The references to rugby in Marvel’s Jessica Jones

WE ALREADY think of many rugby players as heroes, but of all the places we expected repeated nods to the sport, I doubt many would have foreseen it in the Marvel universe. However, in Netflix original series Jessica Jones, there are references to rugby throughout.

In this highly-rated show – it has a score of 8.3/10 on IMDB – Jessica Jones centres around an eponymous protagonist, a hard-drinking private investigator who was a superhero in a previous life. She has incredible strength and a snappy wit. Throughout the series she has dealings with other ‘special’ characters.

It is with one such dealing that Jones – played by Krysten Ritter – hears a reference to rugby. In Episode 2: ‘AKA Crush Syndrome’, the PI has been tailing a married woman who has a tryst with another ‘special’, Luke Cage. When the information makes its way to the woman’s husband, via pictures taken by Jones, things get heated as the wife informs our hero: “Andre play’s in a rugby league. He got his team buddies all worked up and now they’re headed to Luke’s bar.”

The references to rugby in Marvel's Jessica Jones

Rugby heroes: A fan dressed as Captain America at RWC2015

So much of this show centres around Jones’s dealings with Kilgrave, an English villain played by David Tennant. He clearly has an affinity with the sport. In Episode 3: ‘AKA It’s Called Whisky’ he is watching rugby on television as Jones tracks him down. Before the action gets carried away, Kilgrave can be heard shouting at the TV: “Don’t just kick it all the time you ginger t***,” and “what, it’s a spear tackle – he’s got a red for that.”

Another Kilgrave-related rugby reference comes in Episode 9: ‘AKA Sin Bin’, as Jones is able to track down the bad guy’s parents after watching a recording in which a young Kilgrave is told: “You don’t see Eric crying when he goes into the sin bin.” In an impossibly simple way, Jones somehow deduces via a search engine that the mention is of Eric Branford, who was a University of Manchester rugby player.

As improbable as it seems, rugby has crept into the Marvel universe. Maybe next we’ll see Captain America lining up on the Sevens World Series or Spiderman will charge down a drop-goal at Twickenham… But we’ll not hold our breathe.