The Six Nations is the best!

Round & About


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.

 The most English Scotsman?

Round & About


Robbie James shares his love of his ‘homeland’ in his new TV show and invites you to join the journey up north

I’ve lived all but two years of my life in the south of England. I grew up near Winchester. Winchester! It doesn’t get much more English than middle class, oat milk flat white, Schoffel wearing Winchester. I’ve since moved to Farnham. Farnham! Middle class, oat milk flat white, Schoffel wearing Farnham.

Ok so maybe I’ve had a fairly English life so far, but at heart, I feel very, very Scottish. I know, you’re rolling your eyes as you await me to tell you about my great aunt’s, cousin’s, labrador’s, dressing table’s Scottish heritage, but let me explain.

My grandparents on my mum’s side came down to Aldershot from Glasgow when my grandad (Papi as we call him) was in the parachute regiment. Ever since, my family has been settled down south, but they’ve never lost their love and impassionment for Scotland, and that’s rubbed off on me. 

Watching Scotland play in the Six Nations from their south coast home has formed the nucleus of all major family events. Hearing stories of Jack & Betty’s less than glamorous upbringings in the Glaswegian tenements has humbled us through the years, and near enough everything I have in my life is thanks to their relentless hard graft. But anyway, we’ve always been brought up to be aware of our Scottish roots, and to feel them.

So when Travelxp asked me if I’d like to host a TV show taking you around Scotland for 10 days, I immediately said yes. We filmed it at the back end of the summer and it was the most fun. It felt like a form of homecoming, which even I struggle to comprehend given I’ve only ever lived in Scotland to study at Heriot Watt University for two years, but I feel at my most content in Scotland. 

Every country has a mixed bag of people; but the self-deprecating, warm, charming and often downright mischievous sense of humour from Scottish people is something I can really get on board with. The landscape is also just beautiful to the point where I feel drained from the emotion it somehow brings out in me. So romantic, curiously personable, and yes really cold, but that’s fine.

I think the show covers all bases when it comes to exploring the country. We of course take you through some of the most emotive landscape the UK (and in my opinion, the world) has to offer, but we also head into cities, touch on Scotland’s often traumatic history, and you bet we learn the bagpipes (which by the way is one of the hardest things to do, lots of blowing, to the extent I nearly passed out).

I think it’s important not to force any kind of #content down anyone’s throat. No one trusts a sales rep, so we wanted to give you some ideas of things to do if you’re visiting Scotland, but they’re only ideas. You’re grown up and can plan your own trip, you don’t need me to tell you how brilliant every single cafe or walk in Scotland is, because it’s not. That’s not the case anywhere, except maybe Farnham…or Winchester. Uh oh.

Watch Robbie James in 10 Days Scotland, which airs from 25th November exclusively on Travelxp.