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W e think that Rugby has every reason
to be satisfied with its last Football season.
The old god of football is not yet tottering
on his throne, and will probably bear sway,
in all his pristine glory and vigour, over the
hearts of all true Rugbeians, at least as long
as the three trees and the goal posts last.
The play o f the School cannot be said to
have degenerated. I f the testimony of Old
Rugbeians may be believed, the caps who
followed up at the Old Rugbeian Match
acquitted themselves as skilfully and as
pluckily as in bygone years. The Forward
champions proved not unworthy successors
of the heroes o f tradition, o f Collyer, Smyth,
and Beachcroft. And the mantle of Butler,
Martin, and Hood, may be said to have
fallen on the Backs and Half-backs.
At this time, when our thoughts naturally
revert to the deeds o f prowess done during
the last half-year; when around our study
and passage fires, in our halls and our pantries,
“ we fight our battles o ’er again
and thrice slay all our slain;” when with
minds undimmed by the passions of the fight
we review without prejudice the past season,
it may not be amiss to offer a few remarks
on a subject so interesting to all o f us.
There can be little doubt that the Houseplay
last Term wras most successful. We had
the good fortune to witness four or five
exciting House-matches, and, as unbiassed
judges, we unhesitatingly declare that the
play o f four o f the House Twenties was remarkably
brilliant. Nor is there any reason
to believe that so long as our House feeling
continues as strong as it is at present, this can
fail to be the case. At the same time we think
thatthere is a danger lest Bigside should suffer
from an excessive devotion to House-matches.
Unquestionably the latter are far more exciting
and interesting than the former.
Every player is stimulated to the utmost
exertions by the feeling that the glory of his
House may depend upon his skill and pluck.
The eyes of the School are generally upon
him. A successful drop, or a successful runin
makes him a god in the opinion o f the
small boys o f his House. We remember
ourselves with what unspeakable reverence
we regarded the Captain o f our Twenty, our
great Achilles, when we first came to Rugby;
what an honour we esteemed it to sweep out
his study, and how we believed with the
most unquestioning confidence that he could
have played any other House alone and unaided.
All these stimulants are wanting on
Bigside; and we have often heard it urged
in depreciation of a distinguished Cap that
he is all very well on Bigside but is no good
in House-matches. Thus there may have been
some truth in the rumour which we heard that
more than one of our best players last
season were reluctant to play Bigside, and
only played occasionally. Whether this was
the case or not we think it may not be amiss
to remind the future heroes of Football that
Bigsides are the real representatives of Rugby
football; it is by them that Rugby football
must be judged; and it is from them that
strangers form their opinion of our game. I f
our best players absent themselves wilfully
from Bigsides, the inevitable result will be
that the importance o f Bigsides will be
lowered, and that Bigside play will fall off.
For the honour o f Rugby we hope that this
may not be the case. We are sure that our
readers will understand the spirit in which
we make these remarks, and will not accuse
us o f depreciating House-matches, which we
neither could nor would depreciate. Let us
take care of Bigsides, and House matches will
take care o f themselves.
One more point we wish to touch on, viz.,
Hacking. We do not think that the most bitter
opponent o f hacking can say that last season
was sanguinary. On Bigside and in Housematches
we saw nothing but the most temperate
and gentlemanly play. But if rumour
speak truly, this was not invariably the case
off Bigside. I f we have heard aright, there
was more than one instance in Second Twenties
and Below Caps, of those disgraceful
“ last scrummages,” whose popular name we cannot mention. We earnestly hope for the
credit of Rugby that the rumour was false.
“ The child is father o f the man,” according
to our poet, and on the same principle we
presume the small boy is father of the big
boy. I f a spirit o f wanton hacking, of hacking
for the mere sake of hacking, o f hacking
for the mere love of hacking, be ever suffered
to grow up in the lower parts of the School,
we are certain that it will ere long extend to
the higher. Those who can remember ten
years ago, when it was the rule to have a
“ last scrummage” after every Little Side, know
how it gave birth to a feeling which we are
at a loss to describe, but which we may perhaps
call cannibal, and how instead of making
Rugby Football the noble, manly game which
it ought to be, transformed it into an occupation
(we will not call it a game) fit only
for Bill Sykes. There is no fear lest Rugby
Football should become maudlin or sentimental.
There is no fear lest we should weep
over a bruised shin, or send up a coronach
over a swollen ankle. But there is a great
danger lest we should fall into the other extreme,
and we hope that all those having
authority in the School will relentlessly stop
any brutality, even in a Second Twenty.
As to the changes which were introduced
into our game last season we can speak with
the utmost satisfaction. The superiority o f
the new rules about kicking into touch has
been indisputably proved. Equally indisputable
are the advantages o f the new regulations
about umpires. We only saw them fail
on one occasion, but unluckily that was a
most important occasion which might possibly
have made all the difference between a victory
or no victory. We hope, therefore, that umpires
will in future always be as tiger-eyed as
they conveniently can.
In conclusion we wish to remind all our
readers that Rugby Football has of late years
assumed an importance which extends far
beyond the limits o f Rugby itself. During
our consulship we received no less than seven
applications from country Clubs for copies of
the Rugby Rules; nearly all the great Schools
in the country which have come into existence
within the last forty years look to us as
the fountain-head of Football. May Rugby
rise equal to her new position, and her new
responsibilities ! May she be able to say to
each o f her sons— Disce, puer, virtutem ex
me verumque laborem!