David Flatman column: Physical violence? It’s one Lawes for one, and one for another

first_imgThis feature appears in the current edition of Sport magazine. Download the free iPad app from the Apple Newsstand, and follow on twitter @sportmagukI don’t want to put a dampener on your weekend, but there’s no way this one will be as good as the last. I was at Twickenham last Saturday, watching as the most dramatic day in Home Nations rugby unfolded – and, even for an ex-pro largely immune to the emotions that go hand in hand with these occasions, it was one of the best sporting spectacles I can remember.For me, though, the results weren’t the most interesting part. The two most interesting and contrasting sporting reactions came indeed from Twickenham, as England beat France, but also at Anfield, as Liverpool faced Manchester United.Steven Gerrard, unarguably a legend of the English game, came off the bench and was red-carded for a silly lash of the boot within a minute. After the game he publicly apologised to the fans, but by then the vitriol had started. You can imagine what folk were tapping into their iPhones from the sofa across various social media outlets as Gerrard traipsed off, and it wasn’t nice.The rugby, conversely, produced a piece of entirely legal violence that shook the sporting world. England lock Courtney Lawes hit French fly half Jules Plisson so hard I honestly thought he might not get up without some sort of portable winch system being employed. It looked lethal. But it was not against the laws of the game.I realise the incidents are entirely different: one was petulant and illegal while the other was perfectly timed and very much allowed, but it’s what the reactions tell us about how we view our respective national sports that interests me.Gerrard was hammered for letting emotion take over. As it happens, I like having it confirmed that even the bona fide elite are fallible, just like us. But the football-watching public feels no sympathy. He let us down, so hang him out to dry.One respected journalist took to Twitter and declared Lawes’ tackle illegal and worthy of punishment. He was instantly – and sportingly – rounded on by a pride of former pros and a large number of the public who disagreed entirely. Yes, it was dangerous – but rugby is desperate to retain what makes it so special and, admittedly, dangerous. Trying to hurt opposing players legally has, however difficult it is to hear, always been part of the game. Just as it used to be in football.I love football, but resent lots about what it has become. Gerrard made a mistake and was battered. Lawes made a million mums wince and yelp, but was defended to the end. I like that. 1 David Flatman column: Physical violence? It’s one Lawes for one, and one for another last_img read more

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