Sunday 10 February 2013

Rugby: The Modern Shieldwall?

I've been quiet for the last couple of weeks, but I've kept busy with the writing. I've now written 79,495 words of the first draft and I have only got a couple of chapters left to write to get me to the finish line. So I'm  pretty much on track according to my plan. I'm getting quite excited now by the prospect of actually getting the draft complete and then starting to edit and clean it up a bit before the next stage.
I did my writing today just after watching England beat Ireland at rugby in the Six Nations and I couldn't help but wonder whether the men who today play professional rugby are similar in physique and temperament to the warriors who would have stood shield-to-shield in the shieldwalls of Dark Ages Britain.
They are strong and heavyset, seemingly oblivious to pain or intimidation, willing to throw themselves into the fray with little or no thought to their own well-being. They are purely driven by the goal to beat their opponents and to help their teammates.
Look at the scrums in rugby, with the mud, blood, screams, pushing, stamping and roars of exertion. It is not too difficult to imagine similar, if a lot more deadly scenes, over a thousand years ago as two war bands of opposing nations clashed in battle. They would have wielded seaxes, swords and spears. And they would have worn armour and borne shields of linden. But in essence there would have been two groups of savagely-competitive men vying over a small piece of muddy earth. Of course, there would be no physios for muscle strains and losing the game would mean death!

There is something almost gladiatorial about rugby, with the terraces of thousands of baying fans in Colosseum-like stadia, but if you removed the crowds and placed the men in a field somewhere, I think it would be reminiscent of those early battles of the past.