I hope they’re all suitably contrite now. Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Irishman and a whole troop of Welshmen? Oh and the Kiwi. What does he know about history and tradition? Did they bother to watch in Edinburgh, or were they too busy trying to remember the words of the Arbroath Declaration? Well it doesn’t matter now anyway. Because we won. The Lions pulled off a first series victory in sixteen years, scattering the Aussies across the Sydney turf and causing quite a few to gorge on humble pie. Warren Gatland ignored the romantics and went with his own hard instincts, delivering a team which, regardless of individual origins, was positively bursting with pride in the jersey. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
First, an admission. I am no expert on rugby union, would never claim to be much more than a casual follower and some of the game’s technical aspects go straight over my head. Usually I stick to sports I feel qualified, through years of keen observation and sometimes unhealthy obsession, to write about with confidence in my knowledge and interpretation. But I’ve always watched and enjoyed the Six Nations, such an intoxicating mix of passion, intensity and (usually) good-natured nationalism. From my slightly detached perspective I can appreciate the physicality and the creativity without worrying too much about the strategic detail. I’m not completely clueless though and, based on scant but not insubstantial evidence, I’m nevertheless going to use this platform to predict how I think this year’s competition might pan out. This, then, is an outsider’s assessment.
It appears likely, pending appeal, that Newcastle Falcons will be plying their trade once more in Rugby Union’s Aviva Premiership next season. Likely, but not certain, since the RFU’s contentious decision to deny London Welsh a place amongst the elite should they emerge triumphant from next week’s Championship play-off is destined for vigorous challenge. From a partisan point of view, this messy outcome is welcome as the Falcons, narrowly relegated on the last day of the season, will be reprieved. In terms of natural justice, however, it is another example of sporting prowess being circumvented by peripheral, largely commercial, considerations.