For a few weeks now I’ve been updating my concoction of caboodled connotation and curlicue, tack welded together from my 5 odd decades of lies, deceit and lucky escapes playing the wonderful game in some odd spots around the world. And, oddly enough, through that time & space I’ve listened to many of the same laughs, gripes and frustrations regardless of the language, accent or geography – from Stuttgart to Constantinople, Glasgow, Limerick and Wagga and indiscernible places in between.
As such, these are nothing more than the random thoughts of a never was (so can’t be a ‘has been’), mixed in with a little unashamed plagiarism of those who clearly know better than I as we consider the differing types of folk one may find on the (very) average rugby paddock.
So far we have tip-toed through fun-filled, fact-laden exposes of the exciting, relevant and captivating worlds of jerseys 1 through 8. Then I started discussing the others.
And now, without further ado, it’s time to continue the crusade and play another round of ‘Let’s pretend to understand the Pixies.’ So hands on buzzers… Begin!
This time it’s 2nd-Fives, Out-Halves, Inside/Outside Centre… as yet another example of Rugby’s ever-present identity crisis. Simply put, today I contemplate the guys wearing jerseys No12 & 13 and whom I’ll just call Centres.
Traditionally these guys were called ‘Centre Three Quarters’. Biblical research shows this is for 3 reasons:
- They really are only 3/4 of a full stubby anyway,
- 3/4 of the total game-time is spent yelling at the 10 ‘If you passed then I was in!’, and,
- 3/4 of their actual possession is spent in dropping the bloody ball they were just yelling for.
Of the two Centres, No12 is the really interesting one. Encouraged by the simplicity of the role as typified by Loig converts Sam Burgess and Ben T’eo, No12 is the one Pixie spot that most Pigs secretly envy and fancy they could actually play. I mean if Mungoes can do it… This also explains why No12 is the role the other Pixies despise. See, the great gift of No12 is that he gets to run the crash ball, and Pigs are secretly quite envious of this. Be it derived from a short pass off the 10, or from a flat cut-out from the 9, or something truly flamboyant like an overthrown lineout, simply catching the pill in open field, at full flight, and trucking it headlong into an opposing defensive line, all at the blistering speed of a pensioner’s mobility scooter, is the stuff of whispered fantasy to Piggies because:
- Crash-ball directness drastically decreases any probability of buggering it up (no complicated Pythagorean vortex of running angles and passing combinations),
- Crash-ball is philosophically quite an easy concept for fellow Pigs to support (because there will be no cowardly passing),
- We can rotate our five spare front rowers through there.
See if a Pig was ever forced to pick the one Pixie spot he had to play, then he would pick 12. Hands down. It’s as simple as it gets. Self-evidently, even the Mungoes can play it. And even for those a little unsure of themselves, given the propensity for all No10s all over the world (especially including the opposing one) to boot away every decent ball they ever get, then the likelihood of a fill-in 12 (who is actually a spare No3) having to actually attempt, let alone accomplish, a midfield tackle on their opponent is mathematically pretty slim. So it’s ‘Happy Days’ all-round.
But confusingly to the Pigs, it seems every Pixie wearing the No12 is busting their bits to get out of No12. They don’t even like being called a No12. They want to be a ‘2nd Five’ – happily rather being labelled a failed No10. Or they want to be called by the non-specific pronoun of ‘Centre’ – methinks hoping to to be mistaken for a proper tall, dark & handsome No13, which the vast majority clearly are not given their balding skulls, pudgy dad-bods and prevalent dermatitis.
See, the clubland reality is that Centres spend half their time running scissor moves, wherein one Centre simply runs head-on into their Centre partner before dropping the ball. Then they argue.
The other half of the time they run a loop move where, flushed with the shock of actually receiving a pass from 10, they immediately pop-pass to their Centre partner and run around behind hoping to catch another quick return pass. However, their Centre partner was not there. He was, in fact, 20 metres away expecting a kick, arguing with a spectator or abusing the Hooker. Then they argue.
In fact, I should just say Centres spend the majority of their time in a Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthauesque argument, occasionally even swapping punches (to everyone’s amusement), only interrupted by reliable dropping of the ball. In fact the only exception to this bilateral bickering seems to be when either one (and sometimes both) decide to round on the No10 instead (and how did that one work out for you, Cips?).
Pub chat with Centres tends to be one long sympathy drink and mutual consoling over ‘the try that got away’ and ‘the 100 tries I could have scored’ interspersed with embittered whispers of ‘Now if I was the 10…’. Mixed into this will be continual reruns of what drift defence should actually look like, using empty schooner glasses and salt & pepper shakers, much to the distraction of the harried ‘Glassy’. And occasionally this chat will drift into truly seditious territory with ‘If I was the bloody coach…’, at which point it is usually advisable to discover and voluminate a sudden urge to go to the loo and extricate yourself from fast approaching treason. Avoid, avoid and avoid.
Inspirations: Somewhere between Harry & Lloyd and Randolph & Mortimer Duke lies Statler & Waldorf
Drink: Southern Comfort. The last refuge of the truly optimistic.
Politics: Depending on their level of antipathy for the No10, generally Revolutionary Communists masquerading as Greens.
Motto: ‘The more I listen to the no10, the more I understand the guillotine.’