Six Nations – Transcends Sporting Contest
Tonight one of the all time important sporting fixtures that I have followed for most of my life and transcends what is normally called a sporting contest in the British Isles takes place when England run out to play Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
It’s still amazes me that Rugby Union in England is still seen as a sport played by public schoolboys usually called Rupert or Rodney even though over the past 20 years it has clearly been shown not to be the case.
I’m sure Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson both World Cup Winners in 2003 didn’t when they were attending state schools in Northampton believe they would one day represent England on the World stage, but they did as have so many others.
Supporting England has changed over the last two decades because of the professionalism in the game and the resulting changes in qualifications to represent a country.
Gone are the days when every member of the England team was born in England or at the very least to parents one of who one was English.
The days of Duckham, Spencer, Dooley, Moore, Underwood (both of them) et al are well and truly behind us with qualifying to play for England being available through length of residency in the Country.
This of course equally applies to all of the other rugby playing nations.
The question is does it make the game better to watch as a spectacle and will supporters have the same passion for the national team if it contains so many ‘residency qualified’ players?
The answer of course is probably Yes because just as some people always vote the same way based on the principle of we’ve always voted this way, supporters will continue to support those who wear the White Jersey on their back and Red Rose on their chest.
There is no doubt the quality of talent on display in tonight’s game will be high quality but the fact that it reduces the opportunities for home-grown players to represent their country will rankle with some grass root supporters, and especially those of the team who loses.
Will there come a day when the majority of the National teams will be made up of residency qualified players?
I sincerely hope not.
Wales have the same issue, the difference between England and Wales being that in Rugby Union transcends being a national sport and is more akin to being a national religion with which over 99.9% of Welsh, wherever they are in the World identify.
There is of course the 0.1% who don’t identify with it who are considered by their country folk as deserving of a combination of understanding and great pity.
Tonight I’ll be cheering on England, and if they lose be standing by for the telephone call and messages on social media from my Welsh friends and family that will inevitably follow.😣
Naturally if England win they will be wise to cut of communication from me until at least next February 😀
It is a great spectacle and event that polarize friends across the England – Wales divide and the passions it arouses can perhaps be summed up by what it means to each country.
In England Rugby Union is a comparatively minor sport compared with the dreaded football and so supporting the England Rugby Team is about supporting our national team.
In Wales, Rugby Union is the national sport which means to the Welsh this is not only about supporting their national team but about supporting their NATION.
It is a passion that is unequalled not only in the world of rugby but I would argue anywhere in sport and especially at the Millennium Stadium.
If England are going to win tonight they will have to learn to cope with it, Wales will have to be able to control it.
Six Nations, I just love it.