Welcome Back to a Winter Wonder; the Games the Same: England Draw 3-3 with Wales at Twickenham in 1948
Byline: PAUL HAYWARD
ABOOK is screaming to be written about the annual social odyssey that isthe Six Nations Championship. There is a reason nobody has tried it. Like theSixties, if you can remember it, you werent really there.
To remain self-disciplined and clock-watchingly sober in pursuit of anecdotesand insights in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Dublin and Paris would render the bookunwritable. You cant observe the Six Nations, you must live it. This is the onesporting tournament of which we can say: the more they mess about with it, themore it stays the same.
Here are some of the stunts and problems that have failed to damage the mostclassless ritual in all European sport: the Tongan Lesley Vainikolo playingrugby league for New Zealand then rugby union for England, Kiwis turning out asfaux Scots, grannies being disinterred to bolster the flagging Welsh withsouthern hemisphere blood, staggered and inconvenient kick-off times, impendingFriday night fixtures, an excess of bump-and-shove attritional rugby.
Safety-first media training for gloriously garrulous players, France turningthemselves into England, scavenging hotels that raise rates from [pounds sterling]100 per nightto [pounds sterling]300 per fitful sleep, occasional outbreaks of thuggery and finally themonoculture of Premier League football, from which Six Nations rugby is such ablessed escape.
Put it this way: you would wait an age to hear rugbys rulers fretting overwhether a minutes silence to commemorate 23 deaths (the Munich air disaster)would be violated at Twickenham, Croke Park or Murrayfield. It will be a coldday in hell before an England football captain, in this case Phil Vickery, canadmit to be being put to bed on the wrong end of five gallons of wine after hisinternational debut without being held up as a symbol of decadence anddegradation.
There are bigger events this year, Euro 2008 and the Beijing Olympics amongthem. But there is no greater rebuff to winter than waking on a Saturdaymorning with the knowledge that the tribal loathing which sometimes separatesthe English from the French and the Scotsthe English from everyone, if truth be toldis about to be subsumed by healthy camaraderie, by a game of rugby, in whicheveryone respects the anthem and no lynch mobs hound the referee. …