Things that make you go 'ooh' about the Six Nations


There’s bad refereeing and pundits playing the buffoon, but the Championship always seems gets us going

There’s always something in a Six Nations Championship to stir the blood, but any player will tell you that it is really up when it precedes a Lions tour. The main source of joy for the punter though, is not just the rugby, it’s observing the buffoonery of the “experts” predicting “their Lions squad” prior to the Six Nations. It’s a bit like arranging a christening before you’ve met your partner. Or putting your children’s names down on a school waiting list before you’ve even . . . no sorry scratch that, that’s what everyone does.

The worst culprits of course are Sky Sports, who as the “exclusive” broadcaster of the upcoming jaunt “dan unda” got the build-up ball rolling back in September, just in case it might have escaped your attention that the event which takes place nine months later BELONGS TO SKY!

Their magazine-type show The Rugby Club is broadcast from England, has an English presenter, usually two English pundits on a panel of three, the third being from either Ireland or Wales (Scotland doesn’t get a look in at all obviously) so you might say there is a distinctly English flavour to proceedings. Five months ago Sky’s Lions Form Index Guide gave us a half-back paring of Lee Dickinson (Northampton) and Charlie Hodgson (Saracens) who’s aim is so bad, when he takes a seat he misses.

Names plucked from anywhere (although usually English) are thrown at the panel to be discussed – preferably without laughing – as genuine Lions contenders.

The presenter invariably ropes Scott Quinnell into it, and it goes something like

Skyman: “David Strettle’s performances on the wing for ’Quinns won’t have gone un-noticed by Warren Gatland will it Scott? A Lion in waiting?”

SQ: “Oh, absolutely fabulous, yes (he says, trying to remember who David Strettle is), he’s playing very eh well at the moment and eh (remembering he likes Sky ker-ching), certainly putting his hand up for, eh ahem, to be a Lion.” Yea right!

Presumably discussing the make up of the Lions squad nine months before a ball is kicked is part of what makes Sky Sports “exclusive”.

The Six Nations, on the other hand, is available to all and makes for perfect terrestrial telly, even if that includes Jeremy Guscott. No you can’t beat the Six Nations for tradition, but perhaps part of its appeal is also what makes its format a little rusty. But does the old banger of a rugby spectacle still work? Or does the entire tournament need a re-vamp? The following probably won’t help you make up your mind.

Three things to like about the Six Nations

1Pundits being buffoons. It’s always worth tuning in to see which one of the large selection of candidates can make the most nonsensical comment and become Six Nations Buffoon of the Year. Last year it was BBC’s John Inverdale after the 17-17 draw between France and Ireland for stating, “At one period in the second half France had 80 per cent possession.” Excuse me? Using similar logic Ireland must have had 100 per cent possession in the lead up to Tommy Bowe’s second try.

2Patronising England. We don’t get many chances to patronise our brethern from across the water, but over the last decade victories against the white tanks are as commonplace as a bad decision from Wayne Barnes. It also gives us the chance to savour the renowned wit of the England rugby supporter first hand. Nuggets such as: “I played with an Arish lad. He went to give blood and they told him they couldn’t accept it, ‘cause there wasn’t enough blood in his Guinness stream. Ha-ha!” Haaaghgh!

Or my personal favourite and one to watch out for the weekend of February 10th: “I’ve olways laved caming to Dablin – weather thay win, lose or drawer there’s olways a party in Éire. Ay?” Ah, the craic. Stop!

3 Declan Kidney morphing into Trapattoni. Yes, Deccie appears to have taken a leaf out of Trapattoni’s book during post-match interviews and demands all of one’s faculties to catch his drift. Blink, or scratch your head and you might miss him actually saying something, but worry not, most of the time it’s just a lot of words spouting out in no particular order.

It’s a great technique. Father Deccie – like a verbal predator – invites his prey’s question and then “long-answers” a different question, leaving his victim dazed, exhausted and unable to remember the original question. I’m describing Kidney here, not Trap. See? You weren’t sure, were you?

Three things to dislike about the Six Nations

1Bad refereeing. Last year we had the Pearson and Barnes show at Lansdowne Road when with a minute left on the clock, Barnesy boy gave Wales a penalty in front of the posts and issued Stephen Ferris a yellow card for a perfectly legitimate tackle on Ian Evans, which lost Ireland the first game. Smiley Pearson had earlier intervened from the touch-line to award Bradley Davies the same punishment for picking up and dropping Donnacha Ryan on his head. Well done boys. This year I fear the Poite factor.

2 The points system. It’s all fine and dandy sticking to tradition, but the lack of bonus points is just silly. It works in the southern hemisphere and the Heineken Cup, keeping teams who lose the first game in the hunt. Also could we please revert to the old Saturday kick-offs but make them 2pm, 4pm and 6pm starts?

3 Johnathan Davies’ commentary. A great player, but a voice from hell, which you’d suspect could be used to extract information from the most stubborn prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. It would certainly test the belief that you can’t get blood from a stone. Comments such as: “France can score tries, Scotland can’t – that’s the difference” do not improve the experience. Makes you wonder how the greatest commentator of them all, the amazing Cliff Morgan, and Davies can share the same birthplace.

Overall though, you have to love the Six Nations and most of the things that irritate are sort of quirky and likeable. Sort of. Prediction for the tournament? France to be Champions but no Grand Slam. If Ireland could get a win in Wales then with two home matches against England and France they must have a chance. No injuries please. Especially not to Rob K, BOD, Johnny S, Jamie H, SO’B, Donnacha R, Cian H and of course the lad Ross.