Martin Smith: Sit back and enjoy the Rugby World Cup

New Zealand perform the Haka before the Rugby World Cup match at Wembley Stadium, London.
New Zealand perform the Haka before the Rugby World Cup match at Wembley Stadium, London.
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Will we be able to stand six weeks of it?

All 42 days of ITV telling us they have exclusive rights to the Rugby World Cup, hours and hours of Paloma Faith’s smoking fingernails as she smoulders through the oddly disjointed version of the World In Union theme tune?

That’s a month and a half of over-earnest Rugby League fans telling anyone who’ll listen that theirs is a far superior game and that those Union toffs get all the hype and attention from the meeja. To be honest Rugby Union isn’t a game I have a great deal of love for.

School days spent playing the game for soccer-hating grammar school rugby coaches left its mark on a generation of football fanatics forced to play the oval ball game because their totalitarian teachers thought football was for hooligans and rugby for gentlemen.

But it’s sport. It’s about brilliance and mistakes and the unexpected.

Even the most jaded sports fan will have had a little flicker of emotion yesterday when the Japanese toppled holders South Africa.

No matter what the sport a victory for the underdog makes compelling and emotional viewing.

Then there’s the internet video of Samoan rugby team singing to former Springbok great Joost Van Der Westhuizen, who is suffering from motor neurone disease.

I defy any man or woman to watch that and not be moved. (Search ‘Manu Samoa’s beautiful’ on You Tube.)

Sentimental? Yes. Stage-managed? Of course But sport is also and always both of those things.

We always know it’s coming but we’re never quite sure what we’re going to get. What we do know that at its emotional and physical best elite sport is breathtaking.

So put your class and code prejudices behind you and enjoy the sight of 18-stone men clattering into each other at speed. Lap up the side-steps, linger over passing precision and marvel at the sheer bravery on show. Don’t fight it go with it and see where it takes you.

Get on board with Jonny, Brian, Gareth and the rest at ITV. Try to forget the fact that your obsessive games teacher made you run cross country barefoot when you ‘forgot’ your rugby kit.

Long-live the Rugby World Cup - though, having said that, six weeks might be plenty…