This weekend marks the beginning of the Six Nations tournament – the jewel in the crown of Northern Hemisphere rugby.
Formerly known as the Five Nations when I last lived here (that was before Italy joined the fold), it is a chance for the young warriors of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and now Italy to play for the pride of their nation.
I remember it well from my previous life in England, settling down to watch the drama unfold as names like Bill Beaumont, JPR Williams, Gavin Hastings, Serge Blanco and Willie John McBride tripped off the tongue of the ‘voice of rugby’ Bill McLaren (RIP).
The games were usually feisty affairs, with the home teams seeking to channel the passion of their vocal supporters and the visiting teams trying to weather the storm.
I wrote previously about my first trip back to Twickenham in 20 years before Christmas and just how spine-tingling I found the singing of God save the Queen to be, but this choral ability is certainly not limited to the English.
Hearing the French crowds belting out La Marseillaise, the Irish singing Ireland’s Call, the Scots roaring out Flower of Scotland or perhaps best of all, the Welsh with Land of our Fathers is a truly inspiring experience, even just on television.
(Having been away for a while, I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what the Italian anthem equivalent is here – ‘just one cornetto’ maybe? – but I dare say I’ll find out soon)
I did try to keep following the tournament when I was living in Australia, but coverage tended to be spasmodic at best and was also screened at extremely anti-social hours, so as a result, I must confess that my interest did wane a little.
However, now I’m back and whilst I will be watching the games from the comfort of my couch (unless I can snag a ticket somehow), I can’t wait for it all to kick off again.
Now, how does it go again? Ah yes…Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home…