Wallabies prevail in Parliamentary Rugby World Cup
Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, reviews the recent Parliamentary Rugby World Cup that mirrors the professional competition, with representatives from all the competing nations. It was first launched in 1995 by Nelson Mandela when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup.
With the Rugby World Cup 2015 now concluded, we must congratulate the All Blacks on their well-deserved victory. The Wallabies summoned enough spirit to make the final an enthralling affair, but in the end it was New Zealand’s night. However, there is one trophy which has already made its way back to the other side of the world: the Parliamentary Rugby World Cup to Australia.
Back in September politicians from parliaments across the globe came to the UK to play their very own rugby tournament, at Richmond Rugby Club and on The Close of Rugby School, the birthplace of the game. With the support of our sponsors, the Commons and Lords XV played host to teams from every continent, including the gritty South Africans; the fiery Argentinians; the buoyant Japanese; and of course, the French. In the end PWC 2015 concluded with a stunning win for Australia’s politicos, snatching the trophy from three-time winners New Zealand.
In the spirit of parliamentary rugby, MPs from opposite ends of the earth ran all over each other and then shook hands over a beer afterwards. This was a tournament about competition, yes, and sportsmanship too – but more than anything it was about forging friendships.
The odd bit of hurly-burly, which comes with any game, was more than matched by barrels of laughs and camaraderie. One of the most remarkable moments of the tournament’s history will always be an Argentinian politician and former soldier, swapping war stories with British veterans of the Falklands conflict. Let us not forget this was a tournament started in 1995 by Nelson Mandela himself, who wanted to show legislators his vision for the new South Africa.
This time round those bonds were renewed once again, with gift-gifting and tie-swapping. It was almost impossible to leave without a French hat; South African tie; Japanese lapel pin; Argentinian pennant flag; and Kiwi key ring, among other things. Perhaps most importantly of all though, conversations happened between politicians that might otherwise never have met, but have more in common than they realised. That’s the ethos of rugby: competitors on the pitch, friends away from it.
For our part, we’re proud to have fostered this dialogue and shared passion for the game. Without a penny of public money, we can say that all our guests felt welcome – and we were able to put some money aside for charitable causes too. British MPs from across the political divide pulled on our jersey and played some tough rugby – thanks to them too, not least for being such polite hosts and losing almost every game.
Like the actual RWC 2015, we can’t say we had the best performance, but we can say we have played in the spirit of rugby and will hopefully leave a lasting legacy. Roll on Japan 2019. I’m not sure about England, but the Commons & Lords XV will be getting ready to bring that trophy home.