This weekend is a bumper one for fans of egg-chasing on both sides of the Atlantic.
For the Yanks among us, Sunday night is the big day on the football calendar (of which more later in the weekend). But for we Europeans of the oval ball persuasion, the first weekend in February ushers in the beginning of the Six Nations rugby union championships, fought every year between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and, since 2000, Italy. It hasn’t got the popularity of real football (and by “real football” I mean Gaelic football, of course), but it is a unique event on the sporting calendar here since the demise of soccer’s Home Nations Championship.
As 2011 is a World Cup year, the championship comes packaged with an extra bite this year. As with the round-ball game, the English have taken it upon themselves to set aside the pessimism of the past three years, disregard all form and logic to install themselves as favourites to win everything in sight. It’s a lovable trait that only the English seem to possess and,with the tournament due to kick off in just under half an hour with England facing arch-rivals Wales in Cardiff, it’ll be interesting to see just how long it lasts.
For the time-being, we’ll have to make do with a comparison of the two countries’ respective singing prowess. Rugby is the closest thing Wales has to a national sport, but singing is not very far behind, and Katherine Jenkins’ regular appearance at the Millennium Stadium before each home game is the one upside to the otherwise dreadful insistence of organisers to have a guest singer belt out the national songs over the PA rather than allow the crowd to make all the noise. Here she is performing ‘Cwm Rhondda Wales’ (also known as ‘Bread of Heaven’) on some TV show or other.
On the English side, we can bin the dreary ‘God Save the Queen’ for once and for all and move on to the far more interesting story of how the generally upper-class mass of English rugby fans managed to appropriate a slave-era negro spiritual and make it their own. UB40 even recorded a cover, as if the song’s journey wasn’t confused and hilarious enough as it was. The lullaby-like tune helped propel England to their World Cup-winning peak in 2003 and, just asfittingly, its mournful tones have provided the backdrop to the most boring team on the planet ever since. There’s no great video of England fans performing the song, so you’ll have to make do with a little snippet and a bit of Johnny Cash to make it up.