Surviving The Rugby World Cup In London

Chris Lockie
By Chris Lockie Last edited 105 months ago

Last Updated 20 September 2015

Surviving The Rugby World Cup In London
Image courtesy of jimmyweee via Flickr

As anyone who has ever attempted to walk in a straight line through Clerkenwell will tell you, London is not a logical place. Nevertheless, we like our sports to be relatively ordered and sensible, from the glorious crack of leather on willow at Lord's in front of old men scowling approvingly, to the groans emanating from the Emirates with splendid regularity following another Theo Walcott airshot.

What we don't like is the idea that a group of, often literally, barbarians must attempt to get a ball from one end of a pitch to another, but they're only allowed to throw it backwards. For this reason, among many others, the imminent Rugby World Cup should be forced to take place only in fearful places such as Wales, and we should be left bloody well alone.

So what should a sane, rugby-loathing Londoner do while this egg-chasing bollocks takes over? Here's a guide to surviving London while the World Cup's on.

Get the hell out of town

So it's not exactly surviving in London as much as running screaming for the Berkshire Downs while the city becomes a toff's paradise, but there's no better way to save yourself while everyone else loses their wits. Your best friends will start pretending to know what a 'knock on' is. Conversations will involve names such as Johnny Redelinghuys and Talemaitoga Tuapati and you'll expected to master them all. People you used to love will start looking up local rugby clubs to see how easy it is to join. Touch rugby only, of course, though when they ban nitrous oxide it's possible concussion will be the next best way to mix your life up a bit.

Before long, the King's Road will look like this:

So don't wait for the carnage to kick you in the teeth — have a holiday. It seems there are no countries left where rugby is banned outright, though the Russians had the right idea, banning it in the 1930s after a fight between some travelling Welsh and Romanian fans in Moscow. Chairman Mao also said no to rugby for a while, with the splendid line "the meeting of sullied bodies in physical contact cannot be approved" summing it up very nicely.

Perhaps you could use the next few weeks to further London's cultural links with the world. Bluefields in Nicaragua, Tema in Ghana and Sylhet in Bangladesh are each twinned with a part of London (Lambeth, Greenwich and Tower Hamlets respectively), and thankfully all three countries do not figure in the Rugby World Rankings list, presumably because they're shite.

Know your enemy

If you are going to stick around, it'll pay to know how to spot rugby fans in order to swerve them. For the most part they are the baying cretins holding pints of lager aloft and wailing along tearfully to Jerusalem in a way that makes cricket fans recoil in horror at how close they come to sounding like rugby fans.

Sadly, when there's no actual rugby on, they have a tendency to blend in fairly well. In the rest of the country, rugby fans tend to dress like normal people when they're not donning jerseys whose inexplicably wide collars are of a different colour to the rest of the garment, as though that's all right. Unfortunately Londoners are not lately known for dressing normally, complicating things further. Spot the rugby fan among this lot:

That's right — soon enough, all of them will be. You may think that bearded pillock asking you the way to Bacon Street seems innocent enough but you could be seconds away from having to explain the difference between a maul and a ruck to a man wearing a bowler hat and no socks. That trip to Nicaragua's sounding pretty good now eh?

Avoid the crowds

Remarkably, some people actually want to watch rugby live. You probably don't need to fear being dragged into that hell as tickets for the tournament probably sold out in about 1989, but if you're near a rugby stadium when there's a game going on, God help you. Here's when to avoid London's three venues for the tournament:

Twickenham: 18, 19 and 26 September; 3, 10, 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 October
Wembley: 20 and 27 September
Olympic Park: 23 and 24 September; 4, 7 and 30 October

Find another sport to watch

What better way to stick two fingers up to the monstrous oval than to find a brand new sport to watch instead? Here's a few things happening in London at the same time as some of the tournament's biggest games:

20 September

They'll be watching: Wales v Uruguay
You'll be watching: the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. The opening weekend of the rugby is shamefully timed to steal the thunder of a collection of lunatics effectively waterboarding themselves for fun at the Lee Valley White Water Centre. Five world champions will be crowned, and the event also incorporates qualification for next year's Olympics in Rio. An Olympics which will also include rugby. Yes it disgusts us too. Here, have some canoeing to cheer yourself up.

Non-sport alternative: Open House London. Billed as a festival of architecture and design, it's nothing like as dull as that might make it sound. In fact on 19 and 20 September you get to nose around various old London buildings that you'd normally need all manner of security clearance even to take a photo of, such as the Bank of England, Apothecaries' Hall, Middle and Inner Temple and the Masonic Temple on Bishopsgate.

3 October

They'll be watching: Samoa v Japan
You'll be watching: the NFL Rally. A massive mash-up of sport and commercialism on Trafalgar Square to celebrate the return of the only oval-ball game that matters. American Football is seriously colonising London, with Spurs looking to cash in in a big way, and if you don't get on board early you'll be left floundering when someone asks you if you reckon they should have Josh Hill or Coby Fleener as the tight end in their fantasy team. They're even allowed to throw the ball forwards! Madness!

And there's this type of thing, whatever it may be.

Non-sport alternative: the Fabric of India at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Today sees the opening of a new exhibit at the V&A, all about the startling colours of India's handmade textiles across the centuries. The link above includes a blog series explaining the idea behind the exhibition, which will probably introduce you to colours you didn't even know existed. Or you could watch fat men roll in mud.

11 October

They'll be watching: Italy v Romania
You'll be watching: bowls. Because bowls.

Non-sport alternative: the Crime Museum Uncovered. Just when we've all had our fill of two Tom Hardys romping their way around the East End in the latest attempt to tell the Krays' story, the Met's Crime Museum partners up with the Museum of London to show us some grim artefacts and tell some disturbing tales of London's criminal past, usually only open to members of the service and invited guests. There's an intriguing history behind the museum itself, which used to be called the Black Museum back when there were somewhat fewer shades of grey.

Just suck it up

Your imminent comments that if we're only going to moan we shouldn't bother writing about it are interesting, welcome and wrong. Either rugby must be stopped, or weapons should be allowed — no guns, nothing sharp, but clubs at the very least, or perhaps mallets.

But it won't be stopped. We're stuck with it for six weeks, that's SIX WEEKS, of interminable grunting and people in pubs pretending to know what the hell is going on, with New Zealand obviously winning in the end. So maybe we should just accept the inevitable, use the internet to find a few new friends, all called Henry, and join them in some pub in Richmond for the crunch clash between Tonga and Georgia. Yeah, go Tonga! Woooooh!

See our more sensible guide to watching the Rugby World Cup here.