Thursday, 1 October 2015

Me and the Rugby World Cup (Part II)

This post is dedicated to my treacherous school friend, who despite being born in Essex, raised and educated in Surrey and living in Wiltshire, uses her 3 years at university in Cardiff as reason not only to support Wales, but also to support that unspeakable notion Anyone But England*. You know who you are...

Being a scientist, I am (obviously) completely rational and reasonable in my rugby-supporting allegiances. I have a metric for it, which I feel obliged to share with you:


Always England, no matter who they're playing, no matter if I loathe the individual players, they are my national team. And I will go completely stark staring bonkers and yell at the screen when watching them balls things up, as they do with monotonous regularity.

North v South

I will always support a Northern hemisphere side over one from the South. That's my half of the globe.

Six Nations

I will always support a Six Nations side against anyone else. They're my posse.

Home Nations

The home nations come above France and Italy, since we're all kind-of, ish, just about hanging on to being one country. Or at least one vague political entity. For now.

Within the Home Nations, there's a hierarchy: England (naturally), Scotland (I have Scottish ancestry, and they seem to lose a lot, so I feel sorry for them).... and then... well... it used to be Wales, but thanks to aforementioned friend, I shall have to relegate them to below Ireland. I'm even considering putting them below France and Italy. See what you've done? You've demoted your team from third to fourth favourite in my list. You've even risked banishing them entirely from my concept of "home" nation. I'm sure the Welsh will be gutted to know it.

The Underdog

In any match that features two teams who are not in one of my support-able categories, then I support the underdog. So in Namibia v Argentina, it's Namibia all the way. Samoa against the All Blacks? Samoa for the win. The keen rugby fan will have spotted that this does leave me with a bit of a problem when it comes to our antipodean friends, where neither can exactly be described as underdogs. It's hard to want both teams in a match to lose. But that's usually what I want in any confrontation between Wallabies and All Blacks.

South Africa

It's at this point I must confess to South African ancestry, namely my father being South African. Having been born and raised in England, I don't have a burning allegiance to my half-country, but just enough to support them when no other category is fulfilled. Which more or less translates to being happy if they beat Australia or New Zealand. Any other country is either an underdog or a Northern hemisphere team. Sorry Springboks - you didn't grab my heart and loyalty early enough in life. The fact that you weren't allowed to play rugby on the international stage during my formative years probably has something to do with that.

* I am intrigued by the self-loathing my country must possess for this to be a recognisable stereotype. It appears widely across the rest of the Union, for more or less justifiable reasons. It doesn't take a great scholar of twentieth century history to see why the Irish just might not be big fans of the English. Nor does it take a genius to spot that there's a certain amount of Nationalist feeling in Scotland that seems equally rooted in anti-English sentiment as it is in pro-Scottish. Personally I don't think we've abused the Welsh quite as much as we have the Irish and the Scottish, or not historically anyway. Thatcher and her assault on the mining industry did a pretty good job more recently though. It mystifies me what possesses an English person to associate themselves more strongly with the nation of a great-grandparent, or a spouse or a friend than with their own. Has our own sense of nationhood been so abased that it's easier to take pleasure in denigrating ourselves, jeering at our national teams and exulting in our failures than in standing tall and cheering for the men in white, no matter what performance they turn in?

1 comment:

  1. Sports aside, I am always mystified by the peculiarly American thing of "I'm so proud to be.... Irish!" Yes, it's true that your great great grandmother, who you never met, came from a country you have never visited and therefore it is an essential part of your identity. (Something about making one's self different by associating with a particular religious/cultural group, I know, but they're no more Irish than I am; my grandmother's grandmother immigrated during the potato famine.)