International Rugby - The Six Nations from Across the Pond

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As a rugby player and fan, this time of year is like Holiday time (Christmas back in the UK) but in February! Living in America presents some problems when it comes to view international rugby - it is not a matter of turning on the widescreen HDTV and planting oneself on the couch with a Bud and a bag of chips. Rugby here is generally only available via satellite on a premier pay-per-view channel, in this case Setanta, which is only available if one has a dish, and many don't!

However, one advantage of this is that it is available in a number of refreshment outlets i.e. bars and a great excuse for a bunch of like-minded rugby colleagues to meet up for a few jars and to watch the 6-nations. Most rugby clubs here in the USA have a good association and sponsorship deal with a local pub/bar; in my case, the Boston Irish Wolfhounds and The Green Briar. The one caveat to this is that each person is charged a $20 entrance fee, all of which goes directly to Setanta, not the bar or sponsoring club!

Six Nations games are shown live, which generally means an early start for us over here. Once in the establishment I find a good viewing seat, order my Irish breakfast (with real Irish bacon!) and coffee. If Ireland are playing you should allow time to get a good spot as the bar will fill up to the brim! The last two weeks have been no exception with standing room only and the singing along to the "Fields of Athenry"

Once in my spot surrounded by good friends and other rugby fans, I am all set for a fantastic few hours of rugby entertainment.

Over here the audience comprises ex-pats of all nations, with even a few French present! Southern Hemisphere fans are also in attendance, despite the fact that they think the Super-14 is the only real annual rugby competition.

Now, I hear you asking - where are all the American fans? There are quite a few, including myself. (By the way, I am half American (birth and father), half Irish (mother), but was brought up in London, support England, and do not put on a Plastic Paddy hat). I am happy to see that in recent years there are more and more U.S folks turning up to watch the games. Included in this are a growing number of college players (over 21!). I believe that this is due to the foreign students on their team(s) but also due to some affiliation with a local club, in this case the Wolfhounds.

Now this is to me is a real international crowd. The Americans, you generally support the team from their heritage or they are just ABE ("Anyone But England") like all the non-England fans! The big games here in Boston are generally whenever Ireland plays; in particular the last two games because of the historical aspect regarding Croke Park.

Last Saturday was of special note as England were hosted at this den of traditional Irish sports and republicanism. It was great to see that England was received with dignity and respect, and that rugby fans of all nations were the real winners. Indeed the front page of the sports section of the Boston Globe donated a quarter of a page with a photo to this occasion. I believe that is the first time ever that a major American newspaper has mentioned the six-nations!

Anyway, the game itself I will leave to another discussion! It was a great day with three games of rugby viewed - Scotland (ha ha!) v Italy, Ireland v England and a great game - France v Wales. Had Wales beaten France the tournament would have been wide open. It still is, if England can beat France at home - a tough task. The best thing about it will be seeing if the Irish boys at the Briar will support England as this will benefit their quest for the championship title. Nevertheless the Craic will be mighty again and I can't wait.

The situation should be the same for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France, well at least for games that involve the home unions. I can only hope that support for the Eagles is similar to the USA Soccer Team, which was surprising good!

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