Really pleased to be able to introduce our mate Bruce to the #rugbyunited blog! In these scary times, this made me nostalgic for the international weekends, the walk to the stadium, the gathering of families and friends….. it’s gonna be a while, but this has wet the whistle!! Over to you Bruce!!
I’m not Arab Strap, but my big weekend of the 6 Nations would go something like this…
The Perfect 6 Nations weekend at home or away, should look exactly like this, a bit like it was, when I was a lad, but updated for 2020.
Friday would start with a lunch. Organised, or just a Baguette Express, with the group who will be my rugby companions for the weekend. A group who have nicknames only they understand and some that can never be uttered in polite company. The origin of which will be long ago, but still fresh enough to raise a smile, a laugh and an embellishment.
Or at a big fancy affair lunch with World Cup winners as headline speakers and expensive auctions with prizes you’d need a second mortgage to bid for. Then, out into the fresh air…
The afternoon would be kicked off with a Double Header. Played at a suitable club ground, at £5 for adults and free for everyone else. The programme is free, about 8 pages, with the teams in the middle. Players you know and want to see get a shot in the Big Dance on the Saturday at some point in future.
The first game is of course, the U20s (it was the 21s when I was a lad). The team is crammed with players fresh out of school or making their way in #Clubland. Always a couple of Exiles no one has heard of, and maybe one or two with Southern Hemispheres accents. There would be a large section of their mates, giving them stick for the slightest mistake, the dodgy haircut, but secretly, loving the reflective glory that comes from their friend playing for their country. It also means when the player breaks through, wins man of the match or gets to be a Calcutta Cup winner or a Lion, you can say, ‘I saw that laddie when he was in the U20s at Inverleith / Myreside etc’. A bit like those folks who love to claim they saw a famous comedian perform in their local, and he wasn’t funny, or when they played at a tiny venue at the Edinburgh Festival before they were famous and now they have a dvd.
The action is real, with props as props, the big tall lads as locks, the 10 with the side parting, an angry centre and a classy centre, wingers dropping the ball and the flankers looking like they need fed. The tackles would be full force with the home team desperate to put on a show and hopeful to receive some worship afterwards on the ego lap, or when they eventually head into town after the jersey swap and formalities.
Then, nowadays, it would be the Club XV, replacing the A team from yesteryear. They would be playing for the pride of representing their club, their mates and getting to sing the national anthem and their heart bursting in their chest. They have been able to feel like pros for a few days in the build up and get to play alongside guys they have been knocking lumps out of for seasons and seasons, some, stretching back to age groups on Sunday afternoons on public parks in front of… well, no one. Parents will be lining the touch line behind the blue rope, with aunties and grannies at their first ever live game, proud of their boy.
The night, regardless of the result would start in the club house, with supporters wearing scarves of either side, but united in the game. New mates for the night, and some forever. The night will become a blur, if it can remain in sight at all. But, shared with mates, it will be relived again and again.
Saturday starts with the haze. The wiping away of the sleep from the eyes, the pocket check, the ticket check and when the feet hit the floor, comes the buzz of what is to come. Ding Ding, Round 2! The crowds gather early, meeting at the same spot that has served the group well before and hopefully, will continue to today and beyond. Night before recaps and blank spot filling in are essential. A new nickname potentially added and then off to make new stories.
The walk to the ground is amazing, spotting the silly hats, the face painting, the scarf sellers, a burger, a juice, plenty time for the sponsors product later, and the chat is nonsense, insightful, rumour and hearsay and more often than not, funny. ‘Why is he playing?’ ‘My mate is engaged to the physio, and she reckons that the coach said…’
The stadium is alive, its heart rate is gathering pace and come the pyros and anthems, it is fully throbbing! GAME ON! No matter the social media checks and updates, the TMO decisions, the replacement warmups and the selfies, there is absolutely nothing you can do to influence the performance or the result. And that, is what makes supporting the joy it is! Totally beyond my control, but not my analysis and my criticism! Surrounded by the other Test Rugby experts, we say what should have happened, what we would have done and how it would have been different if…
The game quickly gets forgotten as the adventure of the night kicks off and the city centre becomes the arena for the events that will last longer in the memory than much of what happened between the whistles.
But its not over. The most welcome addition to this ideal weekend, is the Sunday Women’s International. Joining the dedicated band of supporters, seeing the families gather, the teammates with names on the back of their shirts and getting so close to the highest level of the sport is a joy. Being part of this group is bliss. The players go for it and loyal supporters make a lot of noise, they cheer, and the atmosphere is absolutely as sport should be. The spirit of the contest is full blooded, but fair. If you could bottle it and sell it, you’d make honest money spreading purity and happiness to all who sip from the source. And it brings the curtain down on a weekend you’ll always remember.
As the players troop from the field to claps and cheers, ready to mingle with the next generation, delighted to get so close to their heroes, and the family members whose pride fills them up, you exhale and look forward to the next chance to immerse yourself in the #RugbyFamily on a 6 Nations weekend. Win or lose, you had amazing moments, that after your recovery, will become memories. And sharing those with your tribe is what makes it more special that can be measured.
Home or Away, it’s a magnificent tournament, played against foes and friends. Steeped in History and drenched with expectation. But it’s not just for the players. Its for us. You and me. And it should be forever. After all…
Happiness is Egg Shaped
You can find Bruce and his rugby positivity on Twitter @HappyEggShaped or a Facebook search for Happiness is Egg Shaped!