Friday, February 10, 2012

in which I am filled with a mixture of excital and disappointal

Let's start with a headline of the day, before we move on to other more lofty matters. This is how the BBC introduced a story about the fall-out from Scottish outside-half Dan Parks' decision to hang up his international boots in the wake of Scotland's butchering of what should have been a winning position in a knuckle-chewingly awful game against England last weekend, and his own culpability in having his kick charged down by Charlie Hodgson early in the second half to gift England the only try of the game.

I'm actually inclined to agree with Jim Telfer that Parks was probably a bit hard done by, as he had been for much of his career. Yes, he was a pretty limited attacking outside-half, but so was Jonny Wilkinson and it never did him much harm. Robinson's positive eagerness to let him fall on his sword over last week's defeat (for which he was by no means solely to blame) seems a bit churlish.

Anyway, the headline reads a bit oddly, don't you think? Here's the sub-headline, which also reads a bit oddly, for the same reason.

"Retiral"? Is that a word? "Retrial", which uses the same letters, certainly is (same goes for "trailer", come to think of it), but surely the word the headline-writers were having a bit of a mental block over here was "retirement"? There's a single citation here (which, to be fair, has it as a Scottish usage), but it's hardly a ringing endorsement.

No matter. The other reason the Parks story stuck in my head was that Wales are playing Scotland in Cardiff this weekend, and the last time that happened not only was Dan Parks the Man of the Match, but the game ended with one of the most insanely exciting last five minutes of any game I've ever seen, Wales scoring 17 points without reply to win 31-24. My poor old nerves could do with a more sedate cruise to victory this time, though, particularly after the last-minute nature of our win over Ireland last Sunday.

Back to rugby-related words, and continuing the Dan Parks links: it is odd how the number 10 position in rugby union has such a wide variety of names, usage of which splits broadly across national boundaries (I'm thinking solely of English-speaking nations here: I mean, obviously the French have a different word for it). I think the usage breaks down like this:

England: fly-half
Wales: outside-half
Scotland: stand-off
New Zealand: first five-eighth

I can't think of another position that has so many alternative names - the New Zealanders call what everyone else calls an inside centre a second five-eighth, and people used to call flankers wing-forwards (though that usage is largely obsolete now), but that's about it. I suppose it just reflects the pivotal play-making nature of the number 10 position - a bit like the quarterback in American football, but without the helmet, body armour and terrifying religiosity.

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