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The Guardian: Lies, rugby, Eton toffs and Homosexuals

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 7 March 2016

The Guardian's Stuart Jeffries pens a lengthy piece on rugby and tackling in schools which says nothing in particular in a fairly tedious way. But in the way it treats No 8 and Eton College it says far more about this awful publication than about the art of the scrummage.

Mr Jeffries, a grammar school boy, seems convinced that many rugger players are toffs and thus manages to get in several paragraphs about Eton. The only minor issue with this approach is that because of the Wall Game and rowing, rugger is a relatively minor sport at Eton. To lambast rugger as a game which most public schools in England play would be accurate if rather pointless but to single out the one major public school where rugger does not dominate the winter term, is just the Guardian way. Never let facts get in the way of a spot of Eton bashing with a dose of Call Me Dave abuse thrown in for good measure.

For the record I am no particular fan of Eton or of Call Me Dave but facts do matter.

And that brings me to the author's insistence that at his grim North Midlands grammar school, as a Number 8, he was forced to bind onto the two second rows by sticking his hand between their legs, rubbing past their testicles and grabbing their shirt. At length he describes the homo-erotic nature of this encounter.

My father was a No 8 and at one point in my career, as a just over 35 member of a veterans team where the scrum had an average age of almost 60, I also played across the back row for my (relative) speed. The problem with the Guardian article is that what it says is just not true. A number 8 sticks his head between the two inside legs of the second row players and his shoulders push them forward at buttock level. He will bind by reaching his arms around their waist to grab the shirt. This means he is holding the scrum together and applying forward momentum.

The Guardian binding method would see the No 8 pulling the second rows down and would also prevent them from pushing forward for obvious reasons. And so this is complete fiction. I can only assume that Mr Jeffries is suffering some sort of partial memory loss as he endeavours to re-write a childhood spent in the grim frozen welfare safaris, or possibly that his coach at his North Midlands grammar was a predatory nonce. Or perhaps the Guardian just seeks to give cheap thrills to its many readers who would never have dreamed of playing rugger themselves but rather fancy the idea of a muscular man sticking his thick forearm between their legs?

It is my father who draws my attention to this Guardian article which - as a Number 8 but also, at one brief stage, head of rugby coaching at Eton College -annoyed him greatly. I do not read the Guardian at all and did so on this occassion simply as a service to you dear readers. For it is an appalling publication and I celebrate news yesterday that 100 of its employees are to be fired this week.

As to my father, I would have thought that by now, aged 78, that he would have learned that at the BBC's sister publication, truth is a rare commodity and that every page is bad for the blood pressure. Surely, it is time for one ageing No 8 to come out of the closet and admit it...the Daily Telegraph really is his partner of choice.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
[email protected]
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