The Six Nations is the best!

Round & About

rugby

The annual rugby tournament is something to look forward to in this grim month

Shortest day of the year, done. Christmas, hecho. All that’s left is to traverse these next couple of drizzly months before we welcome Wimbledon, Glastonbury and ‘might be too hot’ season. For now, though, we need a vehicle to steer us towards those better days. How about the best sporting tournament on Earth? Oh, go on then. Six Nations time.

Nothing brought my family together quite like the Six Nations growing up. We’d all flood over to my grandparents early enough to be fully caught up with each other in time for the build up to start with John Inverdale or Gabby Logan. You can’t fault our dedication to the pre-match interviews.

As a family resonating from Scotland, we’d sit around the telly, fire crackling, daring to ponder whether today maybe, just maybe would be different. Might Scotland pull a performance out of the bag and pick up their seemingly biennial win? Oh, that renewed hope, always a killer. The game would very rarely be different, and Scotland would very rarely win. But that was never the point (thankfully, or we’d crumble); it was just a nice event to be a part of. So why is the Six Nations the best?

For starters, it’s a simple easy-to-follow format that works. Six teams. Five rounds. Every home nation plays each other, and you never really know who’s going to win any of the three games that take place each weekend. Jeopardy also plays a huge part. So few games equals very few (if any) dead rubbers.

It’s tribal, without being tribal. It always amazes me how these players knocking chunks out of each other manage to channel their aggression so skilfully, but the same goes for those watching on. You’d think you’d need segregation, but oh no. Tens of thousands of fans packed into some of the best sporting arenas in the world, all mixing. A healthy attitude, and an element of perspective seems to be a common supporter denominator. Well let’s hope we win but if we don’t then that’ll be a shame, but this is a fun way to spend a Saturday anyway.

It’s also a spectacle, and it’s dangerous. Thirty people doing things you wouldn’t dream of doing. The players on the pitch become fictional, putting their bodies on the line, running and catching under pressure which feels so far removed from anything we do day to day; unless you are reading this and are some form of medical professional.

The tournament that’s a little under a quarter of a century old in its current format has geography to thank for its success too. London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris and Rome. All varied and popular cities, close enough together that a large number of away supporters will make the trip, but just far enough away that you need to make a weekend of it and populate the local pubs for the weekend.

Rugby is still faced with huge challenges. It has to find a way to navigate its way through a sea of safety concerns that need to be taken seriously and fend off the red trousers and brogues stereotype; something Full Contact on Netflix has made a brilliant start in debugging (just watch Finn Russell and Ellis Genge in the first two episodes). Though through the evolving sporting landscape, emerging new tournaments, investors and formats, the Six Nations is something we’re very lucky to live with, and I really hope it never gets taken away from us.

Will Greenwood: nice try

Round & About

rugby

With the autumn rugby internationals on the horizon, we chat to rugby legend and father Will Greenwood.

Q. What would you do to help injury in the senior game?
“There is no perfect world – the key is to get children to enter adult rugby having had a good technical grounding in the contact area and tackle point and make sure they have had a safe and enjoyable journey along the way – that’s what’s most important.”

Q. You’re a great ambassador for children’s rugby – do schools do enough?
“Schools are constrained by budget, safety and numbers of qualified coaches. Mentoring schemes, access to club and academy coaches are improving and I hope it continues. I try to do my bit coaching at my local club [Maidenhead] and with my holiday coaching business Legend Holidays & Events.”

Q. With Twickenham ticket prices so high, would it be a good idea to play internationals elsewhere in the UK?
“I like having a ‘Fortress’ at Twickenham – not always a fortress – but it looks and feels like one to me! However I feel the occasional game could shift north – which it is next year… to St James’s Park with a world cup warm-up game which is exciting.”

Q. What would you say is the best moment of your playing career?
“That’s a tricky one, but probably Durham University 1991-92 – playing some great rugby with people who are my best friends to this day.”

Q. What do you think is the best position to play in to captain an international side?
“I don’t think there is a best necessarily – history would suggest the forwards – but great people come in all shapes and sizes. Rugby is a great sport that caters for all those shapes and sizes; a legendary captain could play in any position.”

Q. Is there another Martin Johnson playing now who can fill the role of captain?
“There will never be another Martin Johnson – unique and awesome! They’re big boots to fill if someone is up to the task.”

Q. Why are the All Blacks so good?!
“I think their success comes down to a few key factors; culture, geography, genetics and Importance of the game as a national sport.”

Q. How do you relax?
“I love a good Sudoku puzzle, whenever I get time!”

Q. What’s your favourite book?
“I’ve read some brilliant books, but my favourite would have to be Flashman Papers by George Macdonald Fraser.”

Q. Music?
“Easy: Oasis or Take That.”

Q. What are your ambitions for the next year on?
“My biggest ambition right now is to be a good Dad, it always comes before everything else.”