Sunday, February 15, 2009

Two down Three to go – Mimitig

I’m not known in these parts for writing about Rugby, but it’s that time of year.

It’s Six Nations time, and for the first time in my grown-up years Wales are not only the defending champions, but favourites to retain the crown.

This means that the Welsh blood in my veins stirs, and makes me do things like search out this:

And so we are singing Hymns and Arias … as the English came to Cardiff to do what Edward Hammer of the Scots and Bloody Bastard Castle Builder of Wales did to us. They wore their red rose with pride and they put Mike Tindall into the side. To do what the Royals have done to the Welsh for eight centuries.

So what a joy when the Royal connection was sin-binned! As if all the ancient reasons for hating the English were laid out on a lovely green Millenium Stadium tranche of grass. In that moment I knew we would win. Of course it wasn’t that simple, it never is.

Wales make their supporters suffer. At half time, we had a scant one point lead after Goode had dropped a goal for England. And Sackey had gone over the line.

England seemed to have learned the lessons from a poor victory over Italy last week. They had studied the tapes and they knew which Welshman to smother. They made sure Andy Powell had no space to work in. But Stephen Jones had regained his touch and kicked far better than he had at Murrayfield. He did the business and Wales started to draw clear.

Then England lost Goode to typical indiscipline – sin-binned and the Welsh pair of Byrne and Halfpenny showed just what free-flowing Welsh rugby is all about. England proved tough and made us feel sick for about ten minutes, thinking maybe we hadn’t done enough. But the crowd sang again:

There is nothing, nothing like the stadium filled with Welsh voices singing. When the team are winning, we are untouchable. We are the conquerors of the world and so happy. I think that we are happier when we win than any England fan can dream of. We expect to lose. Our songs are all about being vanquished, and we expect that.

So our glory in victory is very humble. We didn’t expect it, we don’t expect to win next time, but we are Champions and we play very very good rugby.

I am so proud to be Welsh. I am always Welsh, obviously, but at Six Nations time, one declares nationality in a unique way – it’s different from football because we have no Home Nations, so this is the sport that declares your interest.

I don’t know if we’ll manage to defend the title – France and Ireland are looking very strong, but we’ve won the big grudge match, again and England leave Cardiff, licking their wounds.

I was going to end with a clip of the Welsh nation singing their hearts out, but this is far more appropriate:


Ebren said...

Good game yesterday - nice to see Wales grinding us down with penalties and england scoring more tries than them but losing ;o)

Gotta say it though, as far as being happy at winning - this felt alright:

mountainstriker said...

I've mentioned before that grew up in South Wales during the years of Welsh hegemony. I hated it. Not so much the team, Bennett, Edwards, Fenwick, Martin, JJ, John and Gerald deserved all the accolades they got, as the nauseating nationalism that it engendered.

My abiding memories of those days are of a fervent belief in Welsh superiority based on reactionary machismo, random violence and the ability to sink 10 pints of Albright/Brains SA in a single sitting. Oh, and the ridiculous notion that Max Boyce is/was funny. I confess to a degree of shadenfreude during the two decades in the wilderness that followed. We needed a cold shower of humility.

The wilderness years coincided with the miners' strike, the demolition of Welsh industry and a loss of confidence as a nation. Personally I didn't mind this, there wasn't much to lose, but I wonder if there is a case for linking the re-emergence of Welsh rugby with a rising sense of Welsh confidence based on the economic regeneration of the last 15 or so years.

Surprisingly, despite my general indifference to Welsh rugby I love to see us beat England. The reasons are the same. If there's one thing worse than Welsh rugby fans, then its English rugby fans. Too much money, too few brain cells. One song. One line. Not good. I came very close to leaving the country after 2003 and I'll take England football or cricket fans every time in terms of knowledge of their own game and sense of humour. Mercifully, England have also had the cold shower of late and, judging by the pre and post match comments, might well be on the way to humility too. Good.

Hopefully the Welsh team can keep winning without engendering a return to Boycism!

Ebren said...

Mountainstriker - technically they're Welsh cricket fans too. Plenty of Joneses in that Ashes winning team...

mountainstriker said...

Ebren - quite so, like most Welsh cricketers I've always been a fan of the England cricket team.

One of the Jones' was an Australian from Papua New Guinea of course but that would be picky. Besides, he was worth his place just to listen to Beefy trying to pronounce 'Geraint'.

I won't make the obvious point about the relative success of England cricket with and without Welshman in the team. But then I think I just did...

mimi said...

mountain: i guess you never heard Stephen Fry calling him Gareth Jones then?

No apologies for me celebrating a Welsh win and enjoying it.

I do understand what you say about the 70s and I both agree and disagree.

Two decades was too long, but the reality is that it has taken that time.

offsideintahiti said...

Did you see that, Mimi? Great game! Heroic defending from the Frogs in the last five minutes. My regards to Madame Fillon if you see her!

mimi said...

I was watching, from behind the sofa for the last 5 mins, Offie.

Am fair-minded enough to say that the better team won. Looking to Scotland to uphold Celtic pride this afternoon, but sort of want England to win against Ireland so that there's no Slam this year. A triple crown shoot-out in Cardiff would be a fine and fitting end to the tournament.

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