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:

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