Monday, August 24, 2015

Six Nations Rugby: England vs. Italy

Actual date of this event: 15 February

Luke emailed me one day and asked if I wanted to go to a rugby match. His office was doing a few giveaways for sport tickets, but the catch was that if your name was drawn for something, you could not put in for another. So for the rugby match, they actually had less names than tickets because everyone was holding out for the Arsenal football match. There was an extra ticket to the rugby, so I was invited to go. Off to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (home of the football club) we went.
Six Nations is an annual tournament played by six countries: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, and Italy. The tournament began in 1883 with only England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, but overtime grew to six nations in 2000. It is quite the big deal every year - the pubs decorate with each nation's flag, and host viewing parties.
I was attending the event with the mindset of being a lone female around a bunch of big burly men, watching a bloody fight, in a game that makes absolutely no sense. I was blown away with how wrong I was! Rather than being a poor-man's sport (apparently, football/soccer is the poor man's sport), it is actually a semi-prestigious sport that started as a hobby for bankers and other rich-folk. Rather than starting fights and being inappropriately rowdy while watching, it is actually a friendly game. Rather than wearing casual/ragged clothes, it is a smart-casual dress code of collared shirts. The only thing that is correct is that people do get very drunk... but not in an obnoxious way. Like at an American football game. Like certain college's I know. Not naming any names.
Now, we did attend this match as a special treat, so we got special treatment. We had lunch in the private dining hall that included a three course meal with all the alcohol we wanted (we asked for a bottle of prosecco, of course - it was 10am afterall). Then, the servers took our halftime order, so that when we came back, our drinks would be waiting for us at the table. The servers also prepared to-go drinks and set them out on the table for us to grab on our way out the door to go watch the match. Special treatment indeed! But before going to watch the match, one of the players came in to say hi and welcomed us to the stadium and match. It is apparently a tradition for one of the players to do this.
When the match began, we got a lesson from Luke's colleagues on the sport, and I was surprised to find how easy Rugby is to follow. Ask me today to explain it, and I will have to tell you I have forgotten it all. Ooops.
Luke's colleague who set up this event was so kind as to give Luke and I a set of earphones called RefLink. Since there are no announcements to the crowd as to what the calls are during the match, we could hear quite a bit everything the referee and players were saying on the field through the headset.
Luke and I giggled to each other quite often as some of the words and phrases the referee used were so incredibly British. "What's going on here then?" It was also funny how polite and calm the players were to each other. "Now now, you cannot do that. You must not do that again." (Note: I realize I am writing incredibly British right now. It's contagious.)
The anthem for the England rugby team is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" which took Luke and I by surprise, wondering why on Earth is this their anthem. Here is the reason according to Wikipedia. Anyway, we continued watching and understanding the game as best as possible. England ended up winning the match!

After the game, we went back to the dining hall to have a few drinks while the crowd dispersed. It was a great time and a great experience. Ireland ended up winning the tournament, but England and Wales still have the most championships at 26 each.

A typical rugby match is 15-on-15 players, but the game of 7-on-7 is now recognized as an Olympic sport and will debut at the 2016 Summer Game in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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