More back improvement today, looks like I’ll be ready for the battle again on Monday. Still sore and doddery though.
Tomorrow is the big day in more ways than one. First off is Weigh Day. I’ll obviously give you the terrible truth as soon as possible. I’m not sure what to expect.
Second and more importantly is the start of the 2011 6 Nations Rugby Tournament.
I’ll be watching at the Dodford with my coaching mukka Ski.
This years competition promises to be closer than ever. But forget about the long story. Tomorrow is what counts.
For the folks that do not live on these fair islands, it is perhaps difficult to understand the rivalries and traditions that have developed over a thousand years of British and Irish history. The French and the Italians with all due respect are just interlopers in this annual family argument.
Well, the 6 Nations rugby tournament just brings every little bit of that internicine conflict into sharp focus. Most of it aimed at the English by the way.
A famous example of the passion and temporary hatred is the 1977 Wales v England game. Phil Bennett the brilliant Welsh and British Lions fly half was the skipper for the day and his team talk was this:
“Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They’ve taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English — and that’s who you are playing this afternoon”
Now I’ve met Phil Bennet a number of times and a more approachable and likeable Gent you couldn’t wish to meet. In fact it’s fair to say, using the most overused modern word, is that he is a rugby legend. He was one of that golden generation of Welsh players back in the 70s that swept all before it. For a rugby playing country of its size the amount of players that were the best in their positions at the time must have been a statistical blip. Their names just trip off the tongue for rugby fans over a certain age. JPR, JJ, Gareth, Phil, the Pontypool Front Row, Prince John, Merv the Swerve, Gerald Davies, John Bevan, Derek Quinnell, I could go on.
In fact my formative rugby years were spent watching and enduring continuous and fearful beatings of my beloved England team by that great Welsh team. They were certainly getting their revenge for their view of history! So I hate losing to them most of all and beating them is just soooo good!
And that folks is the backdrop for the greatest rugby tournament (my opinion) in the world. Every Celtic team on these Islands are out to do the English. The French all Gallic flair and temperamental attitude, who knows what they’ll do on any given day. And the Italians, new to the tournament and still finding their way.
But the most important thing about the 6 Nations tournament is the occasion. Visit any 6 Nations game, (I urge you to try to attend 1 before you die) and you’ll be swept away by a brilliant good natured tribal atmosphere. Parties in all the pubs on the way to the ground, groups of fans joining together to out sing each other outside the Stadium, warpaint being worn with pride. The English fans sporting crosses of St George, The Scots proudly displaying their Saltires and wearing their Kilts. The Welsh, all Daffodils and giant Leeks, The Irish a sea of Emerald Green all singing The Fields of Athenry, yet another pop at the evil English!
But, despite all of this, the camaraderie amongst the supporters is fantastic. By the end of the day in whatever pub you’re in, both set of supporters will be singing each others songs and looking forward to next year. It really is sport on another level!
Over the years I’ve accumulated any number of tales of exploits and funny stories on my visits to various 6 Nations games across Britain, Ireland and Europe. All of them get more fantastic with each telling, but all of them usually include total strangers joining together in friendship to have the craic to a background of arguably the most brutal sport in the world.
And that is what will be dominant in my world until Saturday the 19th of March when, if the sporting Gods are on my side I’ll be watching Ireland play England in Dublin for the Grand Slam.
I was there when England won the Grand slam last time in 2003, what a weekend…