Playing Wing : A Guide.

By Didds - who has never played wing, and is never likely to either. (For which we can all be extremely grateful).

Wingers are the forgotten men of rugby. There they stand, miles from the play; onlookers to the fun and games that elude them week in and week out. Voyeurs to the rolling, sweating masses. Bystanders in a murky world of grips, and binds, and jockstraps. And this is just in the changing room.

Out on the pitch little changes. While the ball tantalizingly appears somewhere near a steaming mass in the vicinity of Bolivia, the winger is left literally out in the cold - fingers blue and knees knocking as his core temperature plummets and hypothermia sets in once again. It has even been known for teams to be changed, showered and in the bar before someone (usually the subs collector who has only one name left on the team sheet unticked) asks "Where's Rick?". The front row will look confused and ask "Who's Rick?". Everyone will shuffle their feet, then look questioningly at the outside-centre. Jeremy (all outside-centres have poncy names like Tarquin, Jeremy or Guido) will think hard then reply "I think I saw him at half time when he took the oranges off." Rick the winger will be subsequently found near a corner flag, peering desperately into the gloom, frozen and muttering to himself "Not much action down this side for a while....".

But don't get me wrong. Wingers are Very Important Players; imperative for the success of a game. They are perfectly positioned to carry the oranges on and off at half-time, and are handy for climbing over barbed-wire fences to retrieve the ball. In relation to this important facet of their skills, it is mistakenly believed in many circles that wingers are selected for their speed in attack, for running past the defense. The truth is, I am afraid, rather more mundane. Having scaled the barbed wire fence to retrieve the ball, a winger often needs his innate pace to evade the rampaging bull that is on the other side. Nor should we forget their use in handing the ball to the hooker to throw in. Saves the hooker having to bend down.

The public perception (as hinted at above) of the winger is of a gazelle like creature, blessed with speed and guile, but as most things in rugby, this creature is only really seen at the very, very highest levels of the game. In reality, there are four different types of winger:

The gazelle: international wingers have the speed, side-steps and swerves expected, combined with hands like glue and a boot like a siege gun. When released in space they have the ability to make the heart soar and the blood rush; crowds roar as their feet glide across the turf, eating up the ground as they tear the last vestiges of a defense to shreds. They usually drive MG's, drink orange juice and have to fight blondes off with a shitty stick. Bastards. Example - John Kirwan.

The wall: good club wingers; they may not have great pace, nor great hands or kick. But they have a huge defense. Nothing ever passes them. Usually ex-blind-side flankers that had to give up the hard stuff under doctors orders after breaking their neck in three places and suffering 72 hours concussion after tackling an Argentinian flying wedge head on, they settled for the easy life on the wing rather than run the line. These men eschew the "girls" in the bar, and are usually seen carousing with the forwards (when allowed into their forum. Usually after four pints). Drive old Ford Granadas, and occasionally shags the blond birds that couldn't get off with the above. Example - Ian Hunter.

The stick: Archetypal junior club winger. Stands five feet eight inches tall, weighs 9 stone four pounds, soaking wet with all his kit on. Is shit scared someone might get delusions of grandeur having watched a hugely entertaining Southern Hemisphere match on TV the week before (which was won by the Polynesian All-Stars 146-139 against the Rainbow Campallmouths in a scintillating display of 80 minutes of continual running play with no stoppages at all... and no referee whatsoever to get in the way of having fun) and actually get the ball anywhere near him. Hates defending at goal line lineouts as he has a recurring nightmare of some hairy-arsed prop forward (always named Barry) hurtling around the front of the lineout carrying the ball, with only his own puny frame between the prop and a lifetime of glory retelling the story of how he crushed a winger whilst scoring his first try for twenty years. Is normally aged 17, or 47. The former is there because he is crap at every other sport, and hates his parents so needs an excuse to get out. Can't drive yet having failed his test three times to date. He also fancies the blond bird down the chip shop and hopes boasting that he plays rugby for Old Twattbaggians 6th XV will cause her to fling her knickers off and shag him senseless. The latter is there because he has always preferred the company of men, and doesn't really want to stay at home with the wife, and can't get a place on the committee. Once had a fumble with a blond Mancunian bird (who hasn't ?) whilst on tour in Blackpool in 1978, in a bus shelter, and got beaten up by her boyfriend (who played for Warrington RL). Drives an Austin Allegro. Example - Tony Underwood.

The Polynesian: defies all normal definitions of winger. Is seven feet tall, weighs 19 stones, and can do the 100 metres in 9.87 seconds (unassisted). In any other part of the world would be playing back or second row for some junior club and the occasional county game. Will be named after a Biblical character, or a Cheeseburger. Doesn't care who he shags as long as its not on a Sunday as he is a devout Christian. Example - Grant Batty.

Wingers really come into their own after the game however. Not having done anything all afternoon they will be happy to be acknowledged by their captain, even if its only to be asked to collect the flags and post protectors. Being the only member of the side with a clean shirt (not to mention clean shorts, socks and boots) they will be sent off to collect the valuables bag. By the time he has completed these duties, all the hot water for the showers will have been used up, and the bath will resemble something last seen as soup or coffee in a school canteen. This won't matter as 1) nobody else cares, and 2) he won't be sweaty or dirty as he has done nothing all afternoon anyway. In the bar, assuming he can get anyone to talk to him, as no-one will recognize him, the winger is a source of team amusement. Due to his normal abstemious position/slight physique/religious beliefs, it will take little alcohol to get him roaring drunk with the normal hilarious consequences. The exception to this is "The Wall" (see above), but due to his previous history in the forwards, he will know seventeen filthy songs, and after fifteen pints will roger a passing blond from behind, standing on the bar, egged on by his team mates. Wingers are also useful at internationals, where they can be easily divested of their clothing by their "mates" and hurled over the crowd barrier, whereby they can provide superb entertainment attempting to evade the stewards and police officers in their haste to get off the pitch before the cameras catch their antics and their mum sees them.

Finally, wingers never actually retire. They merely disappear in mid-season, never to be seen again. The reasons for this are several fold, but normally because : 1) they froze to death on the touchline one February afternoon 2) they got forgotten at a service station on the A1 returning from a match 3) they got crushed by a huge hairy-arsed prop forward (named Barry) that appeared around the front of a lineout, carrying the ball, hell bent on scoring his first try for twenty years 4) they got beaten up by the front row after spilling one of their pints 5) the blond bird down the chip shop named them as the father to her child 5) their Robin Reliant broke down.

Hope this is of no help whatsoever!! :-)

Devizes RFC.
Disclaimer : The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. And are probably wrong anyway.