I happened to be in Dublin four years ago when Ireland’s Rugby team won the Six Nation’s Tournament, sending the country into a swirl of excitement culminating in daylong welcome home celebration on the River Liffey, as well as the first I heard of team captain Brian O’Driscoll – nicknamed The BOD – a player who is still a vital (and handsome) part of the team today.
After being in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day and for the win, being able to welcome the team home was one of the most exciting parts of my study abroad term.
The Six Nations Tournament is about to begin again – and it’s particularly exciting for this Embassy because of the teams involved: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. With all three countries in Great Britain represented, as well as players from Ireland and Northern Ireland playing for the Irish team, Embassy staff cannot help but choose a team loyalty.
Wales is the reigning champion, but England will be a force to be reckoned with this year.
They are coming into this year’s tournament, which begins on Saturday 2 February, after beating the world champion New Zealand All Blacks last year in the 2012 Autumn Tests, ending the All Blacks’ 20-game winning streak. The matches will be held in stadiums in each competing country, with the final matches being played on 16 March – the day before St Paddy’s day.
Rugby has been a popular sport in the UK and Europe for more than a hundred years, but more recently has become a fixture in the US – high schools and universities throughout the country offer the sport as a competitive club, and it’s beginning to get more on-air time on national television as well.
USA Rugby, the national governing body for rugby in the U.S., oversees competition of 700 Club Teams, 900 College teams, 1,200 High School Teams and 400 Youth Teams, and the numbers are growing with the sport’s popularity.
Last year, our British Consulate-General in New York organised a rugby challenge prior to a Central Park 6K Run. The game is becoming more international as well. In fact, in 2009, the International Olympic Committee announced that Rugby (the seven-a-side version) would become an official Olympic sport at the 2016 Rio Games.
BBC America has been airing the games officially in the US for years, and this year will air one game per round. Click here to see which matches BBC America will play during this year’s Tournament.
Local pubs and bars that often showcase European sports will be playing even more of the matches live – check out your local Irish and British pubs for a start. For those in Washington, head to James Hoban’s or Fado to catch more games than you’ll get at home. If I hadn’t made it too obvious by now, I’ll be cheering for Ireland and my favourite player this year, Jonathan Sexton.