Greetings, readers. Ahead of the big cross-border clash that is sure to have the tinpot nationalists out in force this weekend, regular correspondent for The Rugby Blog Christine Lester writes in with an Englishwoman’s view of her first trip to Murrayfield for the Ireland game. Christine is based in Glasgow, and we hope she may be able to give us some more coverage from that end of the country in future. Over to Christine!
When looking at the list of Scotland’s home fixtures for the 6 Nations and deciding which of them I would try and get tickets for, the Ireland game jumped out at me. As clashes go this looked set to be a good one. As an Englishwoman who has been to many games at Twickenham, and one who well knows the hoops you have to jump through involved in trying to get tickets for matches there, I resigned myself to what I thought would be a frantic but ultimately unsuccessful bid for tickets, after all I am not affiliated with any rugby clubs or unions here in Scotland.
You can imagine, then, that I was delighted to find that it was remarkably easy to obtain the tickets for the game as they went on general sale very soon after being released, and I did not have to jump through any hoops to get them.
Another problem you face going to Twickers is the cost of the tickets once you actually obtain them. The cheapest game I have been to so far was the 6 Nations opener against Wales last year, when I paid £70 for a seat up in the gods of the stadium, had a good overall view of the pitch, but my goodness we were high up. Since that game my Dad and I have found our seats, and we always strive to get them for each game we decide to attend, these are on the halfway line, just behind the press box, and come in at a whopping £90 per ticket. Of course I thought that became excellent value for money after the Australia game when I was afforded a most excellent view of every stage of the Chris Ashton special!
Then I purchased my tickets for Scotland v Ireland; I found out that the SRU give student discount to certain games (thought this was not one of them), and also offer excellent prices for the seats. West Stand block 5 row A, £30 per ticket. Front row – £30?! Surely there is going to be something wrong with the view or the seats here for that price?!
Then I arrived at Murrayfield and took my seat, and what a seat it was! I could see the entire pitch very well, was seated just behind the try line, and John Inverdale was doing his pundit interviews right in front of me. Result! And it did make me think; why can it not be this simple for an England fan to go and watch an England game?
I will be honest with you, many people I know had written Scotland off before the start of this competition, and thought that I would have an easy job on my hands covering their Six Nations journey for The Rugby Blog. I on the other hand, having spent weeks immersing myself in Scottish Rugby to make sure that I would write with confidence and conviction about them, thought that they were an underestimated side, and harboured a secret hope that they would shock all of their critics.
And, in their first game of the tournament they pulled off an incredible performance against the defending champions who were on form and had a home advantage. 3 tries in one game against France is definitely something to be proud of. I began to feel a real excitement build in me at seeing them play on their home turf, which remained with me, despite the performance against Wales.
Before the game I had decided to remain fairly neutral, applauding the good play from both teams, but ultimately not allying myself one way or the other, after all, England had yet to play both teams.
This lasted until I got onto the train to go across from Glasgow to Murrayfield. A group of Scotland fans squeezed themselves into the (already full) carriage and the conversation flowed naturally, or as naturally as it could when you are all pressed in together!
The manner in which they spoke about the team; the improvements that had been made, the areas that still needed work, what they liked, what they did not like, and how, despite the odds being against them the majority of the time, the fans still believe in the ability of their team to pull off a win, showed how deep their commitment to the team was. You could see them being with Scotland rugby through thick and thin, no matter the results.
No one could fault, or mock, that dedication and passion, and these people succeeded in infecting me with that passion. A short time later I found myself in my (front row!) seat at Murrayfield with a Scotland scarf and flag ready to cheer them on, neutrality having flown out of the window.
Match days at Twickenham have always been atmospheric, and watching my team run out with pyrotechnics going off, and the words of Swing Low ringing across the stadium never fails to give me goosebumps. However the atmosphere at Murrayfield, and the way in which the Scotland team are piped onto the field to Highland Cathedral was amazing, and incredibly haunting, I had the goosebumps too, and it is something that will stay with me for a long time to come.
In the two years that I have lived in Glasgow I have learnt the words to the national anthem, and singing it along with everyone else at Murrayfield really made me feel like part of something special.
And all of this is before any rugby had been played!
Before the game, I had written a match preview, to be published on The Rugby Blog, in which predictions on key players, and the winners were required. My reading of the team sheets and analysing of past performances, led me to go with Ireland by 5 or 7. However standing there at Murrayfield with the game about to kick off, I would have been more than happy to have been wrong.
All in all, despite the result, I had a brilliant day at Murrayfield, the people I spoke to were so fanatical and passionate about their team, they welcomed me with open arms into this fandom, and I for one will certainly be going to many more Scotland games at Murrayfield.
My next game, however, takes me back to my home town of London and sees me in the stands for England v Scotland, and I know, more than ever Scotland are never more dangerous when they are written off. Martin Johnson and several of the England players have echoed these thoughts in interviews and are facing up to the fact that Scotland are looking for a win, and are a team that never make it easy for us.
I, for one, am relishing this next encounter.