Get ready for the Six Nations!
Now is the time of year, in my house at least, that the Six Nations Rugby Union Championship looms large on the horizon. Any social activities that don’t involve rugby have to be arranged very carefully not to clash with any of the 15 games of the six week championship!
Yesterday was the 105th anniversary of the first Rugby Union match played between England and Wales at Twickenham. Not that this was the first match between the countries of course.
The Six Nations as we know it today has developed from the Home Nations Championship which began in 1883 and was the first international tournament for Rugby Union of its kind. France joined in 1910 with the creation of the Five Nations tournament (although they did not take part between 1932 and 1939) and then, with the inclusion of Italy in 2000, the Six Nations Championship it became. Winning all your matches will give you the Grand Slam and at the moment Wales and England are tied with 26 outright wins of the tournament each. But within the championship there are other trophies to be won, both in longstanding sporting rivalries and new.
The Calcutta Cup has been awarded to the winner of the England v Scotland rugby fixture since 1879 and was incorporated into the Home Nations. The Triple Crown has long been a feature and won by either Wales, Ireland, Scotland or England if one team manages to beat the other three.
However, a physical trophy for this honour has only been awarded since 2006. The Millennium Trophy (in honour of Dublin’s millennium) has been contested between Ireland and England since 1988, the Centenary Quiach (a Gaelic drinking vessel) between Ireland and Scotland since 1989 and finally the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy between France and Italy since 2007.
I was brought up as a rugby fan and enjoy watching the Six Nations very much. I have been fortunate enough to go to a few matches in the Millennium Stadium with my husband over the years and the atmosphere is always one of friendship and mutual appreciation for what is, in my opinion, one of the best team sports going. There is one fixture however that can cause tension at home.
Now, I love living in Wales, love the people, the culture, the history, the landscape and count myself lucky that my daughter is being brought up here….however, when it comes to rugby I’m afraid that my allegiance remains with the country of my birth. Any contentious referee decisions can be hotly debated for weeks after the match, but even so, the Six Nations remains one of my favourite sporting events.
You are unlikely to find many pubs (or any other public space in Wales with a telly really) not showing the matches when they can so you don’t have to be in Cardiff to experience the passion that the Welsh feel for their team and their national sport. And believe me that whatever team you support you will be warmly welcomed, even if there may be a bit of banter! You may wonder at the big deal that is made of 30 men running around a pitch with an odd shaped ball but this tournament, and the weight of history behind it, can bring a nation to fever pitch and then elation or crushing disappointment.
The championship kicks off this year with Wales v England at 20.05 on Friday 6 February. Let’s hope for a close run Grand Slam race this year, consistent refereeing decisions (!) and some absolutely world class rugby!