• Visitors to this year’s Rugby World Cup will notice, at least during daylight hours, that the natives are speaking a foreign language. This is the first tournament hosted by a non-English-speaking nation, and in its rugby vocabulary France insists that the game is more than muscles and bish-bosh, even at scrum-time. Le scrum is not a word that rugbymen across the Channel decided to adopt. They could have done so, alongside le drop, but for the heart of the battle they revived instead la mêlée, a word last used in a competitive context in the 11th century. In the medieval period la mêlée was used to describe collisions of courtly knights in mock battles. Plus ça change. In rugby, too,

    Sep 11,