Rugby's belief in its own exceptionalism is founded on a number of bedrocks. The first is the fact that two hulking men can shake hands like gentlemen having spent 80 minutes shunting into each other, risking brain injury.
Another is the respect for the referee: rugby refs are treated like the Irish Times review film auteurs: all respect and deference to this man who is interpreting and executing the laws of the game in his own, idiosyncratic way.
It would appear that it is not always a two-way street, however. In the weekend's Sunday Times, Shane Horgan and Lawrence Dallaglio were dared to reminisce about the 2005 Lions Tour, which ended as Roy Keane predicted it: a 3-0 whitewash.
The difficulties were not restricted to the Test series, however, as Horgan explained. In a midweek game against Taranaki, Horgan had a pretty remarkable run in with the now-retired referee, Steve Walsh, a native of New Zealand.
Walsh was working as a touch-judge, in the game, and here's how Horgan recalls it:
I was running down the wing to chase a kick and one of their players touched the ball. I appealed for the lineout to us, but not in an aggressive way, and he called me a "fucking English cunt" I think. It took me aback and I was almost laughing when Denis Hickie came up to me and said: "What? What the fuck did he say?"
Nothing was pursued at the time but then he reffed a Blues game and again he made a comment to me, at which point I felt he had lost all impartiality. I wouldn't have minded if we'd had some history but I had not spoken to him before.