Such passion, such pride – Jude
The first weekend in February marks the most important weekend of the year in our house. With Christmas and New Year over with, all eyes are set on the 2022 Rugby Six Nations Championship.
As any Welsh person will agree, you’re brought up with it. Live it, breathe it. It’s in your blood. And as any self respecting parent will tell you, we’ve brought our children up in the same way (properly) and they now follow the same path, the same tradition.
So what is it that makes it so special?
Well to those of you uneducated in the ways of the Six Nations and indeed rugby in general, let me try and explain.
The Six Nations is unique in that every year, the four home nations joined by France and Italy, compete against each other to win the Championship. Every year players are aiming to be named in their national squad and compete for their home nation. It’s about striving to reach that ultimate accolade, playing for your country and aiming to be the best. This may then lead to being chosen to play for the British and Irish Lions Tour and then the World Cup. It’s this goal which keeps rugby union special, keeping players achieving, striving and driving towards the Six Nations. Knowing that the head coach will select only the best.
But with it comes disappointment. Aiming for such a dream and to then have it dashed by injury is the ultimate in disappointment. And this in turn can turn the Championship on its head. The players Wales have injured this year for example have over 600 caps between them, thus changing everything in the team, bringing in fresh new uncapped players, with much riding on their shoulders. Nervous excitement, opportunity and hope.
Yet teamwork is the name of the game. Rugby cannot be just about one person; the team is everything. This is no place for egos. Decision making is key as play can change quickly and decisions made can very swiftly change the outcome. Working together for a common goal, you have to rely on the team as a whole and the bench (the subs) are as important as the starting fifteen. Often referred to as “the finishers” the bench are part of the tactical plan of the game, not just there as injury replacements when the physical effects take their toll.
It’s about respect. Respect for each other, respect for yourself and respect for the referee. There’s not many sports where you’ll witness a nineteen stone, six foot seven giant saying “sorry sir” when they are scolded by the ref. And don’t ever argue with the ref even when you don’t agree, or you’ll be penalised, either by territory or the sin bin. Yes there are flare ups, but dealt with quickly and then you move on. And in the infamous words of the one and only Nigel Owens when challenged by a player, “I don’t think we’ve met before, but I’m the referee on this field, not you.”
The national anthems are truly a thing to behold from the rousing La Marseillaise, the Flower of Scotland when the bagpipes stop and it’s sung unaccompanied, and Hen Gwlad Fy Nhadau, well just don’t get me started. Grown men singing with such passion, such pride; many a tear is shed and not just from the players.
The Six Nations is competitive no doubt about it, yet laced with friendly rivalry. The camaraderie between players is clear to see both within and across the teams. The rugby ball is an odd shape making it unpredictable and that’s true of the game too, which is what makes it so exciting. So many lessons can be learned and parallels drawn to business, sport and life in general. And as the song says, “If I win, lose or draw, there’s a victory in us all”.