So what if it’s an elitist, minority sport? I can’t get enough of rugby’s Six Nations
I AM, in the words of the great Stu Francis, so excited that I could crush a grape…
Because it all gets going tomorrow: my favourite sports event, the year 2020. Everything…
Rugby’s Six Nations Championship is back. Back, back, BACK, baby!
And I – for one – cannot wait to see what they will do next…
Although I never played rugby, I have loved the Six (and Five) Nations since I was knee high to Devin Toner.* But I’m aware that not everyone is with me on this.
A few years ago, when I was still playing football, my team trooped into a pub in Chiswick after our match. They were showing Ireland v England in The Six.
“We’ve got to cheer on the Egg Chasers”, said our ebullient centre forward, planting his substantial arse on a stool by the big screen. But our box-to-box – on a good day – midfielder was more downbeat and bored with it all.
“You don’t like rugby, then?” I asked.
“Why would you like it,” he replied.
Well – let me just mark out my long run here and I’ll tell you…
History aside – it has been going in one form or another for 135 years – the Six Nations literally brings light into our lives.
When Wales v Italy kicks off the tournament tomorrow afternoon, the sun will have risen at 7.39 in London and will set at 16.48, just three minutes after the Scotland v Ireland kick off. That’s only nine hours and nine minutes of sunlight.
But, by the time the championship reaches its final round of matches on March 14, the day will be almost twelve hours long. It will be a different world, and not I’m not just talking about the world of rugby union.
It will be spring time, and thinking about that sure as hell makes me feel good.
The Six Nations literally brings light into our lives.”
For me, the Six Nations is like a kindly friend watching with you through the night until the dawn: a companion promising to stay with you until the better times, when you can think about moving forward, getting out there and just … living again.
Like doing the garden, or going for a walk. Or maybe even heading somewhere crazy on your bike, like Amsterdam, without dropping dead from hypothermia along the way…
In terms of entertainment, moreover, The Six Nations is an outstanding way to warm your cockles at the arse end of winter.
It’s proper, intense, elite-level sport played by genuine blokes who – though they may have gone to private school – work crazily hard and leave it all out there on the field.
The hits they take would snap a Kevball*** player like me in two – and yet they just strap themselves up and keep taking them.
Rugby pitches, stadiums and TV coverage are far superior to when I was growing up – although part of me misses the old pile-up days on Rugby Special, when rucks resembled mud wrestling, or a Bundle in the school playground.
The players are fitter and much, much sexier these days – with their muscles in clingy shirts and their cool haircuts.
And – look – they even do that football thing, where they hide the oh-so-private things they’re saying to each other from the cameras by covering their faces,… and they do it with a rugby ball.
If that’s not cool, then what is?
*Former presenter of children’s TV programme Crackerjack. When I first wrote this sentence, I wrote ‘late lamented’ instead of ‘great’ because I thought I’d seen his obituary in the papers recently. Actually, he was in the news for criticising the show’s latest reboot. (That was a close one…)
**A lot of people still are knee high to the 6’11” Ireland lock forward…
*** Kevball = a derogatory term used in some rugby circles to describe association football.