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Showboating in Rugby - is there a place for it?

1st July 2013

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Showboating, by definition, is when someone performs in an ostentatiously sensational manner calculated to draw attention. While there are many sports where showboating it is not only accepted as the norm, but encouraged, Rugby Union is not one of them.

In the Lions 23-21 victory over the Wallabies in Brisbane’s First Test, 21-year-old Welsh flyer George North scored a sensational try which helped secure the win for the Lions. However his efforts were marred when he decided to showboat in front of the 52,499 packed stadium by gesturing his finger at Aussie scrum-half Will Genia before scoring. North has since come out and said that he feels ‘horrendous’ for the gesture, but sadly he is not the first, nor will he be the last to showboat in such a way.

On the 18th May in the Heineken Cup final, Toulon’s Delon Armitage made headlines after waving mockingly goodbye to Clermont Auvergne fly-half Brock James as he raced over to score a crucial try. This is probably the worst case of showboating I’ve seen in rugby for a very long time. What made matters a hundred times worse for the English full-back is that he defended his actions on Twitter by lashing out at former England hooker, turned BBC pundit, Brian Moore. He soon apologised for his actions and admitted he was ‘stupid’, but it made little difference to people’s opinions of him.

“So? He’s still a t***”, as my friend so eloquently put it when I mentioned the news of Armitage’s apology. He won’t be alone in his judgment.

On the flip side of the coin, some are of the opinion that there is a place for showboating in the hooligans game played by gentleman.

“It’s showing passion,” another of my friends declared, “you have every right to celebrate scoring a try, you’ve earned it.”

While I agree that players have the prerogative to celebrate, but only AFTER scoring their tries. Hasty rejoicing can lead to dire consequences. We’ve seen it on many occasions where players have prematurely celebrated a try, only for it to be disallowed or stopped altogether. The most famous of these being Juan Manuel Leguizamón, who dropped the ball mid-swallow dive during an English Premiership match between his now former club London Irish and London Wasps back in 2007. Luckily it didn’t cost his team the match, but nonetheless his career will forever have that black smudge on its surface.


Another culprit was Sam Vesty in Bath’s 2012 English Premiership victory over relegation candidates London Wasps (there must be something about the High Wycombe-based club that causes players to act in such a way). With a few metres to go and no one in sight, Vesty raised his arm in triumph and slowed his pace, only to be caught by Wasps speedster Tom Varndell who performed an outstanding try-saving tackle. It gave Wasps a much needed losing bonus point and effectively kept them in the Premiership; all down to showboating.

England international Chris Ashton has received a lot of stick from fans over the years for his patented “Ash-Splash” celebration. In his defence, he is yet to drop the ball like poor Leguizamón, but coaches, fellow/former players and fans have rebuked the 26-year-old Saracens winger, warning him that it is only a matter of time before he does make that mistake. Ashton affirms his celebration by saying that it’s only a bit of ‘fun’, but when will the fun come to an ubrupt end? A friendly? A test match? A World Cup final?

While I admit at the time I did enjoy seeing George North mock Will Genia in such a fashion, that sort of behaviour does not fit in with the moral code of rugby union, which is built upon sportsmanship and fair play. Current and future players should use the likes of Leguizamón and Vesty as reminders of the dangers of showboating in rugby and how costly it could potentially be. 

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