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Reaching Out: Rugby World Cup Day Twenty One

10th October 2019

Rugby players and fans frequently give us moments of sportsmanship to cherish


Rest day, no matches

Footballers don’t usually admit to diving in the penalty area. Cricketers don’t usually give themselves out when the umpire fails to spot their dismissal. Rugby players, though, have a hard-earned reputation for playing by the rules. This week Canadian lock forward Josh Larsen paid a heavy price for breaking them when he was sent off against South Africa for recklessly ploughing into Thomas du Toit at a ruck. His team played the final 45 minutes of the match with fourteen men and ended up well beaten. Larsen made amends though, in the eyes of his opponents and the eyes of the world when he went into the South African dressing room at full time to apologise to du Toit. The apology was clearly sincere, it was immediately accepted and Larsen was handed a beer in a show of friendship.

It’s nothing new for rugby players to reach out to their opponents in this way, and this good sportsmanship often extends to rugby fans too. In October 2016 Munster postponed a Champions Cup match with Racing Club 92 after the sudden and tragic death of their head coach. Many Irish fans were left out of pocket, having paid in advance for accommodation in Paris. When the match was rearranged for the following January, Racing Club fans invited their Munster counterparts to stay in their homes as their guests, free of charge, to avoid further expense. This collective act of kindness inspired lasting gratitude and lasting friendships. It also prompted the question, where else could we find such hard competition allied with such good sportsmanship and camaraderie?

This World Cup will be remembered for many positive reasons, and Josh Larsen’s honesty will be one of them. It’s been a tournament for reaching out across oceans, borders, languages and cultures. It’s been a showcase for sporting excellence and plain, old fashioned decency. And there’s plenty more to come.


The Spirit of Rugby Award is an annual celebration of moments of inspiration and good sportsmanship. The 2018 winner was Jamie Armstrong whose organisation Trust Rugby International pioneers unified rugby, enabling disabled and non-disabled players to play side by side in the same teams.


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