Professionalism in rugby changed a lot of things, but in any team sport loyalty and pride for the team and jersey is crucial. Does that still apply to rugby?
rugby365’s Oracle, Paul Dobson, takes a look at the lost art of loyalty in rugby and asks if money has killed off one of the true virtues of the game.
Is there still a place in rugby football for loyalty? Has money killed all that?
Two Wasps stung a little thought recently. I wrote briefly about Lawrence Dallaglio – at about the same time when Danny Cipriani was thinking of moving for more money. Two Wasps of different eras and different loyalties, it seems.
Dallaglio was a transition man. He came into big rugby when the game was, at least theoretically, amateur. Cipriani has come in when the game is big business.
Dallaglio was a member of just one club – London Wasps. He was similar to Martin Johnson in that regard – a one-club man. Neil Back was like that as well. Great players, loyal to one club, giving their all to one club.
But now there is the possibility of a salary cap in England and Cipriani – apparently – may be tempted to take his expertise to France where there is no salary cap.
The old school would find Dallaglio thoroughly laudable – the sort of thing you would expect from a team man but then those men would come largely from a body that paid to play the game. Loyalty and team spirit were essential virtues.
A more modern approach would say that Cipriani has a short career and must make the most of it financially. If his club cannot match the deal he can get from one of France’s clubs then he should join their swelling legion of foreigners.
The older brigade would see them as mercenaries without real attachment to what ever group they have joined. The more modern brigade would wish them luck. Grab with both hands while you can.
After all it takes confidence – and a good agent – to put yourself up for sale on the free market. Forget your last embarrassing performance and market yourself. The money counts.
You can always fake pride in club and jersey. After all some manage to sing a foreign anthem with simulated passion. You see them singing about England, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and France – countries to which they can have allegiance that is only financial and/or convenient.
You read of Percy Montgomery’s passion for Western Province and South Africa as he wanders off to Newport, Perpignan and the Sharks, and you wonder. He moved about in that fashion because it suited him. So where does loyalty lie?
Isn’t the essence of loyalty seeing a greater good outside of yourself? My club is more important than I am, my province is more important than I am and my country is more important than I am. Or is that too old-fashioned for words in a world when I am the centre of the universe – I, not even my family.
Both ways of looking at one’s life present simple decisions. If I am a one-club man, like Lawrence Dallaglio, the choice is simple – I don’t move. If I am in it for the money, the choice is again simple – I go where the pay is best. After all that is the way of business and rugby is now business.
Which man is likely to be the better servant of club, country and game? Probably the loyal man. Which man is more likely to be trusted? Again the loyal man? Which man is more likely to end his playing days with many friends? Again the loyal man.
One would have thought, too, that the loyal man is more likely to be happier and more likely to develop his talents as a result. All that stuff about it being more blessed to give than to receive, that giving is more likely to produce happiness and sanity – a heaven of a sort while grabbing for one’s self is more likely to have the opposite effect – a kind of hell. Doc Craven did not like the prospect of professionalism. He believed that, if we could make our work into play, we would be happy, but if we made our play into work, that was the way to drudgery, a form of slavery.
But then perhaps all of this is unreal speculation – a naive attempt to turn back the clock. And yet there must be a place for the Lawrence Dallaglio man – loyal and well enough remunerated.