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Long Live The Six Nations

The Six Nations is still the greatest rugby tournament in the world.

Sky have their Lions tours to talk up in the absence of (or unwillingness to use) Six Nations footage, and they have their Super 15 and their Heineken Cup to promote. Now they also have Ireland, France and Italy’s Autumn tests to show. Pontificators such as Stephen Jones will continue to suggest that Europe’s biggest club competition is fast becoming better, in terms of matches, excitement, fervour than International rugby (although Sky’s new purchase counteracts this view somewhat). But I bet Barnes and Harrison would bite your hand off if you offered them the chance to commentate on the Six Nations. This is rugby’s showcase.

The World Cups and Heineken Cups attract coverage and passing interest . The Six Nations gets people who wouldn’t dream of watching Edinburgh or Glasgow into a pub; into a Scotland shirt. International rugby in Scotland at least, is still top dog.

The World Cup may be the biggest tournament in rugby as it involves greater chunks of the planet – but they still get up to watch the Six Nations down under, too. Sean Maitland is proof of that. Despite being of little relevance to the Sanzar Big Three except in World Cup years, they still get up to watch it. Because the Six Nations is part of rugby’s cradle, its heritage.

We’ve found that here on the Scottish Rugby Blog too. We try to cover the club game as best we can and would love to increase coverage. But the fact is that the areas that get the most discussion going, the articles most read, are those covering internationals. Probably everyone reading this has an opinion on who should play 10 for Scotland. You have to dig harder to find someone who cares who plays 10 for Edinburgh, or for Edinburgh Accies, or for Broughton.

People point to dwindling attendances or less passion amongst the international crowds. Attendances could well be put down to tickets costing well more than £50 in a treble-dip recession. But there will be no shortage of passion in the pubs and rugby clubs of Edinburgh, Dublin or Cardiff, and all throughout the land on Saturday. Rugby has its supporters and we are passionate about the game, about our teams, about our country. Not always in that order.

There is an argument that the tournament could do with a refresh, that perhaps there should be relegation, a second tier tournament to involve the Georgias and Romanias of the game, or perhaps something less drastic like bonus points for tries. Certainly the rugby over recent years has blossomed only fitfully – a half here, a try there. But there has been no shortage of drama; witness Scotland’s self destruction against Wales, or Peter Allan’s try that should not have been, or Italy’s first win over France.

If you asked me why this funny old tournament continues to grip, it is because nothing else takes you back to your childhood so instantly, to your first love of rugby. You cannot usually reminisce about the time your dad took you to a Lions test, or the time you all went to Toulouse in the 1980s. But most of us reading, I imagine, will be able to remember sleepy Saturday mornings tumbling out of the school minibus into the motorgrill at Ballinluig to find it filled with Scotland shirts, or that first frisson of excitement picking your way through a merry crowd as thousands surge with common purpose and a giant rugby stadium looms slowly out of the surrounding houses.

The buzz builds throughout the country. I suppose you could look at it like this: nothing else makes you feel like it is Christmas all over again, even though in all likelihood Santa is going to put 4 or 5 tries past you.

The Six Nations is still the greatest rugby tournament in the world.

4 Responses

  1. I personally love the six nations. Would in some ways love to see the 6 nations extended to home and away each season (maybe replacing the AI’s). If there were home and away fixtures then bonus points would become a sensible introduction.

    Just a thought…

  2. And, it’s almost never a forgone conclusion. Everyone loves to beat their bogey team (or the English, for right or wrong), France are glorious on their day and who’d miss that.

    I took my Swedish missus to Murrayfield for the first time 6 yrs ago for a 6N match. People started tagging alone after that. This year will be the 6th in a row and 18 others will join us from Stockholm for Scotland vs. Ireland. It’s a great trip. I followed Scotland in NZ and it didn’t compare.

    The Six Nations is the sporting highlight of the year: unsurpassed.

  3. Totally agree, good article. Sorry I’ll miss the Calcutta Cup unless Italian TV shows it.

  4. I like your idea of a 2nd tier tournament with relegation and promotion. Another 6 teams from Europe would be good. It would go a long way to glorify the game and get people more interested in it.

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