Not long now until Six Nations!
So it’s now February and what do you think of? For many people I am sure that Valentine’s Day will first spring to mind and how they are going to celebrate with their loved one this year. Maybe it will be half term and you are planning how to keep the kids entertained for a whole 9 days. For me however, along with rugby fans all over the Northern Hemisphere, February means one thing – the start of the Six Nations!
It is all over my Facebook, and the rugby sports news of course, with the usual pre-tournament banter, squad choice examination and expert predictions. Rugby doesn’t always go to plan (ask the English World Cup team!) – after all it’s just 30 players and 80 minutes at the end of the day – but Wales has good reason to be optimistic. After the last two world cups prior to 2015 (2011 and 2007) Wales came back from relatively disappointing performances to win a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2012 and 2008. I think they should have gone further in last year’s World Cup and Warren Gatland agrees and believes that that frustration will spur his team onto another Grand Slam success. Saying that though he has picked a number of players for the Welsh squad that haven’t experienced the emotional pressure-cooker that is the Six Nations and Ireland are after their third championship title in a row and will not give Wales an easy ride when they travel to Dublin for their first match on Sunday.
‘It’s just a game’ some people say and that’s true, but it represents so much more. Rugby culture defines many Welsh communities, and in the vast majority of cases, brings people together in their love for the sport and their country in a very positive way.
Take the national anthem. It is 160 years since Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was composed and it quickly gained popularity and developed to become the national anthem for Wales. While anthems had been sung by crowds during matches, It was first sung before a sporting match in 1905, in response to the performance of the Haka by the New Zealand team, and it has been sung with immense pride by Welsh supporters ever since! If you want to learn more about the Welsh National Anthem, and maybe try a few practice renditions before the tournament starts, take a look at my previous National Anthem blog here.
Just 5 days to go… I can’t wait. It may be an Olympic year but for the moment it’s all about the oval ball and the drama, tension and, the favourite phrase for all reality TV contestants, ‘emotional rollercoasters’. Who will win? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out!