This isn’t an accurate representation of the game! It catches your attention and for the American viewer who likes the hard hits of football it may even engage them, but its not helping with growth of the game. It’s not how to promote the game.
What I am ranting about are all these video clips that you see on social media (primarily Facebook) that show very hard (yes they are exciting), violent hits. I say hits because often the footage is of a player making a big hit on another player. They aren’t tackles which is required in Rugby Union. The clips are showing guys running into other guys, going in with a shoulder charge, close-lining, or driving ball carriers head first into the ground. The problem is in rugby union you can’t just launch yourself into someone without wrapping up with your arms. You can’t go high on someone; you can’t really do a lot of what is shown in these clips in Rugby Union without receiving a penalty and/or sanctions. The clips show the hits. They do not show several seconds afterwards where a penalty is called, or when a player is sent off for the dangerous play.
These videos omit that part and only seek to tantalize the viewer with the clashes of the players. That is not helping the game. It’s putting a false expectations for the non-informed rugby viewer, or someone who is new to the game that this is how you play and what you’ll see all the time. The majority of those clips for one are of Rugby League games. They aren’t of Rugby Union, our code. So I have to wonder if the people reposting them even know what they are playing. It also doesn’t clarify that while this person made a big spearing hit on a runner that the play was likely illegal and resulted in a penalty.
We have our fair share of great hits and tackles in Rugby Union, but they are that… tackles! The ones that aren’t are penalties. The form tackle in rugby union is such an integral part of the game that now football coaches including NFL teams are trying to instruct their players to tackle using a rugby form, wrapping up verse hurling their bodies head first into a runner. Why is that? Because rugby tackling is more efficient and safer for all involved. You can still put a devastating hit on someone while wrapping up, but many of those popular Facebook videos don’t show that. They don’t provide instruction; they don’t go back and say “oh that one ended up in a yellow or even a red card”. They don’t clarify that if you make a play like that in Rugby Union versus Rugby League its going to be an issue. These videos don’t provide any of those distinctions.
They are intended to appeal to casual fans, or potential fans or players, but it’s not the way to grow the game. People who post these want to make it seem that they are “bad asses” because this is rugby and so they are also doing this since they play rugby. They aren’t, so stop! It’s teaching new fans/players that all this game is about is big hits. Its more than that and our big hits have to fall within a structure (such as wrapping up, not going high/to the head, to not drive the player head first into the ground). Are these clips saying to young/youth players then go out and just get a big hit? The problem is we are too focused on just the hit. I’ve seen rookie players at various levels who haven’t been around the game and get that big hit (even if legal) and jump up and celebrate or get pumped, while the guy they hit gets back up and runs in for a try. So what was the point of the hit? It is not football!
If you’re a "outlet" that isn’t concerned with promoting the game, growing the game and/or representing the game then it is great to make these video collages and clips and to post and have people repost them. But, if you are serious about promoting the game why would you not promote it properly? Why would you not want to show good legal hard hits? I’ll take even just showing Rugby Union footage if you are promoting rugby union and not use rugby league footage. That would be a start. Not even asking that they need to show the few seconds after the hits they feature, when the player is actually penalize for not wrapping up, going to high, or dangerous play etc.
If you don’t see these videos as undermining the game, safety or growth, then maybe you should have coaches show these clips to players as part of teaching how to play and tackle. But you don’t! …Why? …Because it’s not how you play! If these clips are so great then let’s ask the referees to use these in training their new referees on good tackles. They don’t they uses for that purpose, they use such clip to show what is a penalty. So why are we promoting incorrect play?
Don’t pander to the social media viewer’s need for instants stimulation. That’s not how you grow the game. Hell, you aren’t even promoting our game half the time (with the Rugby League footage). If you view these great, but maybe you can not share or repost? If you are trying to appeal to new players and youth players then don’t show them this. All you’ll do is have young players injuring themselves or others because they aren’t playing the game right. They are trying to be like these videos. That is not good for anyone.
There are plethora of great rugby union footage you can use to help promote the game, grow fan base, increase people’s interest in rugby union. Do that.