it is time for elevenses, it is all over. Steve Rider bids us good morning and the day’s rugby is complete. The rugby fan then experiences that rather unusual feeling of the day being over before it really begins, a strange sense of void felt in the pit of the stomach and it doesn’t half feel odd.


The weekend newspaper offers little solace to the disconsolate rugby soul, as the sport sections are full of analysis and predictions for the day’s matches but it is old news, as the matches have now been completed.

Rugby and indeed all major sport is as much about the expectation and anticipation. The build up to a big match can create a real buzz and such a feeling of excitement. Sport, like music, is unique and offers a release from the daily grind. From the excited young child to the ageing follower, sport can stir emotions and provide such hope and enjoyment. There is often nothing quite like the day of a big match, waking up and having it in your mind, you plan your day around it, your meal times, where you are going to watch it and with whom. You want to create the right atmosphere to maximise your enjoyment and sense of occasion. Yet this World Cup fares badly in all these categories, and what should be a glorious festival of rugby suffers as a result.

So, as this weekend’s crucial matches come onto the horizon and plans are made for the early morning kick offs, what will you be doing and how will you be watching it?  And then, when it’s all over at 11 o’clock, what next? Well, there is always the highlights…

21 October 2011

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