Each to his own
May 28, 2012
Harlequins certainly did things their own way en route to the Premiership crown - including arriving at Twickenham on foot from their home ground just across the A316 © Getty Images
"I didn't understand it - not a word of it. Utterly perplexing." That was the glowing review my last Rugby Paper column received from a man I used to consider the twin threat of friend and colleague. ESPN's rugby commentator Nick Mullins is now merely the latter. Stung, I shall, however, try and make this last post of the season a smidgeon more intelligible just to avoid further rebuke from the viper tongued Master of the Mic.
With a Friday deadline for this offering I cannot give my considered view on the climax to the Aviva Premiership season at Twickenham on Saturday - and who would give even a hoot-and-a-quarter for that anyway?
My field of expertise isn't rugby - it's utter Balderdash. I am a Professor of Balderdash. (I grant it a capital "B" for credence.) So as part of this week's thesis I got to thinking about what teams get up to in the build-up to big games - a thought process prompted by Quins' decision to go on a four day trip to Abu Dhabi. This excursion was probably a great way to recharge and reboot, but I wondered whether it was also a motivational gift to Leicester. Did it give the earthy Tigers the added incentive to stick it to the "Flash Harrys of the Bright Lights" who jump on jet planes rather than rusty old scrum machines?
Of course, this season in particular, that doesn't ring true about Harlequins but old stereotypes die hard and they get another lease of life if you jet off to an island called Yas where the sun always shines.
Each to his own is what I say. Whatever makes your boat float should be embraced. Eric Cantona used to starch his collars. He may have looked like a second rate Elvis impersonator but it made him feel imperious. It worked. I suspect the enigmatic Gaul wouldn't have been half the player he was with floppy collars.
The South African batsman Neil Mackenzie used to tape his bat to the ceiling for safe keeping and then when his turn came to head out to the middle he insisted all the loo seats in the changing room were down before he departed the pavilion. It's not conventional pre-match preparation but having your Armitage Shanks at half-mast worked for him.
Mackenzie could not possibly have shared a team room with Bruce Gardiner - an unlikely scenario anyway as Brucie was an NHL ice hockey player. Whenever Brucie was in a goal drought he believed his stick was to blame so he punished his stick. Part of this stick persecution was to shove it down the loo before skating onto the ice. I don't think he was especially bothered whether the seat was up or down. The goals, like water gushing round a U-bend, would start to flow. Whatever works.
Legend has it that when Barry Fry was manager of Birmingham City he used to urinate in all four corners of the pitch to negate the effects of gypsy curses. Personally I find a quick incantation far more effective but this at least explains the bald patches in said four corners of the St Andrews pitch. Each to his own.
Now I am not suggesting these practices should be included in a RFU coaching manual. The idea of bumping into Richard Cockerill and Conor O'Shea crossing swords, de-cursing Twickenham is a little unsavoury. But the point is whatever works for you.
The Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw said as much to me at their end of season dinner. "We're not Leicester and we're not Saracens. We do things our way." I recall Frank Sinatra said something similar and it certainly worked for him.
In reaching the end of this dissertation I am concerned I may not get the nod of approval from St Nicholas of Mullins that I secretly crave. He may find this article even more pifflesome than the last one. But at least the next time he puts on his pads and heads to the crease in the Plumington Village Green 2nd Xl he'll know what to do to increase his chances of making it into double figures.
This article first appeared in The Rugby Paper on May 27, visit www.therugbypaper.co.uk
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Mark Durden-Smith is the lead presenter for live Aviva Premiership Rugby on ESPN