February heralds an escape from the winter blues for European rugby fans, as the annual Six Nations Championship arrives at the start of the month for an eight week festival of good old fashioned tribal rivalry!
Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Gauls and Romans revel in their national stereotypes as egg-chasers from all corners comes together to worship the oval ball.
Here for your handy reference, are all the things you need to know (and say!) to enjoy this year’s tournament.
London, Dublin, Paris, Edinburgh, Rome and Cardiff – solid venues for many a gentleman’s weekend, and of course the ladies, too. Not got a ticket? Well you might struggle to get one now, but fear not. A good Six Nations weekend relies only in part on anyone actually going to a game.
If you are desperate to go, rugby is still one of the few sports where fans will offer any last minute unwanted or available tickets in person, outside the ground. They will rarely demand a mark-up, but instead will insist that you sit with their party and keep up with their pace of lubrication to such a point that by full time, you will have agreed to spend Christmas together.
This year, highlights of the fixtures schedule include the Irish in Cardiff on weekend one, and a Valentine’s special for England fans going to Rome on weekend two. The French head Cardiff, and the Irish pour out of London towards Twickenham on weekend three, and Le Crunch in Paris between England and France rounds things off on weekend five.
You can always critique the national anthems if your emergency blag banter escapes you
As the pubs and bars fill with fans, the rugby nauses will begin their pre-match routine of discussing the pertinent issues in the game and you don’t want to be left behind. Enjoy throwing some of these lines into your punditry:
“I think Craig Joubert is still running!”
On Scotland’s controversial Rugby World Cup quarter final exit v Australia when the referee scarpered quick-smart at full time.
“I can’t wait to see it all go horribly wrong when someone winds him up.”
Any non-English fans on the appointment of the errant Dylan Hartley as England captain.
“Surely Noves is going to take them backwards rather than forwards?”
Suspicions that France’s new coach will not be the guiding light many fans of Les Bleus would like.
“Having come the closest to a semi-final at the RWC, surely that means Scotland were actually the best of the northern hemisphere teams?”
Optimistic bearers of The Saltire.
“With an injury list like that, I think they’ll just enjoy remembering that they won it last year.”
The Irish are missing some big names – in Sean O’Brien they trust.
“George North is hoping for a break from Warrenball. Good luck with that!”
The 23-year old Welsh winger hopes Gatland’s aims for an expansive game plan come to fruition.
“Do you think Conor O’Shea can seriously turn their fortunes around?”
The Harlequins coach leaves the club this year and is heavily rumoured to be taking over at Italy.
Once the game is underway it can all get very confusing. With around four thousand laws, rugby is not a straightforward sport, but you’ve always got some generic phrases and observations on the broadcast presentation to fall back on. Drop these little bad boys in to make you sound top dog:
Of the number 10…
“Look, he’s standing too deep, they’re going to struggle to get over the gainline now.”
Of the referee at a scrum
“He’s just guessing now.” [factually correct]
Watching on ITV
“On the one hand we don’t have Inverdale but on the other, bleedin’ ad breaks.”
Watching on BBC
“I can’t bear Inverdale, but ITV don’t know anything about sport.”
After aerial ping-pong
“There’s just so much kicking these days, run with the ball!”
If Italy score a try
“That man Parisse, what a talisman he is for them.” [whether he’s on the field or not]
Robshaw makes yards
“Look at him now with that weight off his shoulders, he’s like a different player.”
France trail by 20 with 20 mins to go
“The problem is, they can still come back and win this, that’s what they do.”
England win a game
“Lancaster wouldn’t have done that, Jones is the right man.”
England lose a game
“Jones has got his work cut out, Lancaster wouldn’t have lost that game.”
Wales win the Championship
“You can’t pick anyone other than Gats for the Lions again.”
To Make the Most of It
The key to enjoying the Six Nations is to embrace it, and get into the spirit of it. Invite some friends over, and get the Championship bunting out. Start a sweepstake with your mates, and enjoy gloating over any victory at every opportunity.
If you like a drink, get hold of @WelshDalaiLama’s drinking game. It’s brutal but brilliant.
And if you want to keep up with the latest on the tournament, follow @rugbymedia Twitter.
Here’s to a cracking Championship!
Thanks to Nick Heath from rugbymedia.co.uk for this excellent guide!