English rugby and the Hundred Years War

The action is close to start and we are all waiting for the first games to see how the New Zealand franchises crush their rivals... Well, we would like it, would not we?

In the meantime, in the Northern Hemisphere they are all waiting for the Six Nations, which happens to start a week earlier than the Super 14. Thus, I have found myself engaged in a conversation about Jonny Wilkinson and what he has meant to rugby. Today, as the bus got me to my jobplace, I suddenly realised that I could compare Wilkinson's impact in present rugby to ellite bowmen in warfare during the Hundred Years War!!!!

Well, yes, I might be going crazy, but I might be right, too. Just don't call me crazy yet. I am passionate about History and the Hundred Years War happens to be a very interesting episode of human history, where a lot of things changed. In fact, it set the roots to abandon the Middle Age and to enter into the Renaissance. Politically, it kept England out of the continent and that meant something, but socially (and I think this is the least known consequence but the most important one) it changed how social classes mattered.

Although England lost almost all its lands in France once the war was over (and how could that not have happened?), England showed the value of a well defended stronghold, with no other aid than simple people with simple weapons like bows, but with a proper training, making them english bowmen. "Simple men" might not be the best word to frighten anyone but "English bowmen" sounds a bit more fearful, does not it? Well, that weapon defeated many times the so-called ultimate weapon, the French chivalry, and that was the cause for nobility to start losing part of its ascendancy (if the knight was no longer so decissive, knights were less important... and the only ones who afforded a horse and knight's weaponry were noblesmen, so it was a hard blow on nobility, after all). So the focus went to the simple men... and from this to Renassaince!!!!!

But coming back to teams of 15 men... What on the hell has it got to do with Jonny Wilkinson and England? Well, let me be simple: Jonny Wilkinson is the bowman (or perhaps the whole legion of bowmen) and then, the task of the remaining 14 is easy: they are the fortress.

We were discussing at RugbyCan about the impact that Jonny Wilkinson had in rugby. I totally agree with the author and I must add one thing: "Having him as the only striking weapon, the rest of the team has only one main goal: to build the stronghold".

Though not really appealing, this strategy has led England throughout the RWC to become runner-ups. Not so bad for a side who managed to score only 12 tries, is not it? (last time New Zealand met tonga, the All Blacks went to score the same amount of tries). They only lost when they found a forward pack as strong as theirs; In other words, the stronghold fell against another stronghold.

Here I don't pretend to open anybody's eyes. Long time ago New Zealand thinking heads realised that in order to preserve the immense power of the back-row alive and usable, a stronger forward pack was mandatory. I still think New Zealand has the strongest forward pack in the world (even without Hayman and Jack) but what I find genuine is this way of seeing England's contribution to the game in the early 21st century.

BTW, I have always compared rugby to war, and what I consider most beautiful is a "New Zealand tank" breaking the line, be it a McAlisterkampfwagen or a Lomu Mark II.


miff said...

This is an interesting topic because people can learn about history and the war was not just with the French. For example, near the end of the war, and the Prince of Wales was checking out the battlefield, he noticed a blind nobleman(King of Bohemia) with his twelve knights tried to him. All dead , of course, but he found out that the King was blind and that was how he went into battle. That is mental rugby sometimes. The blind leading on. To end the story the Kings motto on his shield was Ich Diem , which means I serve, and he stole it and it is now used by the the present Prince of Wales, who is more German than English.So add all these little elements: nationality, reason, courage, knowledge, technology and passion and you get rugby. Spiro Zavos, in his book on rugby, How To Watch A Rugby Game, compares rugby to war. So your article is, in fact, very relevant. And,JW, does more than kick...he can run but he just doesn't very much.

sesenta y cuatro said...

Thanks, miff. For the story and for the info; I did not know about Zavos' book. Gotta find it, I reckon.

miff said...

check out the rugbycan website and get Zavos' son's blog...it is good and expansive and Spiro, who, by the way, I know, and he is one approachable guy...I bought his book several years ago and he answered my email personally and sent me a signed copy. It's good because it is elementalyet creative. If you have problems finding it, I'll help you with the publishers name. That's where you have to go. Good Luck as always.


miff said...

The 100 years war of words is out with France touted to win the 6N , England not far behind and Wales as the darkhorse. Do you know which war that Strongbow and his archers came out? An interesting fact about rugby is that while the game began to develop, it was outlawed because the king thought the men were spending too much time with this 'village pillage' game and not enough practice with their bows. That lasted a good while before the game started up again when , during the industrial revolution, more people were moving to the city and were familiar with the "village pillage' game. So let us forget about the earlier stuff and head into the 100 years War with France having the organizational advantage.