Rugby Bits & Bites

• Rugby as a instrument of Peace? It would seem so … via the Dallas Area Rugby Club’s team blog, a NZ Herald article reports that the Fijian Army extended its deadline for the now-realized military coup because first they needed to play rugby …

Fiji military play rugby amidst confusion over coup
UPDATED 5.50pm Friday December 1, 2006

SUVA – The Fijian Army is taking on arch-rivals the Police in the much-anticipated annual Sukuna Bowl rugby clash, rather than stage a coup.

Hundreds of Fijians have gathered to watch the clash even as both the Government and military manoeuvre in the coup crisis.

To make matters even more surreal, the Government of Fiji says it has been given an extended deadline until Monday or face a coup – but the military has denied it.

Fiji’s military chief, Commmodore Frank Bainimarama, maintained his threat today to stage a coup if the government failed to meet his demands for a change, but added he would not act until after the annual military versus police rugby game in Suva.

A relaxed looking Bainimarama attended the games this afternoon, watching his Army Golden Oldies beat the Police Over-40s, 24-16. Then he took part in the celebrations, flanked by the vice-president of Fiji, Joni Madraiwiwi and Acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver.

A colourful crowd of around 5,000 predominantly ethnic Fijians turned up for the games and brass band demonstrations.

Further, it seems they would also discuss this further at the after-match social …

According to “He also added that the military will host the Police tonight at the Officers Mess and have a few bowls of grog in what he believes is the only way that will bring the two forces together.”

The Sukuna Bowl is a high-profile sporting event in Fiji, which the police have won for the last three years.

I enjoyed the Dallas blogger’s summary of events …

So, the Fiji military’s plan appears to be:

1. Beat the Police on the rugby pitch,
2. Convince them to straighten up their government at the drink up after, else
3. Take over the government.

I like it.

Unfortunately, as of Monday, the coup was on. Sad, because my time in Fiji was so incredible and I met some of the nicest people. This is the second coup in the island country since 2000 when I studied there. I hope it can end in peace.

• But wait, it seems that despite the coup in Fiji, rugby in Ireland can bring together Catholics and Protestants in Ireland’s youth.

How rugby lessons are building bridges
Pioneering scheme by Catholic school is hailed ‘a shining example’
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Sunday November 26, 2006
The Observer

In the heart of republican South Armagh, amid the flags and symbols of armed opposition to British rule, a Catholic school is bridging the last great sporting schism of Northern Ireland.

Divided along both religious and class lines, rugby has been traditionally played by the sons of Ulster’s well-heeled Protestants while Catholics, rich and poor, opted for the Gaelic sports of football and hurling. Now St Paul’s High School on the Camlough Road, outside Bessbrook, has broken the mould by bringing rugger to the rugged hills of the border zone.

The school is proud of its Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) heritage: Jarleth Burns, the vice-principal, was captain of the Armagh Gaelic football side from 1986 to 1999. But his school has a special reason for encouraging its sportsmen to pick up the oval ball this term, he explained.

‘In sporting terms we are putting out the hand of friendship,’ he said. ‘We thought that we might as well do it first. Because if we want to encourage state schools in the north to adopt GAA sports then we have to do the same with sports like rugby. The kids have shown a real interest in the game, and it complements all our other sports in the school.’

John Rafferty, head of physical education at St Paul’s, said two-thirds of his Gaelic football players have already signed up to rugby training every Friday afternoon after school.

The under-16 rugby side has been up and running since September this year. ‘The success of the Irish international team has generated a new interest in rugby at the school. Beating Australia last week in Dublin will encourage our Gaelic footballers to take even more interest in rugby. In fact, the two games actually complement one another,’ Rafferty said. ‘Boys who learn to be adept at rugby will enhance their Gaelic football skills as well. It also means that our boys will be playing contact sports right though the year: rugby in winter and football for their clubs in summer.’

Hamish Frasher, from the Ulster Rugby Football Union, has organised coaches to come down from Belfast to work with the team. Training on the school’s GAA pitch on a freezing, windswept, rainy Friday afternoon, a number of St Paul’s students are visibly enthused about the chance to play rugby.

‘I love it,’ said Eamon Connolly, 14. ‘It’s my first year playing at St Paul’s and I will be going on to play for Dundalk Rugby Club.’ His team mate, Thomas Canning, 16, added: ‘I enjoy rugby and it makes me stronger for Gaelic football and to take the hits and spin out of tackles.’

The school’s move has won the praise of Irish rugby greats, including former international star and British Lion Trevor Ringland.

Ringland, who now heads up the anti-sectarian One Small Step movement, said: ‘I think what they are doing down there in south Armagh is fantastic. The legacy we need to leave our children in this country is a society at peace with itself and where they can make friends across traditional divides. Something like this at St Paul’s brings kids together who might never have met. This innovation is a shining example to other schools all over Northern Ireland.’

I had actually read somewhere that there was a similar division among class lines in Argentina for rugby versus soccer players. Soccer, because all you supposedly need is a ball and a flat area, is played by the nation’s poor. While rugby, which allegedly requires more to play in Argentina, is played by the nation’s elite.

I would argue with this, because I’ve seen many a rugby pick-up game played barefoot in the grass. But anyway, a good story about how sports bring people together. Isn’t that always the message at the Olympics?

And isn’t this always the case with rugby? You can be anywhere in our country or the world, and if you meet another rugby player, it’s an instant bond of friendship. You gotta love it.

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1 Comment

Filed under Bits and Bites

One response to “Rugby Bits & Bites

  1. bloo

    Hehe. Glad you liked my post about Fiji. If I had actually funny timing skills, the third point would have been “3. Beat the Police off the pitch.”

    Does your team go to Maggotfest?

    Eat, Drink, Go Festing!

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