There’s been a lot of feel good stories around rugby recently that have been giving me the warm and fuzzies. So I thought I would collate some here and share them with you, so you can feel warm and fuzzy as well.
First up, my team Wasps signed Nathan Charles, who is probably the only sufferer of cystic fibrosis to play a contact sport professionally, let alone internationally. Thats right, cystic fibrosis.
Dubbed “the most remarkable rugby player on the planet” by the Telegraph, Nathan, who “seems to defy science and logic” according former Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, takes between 20 and 30 pills a day to combat a condition that typically results in a greatly shortened lifespan in normal people. Of course this guy isn’t normal, he’s a frigging superhero. So of course his chosen sport is rugby.
Next up, Ian McKinley was a talented young rugby player, tipped to be competing with Johnny Sexton to ease Ronan O’Gara out of his position as Ireland’s lead 10. Instead, an accidental boot blinded him in one eye. This derailed his rugby career, but only temporarily.
He got into coaching, moved out to Italy, and then, thanks to some special goggles, started playing again. Then he got signed by Italy’s top professional club, Benneton Treviso. And then this weekend he made his debut for Italy, qualifying on residency ground. The Irish weren’t willing to engage in trials using the goggles, but the Italians stuck by him and now he wears their shirt with pride. Banged over a penalty too to keep them ahead of Fiji
Also this weekend, a bit of a tear-jerker, as former Scotland lock Doddie Weir, battling motor-neuron disease MND, delivered the match ball ahead of Scotland vs New Zealand. Clearly he, and I’m sure the rest of the stadium, struggled to keep the emotion down.
Earlier this year, rugby lost of of its greats in Joost van der Westhuizen, also to MND. Joost, a world cup winner in 1995, was an incredible competitor on the field, and battled MND relentlessly off it. To see his interviews, so full of fight and hope, is an inspiration, while to watch him walk onto the field in 2014 before South Africa vs New Zealand, is to witness courage:
To hop over over to the “other” code briefly, the rugby league world cup has been taking place. And one of the hosts? Papa New Guinea. Apparently rugby league is a phenomenon there, with the whole country fanatical about it.
Sadly England didn’t read the script, and defeated them in the quarter final. But in that semi final England will face Tonga. Tonga scraped past Lebanon (yeah I know right, they play rugby? Cool) and in the group-stages were involved in this epic Haka vs Sipi Tau show-down:
Also in the quarter finals are Fiji, who defeated the afore mentioned Kiwis in a a bit of a wonderful upset to the form book. Loverly.
Back to Union, and in more “player battles life-threatening condition” news, Christian Lealiifano is now back playing rugby after dealing with leukemia. Following a come-back with the Brumbies, he’s now plying his trade in sunny Ulster. Of his battle with cancer, Lealiifano says: ““It has changed my outlook on life. I would go through this 10 times again for the person I am today, the journey I have been through and the person that I have become.” Nice recent interview here.
Finally, everyone’s favourite Courtney, Mr Lawes, showed he is still up for crushing play makers as Kurtley Beale felt his wrath during England’s eventual pummelling of the Aussies. All the right kind of good feelings.
I’ll leave you with this:
“In our country, true teams rarely exist . . . social barriers and personal ambitions have reduced athletes to dissolute cliques or individuals thrown together for mutual profit . . . Yet these rugby players. with their muddied, cracked bodies, are struggling to hold onto a sense of humanity that we in America have lost and are unlikely to regain. The game may only be to move a ball forward on a dirt field, but the task can be accomplished with an unshackled joy and its memories will be a permanent delight. The women and men who play on that rugby field are more alive than too many of us will ever be. The foolish emptiness we think we perceive in their existence is only our own.” – Victor Cahn
Warm and fuzzies out.