On Saturday at Twickenham the home of Rugby Union – or at least that is what is claimed – there is going to be an annual international sporting event that within the United Kingdom is certainly one that transcends sport.
Can I at this stage – well I’m going to anyway – dispel the commonly held myth that the game of Rugby Union in the British Isles is only played by “Public” schoolboys who are all called Rupert or Rodney.
Oh and incidentally the England team isn’t wholly selected on the basis of which school the players went to – this is rugby not the Conservative Party Members of Parliament (or Labour for that matter).
It was of course the case but things have changed.
It took longer than it should have but at least now selection is on merit following the professionalisation of the game and the changes in qualifications required to represent England.
Gone are the days when every member of the England team was born in the country or at the very least to parents one of who is English.
Just to reinforce the point I doubt when they were attending state schools if Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson two World Cup winners in 2003 even believed that they would one day represent England.
It does raise the question of whether it has made the game better to watch as a spectacle and if supporters have the same passion for the national team that 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 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.
Will there come a day when the majority of the National team will be made up of residency qualified players?
I sincerely hope not.
Wales have the same issue, the difference between England and Wales when it comes to Rugby Union is that in Wales rather than a national sport it is more akin to being a national religion with which over 99.9% of Welsh wherever they are in the World identify.
OK I was grasping at straws – 100%
And if there is 0.1% who don’t identify with it they are considered by their country folk as deserving of sympathy and great pity.
On Saturday I’ll be cheering on England, and if they lose I’ll be standing by the telephone waiting for the 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 an event that polarises 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 national passion that is unequalled not only in the world of rugby but I would argue anywhere in sport.
If England are going to win they will have to learn to cope with the passion and conversely Wales will have to be able to control theirs.
England v Wales –
I just love it.