Six Nations Rugby
One of the latest victims of the coronavirus was the annual rugby competition known as the Six Nations Tournament. As two of the host nations are currently at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic, matches were postponed and may or may not be made up this coming fall. The six countries that make up the competition, which takes place every year in February and March, are France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. For the last several years, I and a group of rugby fanatic friends (some, like me, who used to play) have traveled to see one Six Nations match each year at a different venue.
I am going to assume that most people are not familiar with rugby, but I will direct you to an old adage that says, “Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans; Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentleman.” Although it is an extremely tough sport, it is a sport that truly embodies class and respect among the players (you see only muted celebrations when players score) and in the stands as well (you never hear of violence among fans attending rugby matches). I was first drawn to the game on a lark in college in California when I was asked to join the club team. Two years later when I went to study in Paris, I played with a university team there. I also subsequently played in Japan for a club team, when I first moved there for work.
In 2015 several of us traveled to London to attend the Rugby World Cup, which is played every four years at different locations. It was there that we struck on the idea of visiting all the venues for the Six Nations tournament. Each year the games are played on an alternating basis, home one year, road the following. We saw the Irish play France in Dublin in 2017, the French host the Italians in Marseille in 2018, the Welsh play England in Cardiff in 2019, and this past month we saw the Scots host the English in Edinburgh, just before the competition closed up due to corona-virus concerns. I also traveled last fall with a friend to see the Rugby World Cup in Japan. South Africa bested England in the final. See the fans in my photos who brought serious attire to watch the game.
What is so attractive about the Six Nations tournament in particular is because it is rugby’s oldest competition (dating to 1883 when it was England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales only), played in the cradle of rugby. The rivals are ancient, and unlike other rugby competitions, these rivals once actually fought one another in wars over the centuries, so there is so much passion. The other great international rugby competition—besides the World Cup—is the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship that pits four nations against one another on an annual basis (Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa). I think it is safe to say that these countries are not exactly ancient or even hated rivals.
Going to a Six Nations’ match is akin to seeing a college football rivalry in America with great pageantry, such as Army-Navy or Texas-Oklahoma. The fans gather before the matches and trade friendly banter over many beers and good food. It is a similar to a state fair or New Orleans before a big football game. We look forward to next year’s competition and hope to see England host France at Twickenham Stadium outside London. Join us!