Some Rugby Quotes

Taken from a variety of sources

"Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentleman's game played by beasts; football is a beastly game played by beasts." - Henry Blaha

"Rugby is a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the center of the city." - Oscar Wilde

"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 (See e-mail at bottom)

After an All-Blacks surprise loss to the French in the 1999 Rugby World Cup: "The French are predictably unpredictable." - Andrew Mehrtens.

After biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear: "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off. Then at least I could say, 'Look, I've returned to South Africa with the guy's ear.'" - Johan le Roux

"I may not have been very tall or very athletic, but the one thing I did have was the most effective backside in world rugby." - Jim Glennon (1991)

"I prefer rugby to soccer. I enjoy the violence in rugby, except when they start biting each other's ears off." - Elizabeth Taylor (1972)

"I think Brian Moore's gnashers are the kind you get from a DIY shop and hammer in yourself. He is the only player we have who looks like a French forward." - Paul Randall (1994)

"If the game is run properly as a professional game, you do not need 57 old farts running rugby." - Will Carling (1995)

"I'm still an amateur, of course, but I became rugby's first millionaire five years ago." - David Campese (1991)

"On England's new rubber training suit-As you run around Battersea Park in them, looking like a cross between a member of the SAS and Blake's Seven, there is always the lingering fear of arrest." - Brian Moore (1995)

"On female rugby teams - Everybody thinks we should have moustaches and hairy arses, but in fact you could put us all on the cover of Vogue." - Helen Kirk (1987)

On trying to stop Phil Horrocks-Taylor: "Every time I went to tackle him, Horrocks went one way, Taylor went the other, and all I got was the bloody hyphen." - Nick England

"Rugby football is a game I can't claim absolutely to understand in all its niceties, if you know what I mean. I can follow the broad, general principles, of course. I mean to say, I know that the main scheme is to work the ball down the field somehow and deposit it over the line at the other end and that, in order to squalch this programme, each side is allowed to put in a certain amount of assault and battery and do things to its fellow man which, if done elsewhere, would result in 14 days without the option, coupled with some strong remarks from the Bench." - P. G. Wodehouse Very Good, Jeeves (1930)

"The lads say my bum is the equivalent of one 'Erica'." - Bill Beaumont

"The only trophy we won this day, was the blood and sweat we left on the pitch.... and it was enough"

"Whoso would be a man, must be a non-conformist, and preferably play in the pack." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, talking about Rugby (well, that's what I tell everyone)

"A bomb under the West car park at Twickenham on an international day would end fascism in England for a generation." - Philip Toynbee

"A major rugby tour by the British Isles to New Zealand is a cross between a medieval crusade and a prep school outing." - John Hopkins

After England had been humbled by New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final: "I don't know about us not having a Plan B when things went wrong, we looked like we didn't have a Plan A." - Geoff Cooke (1995)

"Don't ask me about emotions in the Welsh dressing room. I'm someone who cries when he watches Little House on the Prairie." - Robert Norster (1994)

"England's coach Jack Powell, an immensely successful businessman, has the acerbic wit of Dorothy Parker and, according to most New Zealanders, a similar knowledge of rugby." - Mark Reason Total Sport (1996)

Following Scotland's accusations of French foul play: "If you can't take a punch, you should play table tennis." - Pierre Berbizier (1995)

"Most Misleading Campaign of 1991: England's rugby World Cup squad, who promoted a scheme called 'Run with the Ball'. Not, unfortunately, among themselves." - Time Out (1991)

On England's new look against Australia: "This looks a good team on paper, let's see how it looks on grass." - Nigel Mellville (1984)

On his son Huw's choice to play for England: "I knew he would never play for Wales ... he's tone deaf." - Vemon Davies (1981)

On playing for Wales at Lansdowne Road, Dublin: "I didn't know what was going on at the start in the swirling wind. The flags were all pointing in different directions and I thought the Irish had starched them just to fool us." - Mike Watkins (1984)

On Wales losing 28-9 against Australia: "No leadership, no ideas. Not even enough imagination to thump someone in the line-up when the ref wasn't looking." - J.P.R. Williams (1984)

Pre-game pep talk before facing England: "Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They've taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our houses and they only live in them for a fortnight every 12 months. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We've been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English - and that's who you are playing this afternoon." - Phil Bennett (1977)

"Rugby is not like tea, which is good only in England, with English water and English milk. On the contrary, rugby would be better, frankly, if it were made in a Twickenham pot and warmed up in a Pyrenean cauldron." - Dennis LaLanne (1960)

"The French selectors never do anything by halves; for the first international of the season against Ireland they dropped half the three-quarter line." - Nigel Starmer-Smith, BBC TV (1974)

"The job of Welsh coach is like a minor part in a Quentin Tarantino film: you stagger on, you hallucinate, nobody seems to understand a word you say, you throw up, you get shot. Poor old Kevin Bowring has come up through the coaching structure so he knows what it takes ... 15 more players than Wales have at present." - Mark Reason Total Sport (1996)

"The only hope for the England rugby union team is to play it all for laughs. It would pack them in if the public address system at Twickenham was turned up full blast to record the laughs at every inept bit of passing, kicking or tackling. The nation would be in fits ... and on telly the BBC would not need a commentator but just a tape of that Laughing Policeman, turning it loud at the most hilarious bits." - Jim Rivers, letter to The Guardian (1979)

"The relationship between the Welsh and the English is based on trust and understanding. They don't trust us and we don't understand them." - Dudley Wood (1986)

"Tony Ward is the most important rugby player in Ireland. His legs are far more important to his country than even those of Marlene Dietrich were to the film industry. A little hairier, maybe, but a pair of absolute winners." - C.M.H. Gibson, Wales v Ireland match programme (1979)

"We've lost seven of our last eight matches. Only team that we've beaten was Western Samoa. Good job we didn't play the whole of Samoa." - Gareth Davies (1989)

Before the New Zealand v England World Cup semi-final: "Remember that rugby is a team game; all 14 of you make sure you pass the ball to Jonah." - Anon fax to N.Z. team (1995)

"Me? As England's answer to Jonah Lomu? Joanna Lumley, more likely." - Damian Hopley (1995)

On Jonah Lomu: "I've seen a lot people like him, but they weren't playing on the wing." - Colin Meads (1995)

On Jonah Lomu: "The Brent Spar with attitude. A figure who inspires hero worship among even those who think a fly-half is a glass of beer consumed when 'er indoors is looking the other way." - Robert Philip Daily Telegraph (1995)

On Jonah Lomu: "There's no doubt about it, he's a big bastard." - Gavin Hastings (1995)

On Lomu finally turning down offers from League teams: "Jonah Lomu is staying in New Zealand, ending an is-he-or-isn't-he saga which rivalled the trial of OJ. Simpson for unnecessarily protracted tedium." - Paul Wilson The Observer (1995)

"Anyone who doesn't watch rugby league is not a real person. He's a cow's hoof, an ethnic or comes from Melbourne." - John Singleton Australian (1981)

"Anyone who's seen the Wigan [League] players stripped has been faced with the raw truth of the matter... No time for male modelling, and even Princess Di would think twice about getting too close to that lot." - Colin Welland The Observer (1995)

Gareth Edwards: "The sooner that little so-and-so goes to rugby league, the better it will be for us." - Dickie Jeeps (1967)

"I'm 49, I've had a brain haemorrhage and a triple bypass and I could still go out and play a reasonable game of rugby union. But I wouldn't last 30 seconds in rugby league." - Graham Lowe (1995)

"League is much, much more physical than Union, and that's before anyone starts breaking the rules." - Adrian Hadley (1988)

On the biggest change after returning to the Union code: "It's the first time I've been cold for seven years. I was never cold playing rugby league." - Jonathan Davis, A Question of Sport BBC TV (1995)

Summing up during the "Dolphin hooks penis round man's leg" indecent sexual act court case: "Men do not greet one another like this ... except perhaps at rugby club dinners." - Alan Cooper Defence Counsel (1991)

"The main difference between playing League and Union is that now I get my hangovers on Monday instead of Sunday." - Tom David

"To play rugby league, you need three things: a good pass, a good tackle and a good excuse." - Anon

After a succession of career-threatening injuries: "I played ten injury-free years between the ages of 12 and 22. Then, suddenly, it seemed like I was allergic to the twentieth century." - Nigel Melville (1984)

"In my time, I've had my knee out, broken my collarbone, had my nose smashed, a rib broken, lost a few teeth, and ricked my back; but as soon as I get a bit of bad luck I'm going to quit the game." - J. W. Robinson

"New Zealand rugby is a colourful game since you get all black ... and blue." - Anon

"A forward's usefulness to his side varies as to the square of his distance from the ball." - Clarrie Gibbons

"Colin Meads is the kind of player you expect to see emerging from a ruck with the remains of a jockstrap between his teeth." - Tom O'Reilly

"Forwards are the gnarled and scarred creatures who have a propensity for running into and bleeding all over each other." - Peter Fitzsimmons

"I don't know why prop forwards play rugby." - Lionel Weston (1974)

"In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why." - Sir Tasker Watkins (1979)

On the Munster pack: "Mothers keep their photo on the mantelpiece to stop the kids going too near the fire." - Jim Noilly, BBC TV (1995)

"The Holy Writ of Gloucester Rugby Club demands: first, that the forwards shall win the ball; second, that the forwards shall keep the ball; and third, the backs shall buy the beer." - Doug Ibbotson

"The one-handed palmer can always reach higher, they say. They may be right, but the result is that nearly every line-out is like a tropical island - all waving palms." - Vivian Jenkins

"Wade Dooley: With a handle like that he sounds more like a western sheriff than the Lancashire bobby that he is." - Norman Mair The Scotsman (1988)

After JPR Williams was involved in a road traffic accident: "Bloody typical, isn't it? The car's a write-off. The tanker's a write-off. But JPR comes out of it all in one piece." - Gareth Edwards (1978)

"If I had been a winger, I might have been daydreaming and thinking about how to keep my kit clean for next week." - Bill Beaumont

Martin Offiah: "Your hands can't catch what your eyes can't see." - Nike rugby boot advert (1993)

On his successors in the Oxford University backs: "I've seen better centres in a box of Black Magic." - JoeMcPartlin

Peter Sterling: "If Walt Disney had seen this little man's antics, there'd have been no Mickey Mouse." - Ray French, BBC TV (1985)

"Rory Underwood: The gentleman athlete and flightmeister." - Punch

"Rugby backs can be identified because they generally have clean jerseys and identifiable partings in their hair... come the revolution the backs will be the first to be lined up against the wall and shot for living parasitically off the work of others." - Peter Fizsimmons

"Rugby players are either piano shifters or piano movers. Fortunately, I am one of those who can play a tune." - Pierre Danos

Simon Geoghegan: "The winger resembles Mother Brown, running with a high knee-lift and sometimes not progressing far from the spot where he started." - Mark Reason Total Sport (1996)

After John Jeffrey had 'dropped and badly damaged' the Calcutta Cup: "It will now have to be called the Calcutta Shield." - Bob Munro (1988)

"I think you enjoy the game more if you don't know the rules. Anyway, you're on the same wavelength as the referees." - Jonathan Davies, A Question of Sport BBC TV (1995)

"In south west Lancashire, babes don't toddle, they side-step. Queuing women talk of 'nipping round the blindside'. Rugby league provides our cultural adrenalin. It's a physical manifestation of our rules of life, comradeship, honest endeavour, and a staunch, often ponderous allegiance to fair play." - Colin Welland (1979)

On playing his last game of rugby for Bath: "I thought I would have a quiet pint ... and about 17 noisy ones." - Gareth Chilcott (1993)

On taking over as Batley chairman: "Not many people in Batley speak Latin, so the first thing we did was change the motto." - Stephen Ball (1989)

"Playing rugby at school I once fell on a loose ball and, through ignorance and fear, held on despite a fierce pummelling. After that it took me months to convince my team-mates I was a coward." - Peter Cook (1970)

"Ray Gravell Eats Soft Centres." - Banner at Cardiff Arms Park (1970s)

"Rugby is a game for the mentally deficient... That is why it was invented by the British. Who else but an Englishman could invent an oval ball?" - Peter Pook

"Rugby is played by men with odd shaped balls." - Car bumper sticker

"The advantage law is the best law in rugby, because it lets you ignore all the others for the good of the game." - Derek Robinson

"The first half is invariably much longer than the second. This is partly because of the late kick-off but is also caused by the unfitness of the referee." - Michael Green, The Art of Coarse Rugby (1960)

"There is far too much talk about good ball and bad ball. In my opinion, good ball is when you have possession and bad ball is when the opposition have it." - Dick Jeeps (1976)

To Princess Anne's son Peter Phillips, Gordonstoun School's rugby captain, for his pre-match coin-toss preference: "Grandmother or tails, sir?" - Anon rugby referee (1995)

"You've got to get your first tackle in early, even if it's late." - Ray Graved

"The women sit, getting colder and colder, on a seat getting harder and harder, watching oafs, getting muddier and muddier." - Virginia Graham, US writer and commentator, referring to the 'muddied oafs' image conjured up by Rudyard Kipling in his poem 'The Islanders' (1903).

"Rugby may have many problems, but the gravest is undoubtedly that of the persistence of summer." - Chris Laidlaw, New Zealand rugby player and sportswriter. Mud in Your Eye: A Worm's Eye View of the Changing World of Rugby (I 973).

"A game played by fewer than fifteen a side, at least half of whom should be totally unfit." - Michael Green (1927- ), British humorist. The Art of Coarse Rugby (1975).

"The whole point of rugby is that it is, first and foremost, a state of mind, a spirit." - Jean-Pierre Rives (1952- ), French rugby player.

Rugby League is war without the frills." - Anon.

"Beer and Rugby are more or less synonymous." - Chris Laidlaw

"The pub is as much a part of rugby as is the playing field." - John Dickenson

"Subdue and penetrate." - The motto of the All-Blacks

"You can go to the end of time, the last World Cup in the history of mankind, and the All-Blacks will be favourites for it." - Phil Kearns

"I wanted a play that would paint the full face of sensualtiy, rebellion and revivalism. In South Wales these three phenomena have played second fiddle only to the Rugby Union which is a distillation of all three." - Gwyn Thomas

"What happens when a game of football is proposed at Christmas among a party of your men assembled from different schools? Alas! ... The Eton man is enamoured of his own rules, and turns up his nose at Rugby as not sufficiently aristocratic, while the Rugbeian retorts that 'bullying' and 'sneaking' are not to his taste, and he is not afraid of his shins, or of a 'maul' or 'scrimmage'. On hearing this the Harrovian pricks up his ears, and though he might previously have sided with Rugby, the insinuation against the courage of those who do not allow 'shinning' arouses his ire, and causes him to refuse to lay with one who has offered it. Thus it is found impossible to get up a game." - Editorial, The Field, 1861, reflecting the confused state of affairs that existed in the years before rugby and football emerged as separate disciplines.

"The tactical difference between Association Football and Rugby with its varieties seems to be that in the former, the ball is the missile, in the latter, men are the missles." - Alfred E. Crawley (1913)

Dear Wes,

Forgive the informal salutation, but I feel we have some connection. I'm the Victor L. Cahn who wrote the words about rugby that seem to have found place in the lore of the sport: "In our country true teams rarely exist ... the foolish emptiness we think we perceive in their existence is only our own."

I gather that for years now rugby fans have been wondering exactly who I am. Well, I'm a long-time professor and playwright, and I've recently published a book about my life called Classroom Virtuoso: Recollections of a Life in Learning (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009). The volume includes a chapter called "Confessions of a Closet Jock," which explains the background of this quotation. It originally appeared in the Arts and Leisure Section of The New York Times in June 1973, as part of my article "The Joy of Being Part of a Team" about the play THE CHANGING ROOM by David Storey.

I know that you have a blog that covers various matters, including rugby. I'm not very sophisticated technically, so perhaps you could disseminate this information for me. At the risk of seeming immodest, I sense that other rugby enthusiasts might be grateful for the information.

Thanks very much.


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