I am watching England being slowly ground into humiliation by an astounding Argentinian team On the second day of the biggest contest of the world’s most important sport. It’s a war of attrition out there but the Argentinians are proving once again that the future of sport lies in the southern hemisphere. Sadly I am neither in the south nor the east for the first two weeks of this titanic struggle: I am in scungy, embittered London for a (great!) course on mathematical modeling of disease[1]. This means I have to watch the games in the morning and will miss most, but I can at least enjoy this weekend’s.

I love watching rugby. It’s the perfect synthesis of physical contest, teamwork, bravery and skill, and it happens at a pace and intensity that other contact ball sports lack. I love also the special tactics that derive from the specialization of the players when they are forced to mix it up in a chaotic melee. It also lacks the posturing and false machismo of soccer, and the nationalism of rugby doesn’t come with the nasty violence or racism of that sport. It’s culturally a million miles away from the other British code… It’s the best side of sport.

In today’s other game in a remarkable upset, Japan stood up to France right up to the last 10 minutes, even looking like they might win at one point, until their fitness gave out and les bleus marched home. Fans all around the world were hoping for a miracle there, but it didn’t come. However, I have hopes that this time around they will be able to get some victories. In 2007 they got their first ever points in a cup; this time they can hope for victories.

And of course I am hoping for a NZ victory, but they are famous for choking at the last. Can they do it in their home country in 2011? And if they can’t should Australia annex them?

fn1: one of my fellow students is the Australian Nobel laureate Barry Marshall, who identified the cause of stomach ulcers[2]

Fn2: and thus proved that the future of science is also in the southern hemisphere