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Issue 25 - Warriors true and proud

Scotland Magazine Issue 25
February 2006

 

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Warriors true and proud

Scotland's rugby team might have struggled in recent years but watching an international in Edinburgh is still a treat says Dominic Roskrow

The beginning of the end of winter in Great Britain comes when the rugby union six nations tournament starts. This is a traditional event involving Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales as well as European teams France and Italy.

Each nation plays each other once so the tournament lasts over five weeks, and, to paraphrase a common expression, it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, starting when the Scottish climate is often at its worst and ending as spring arrives.

If you follow sport you’ll know that Scotland has underachieved at both soccer and rugby in recent years. The national teams have either been inadequate or they have been unlucky to be drawn against the very best opposition in important international matches.

Too often Scotland has been saddled with the role of glorious and heroic failures.

Rugby in particular has seen the national side slip in to the doldrums. In the last three years it has only managed to beat Italy in Six Nations matches, and its overall record is poor. The game has been in disarray and all sorts of tactics have been employed, including adding overseas coaches and even players to the side.

You’d think, then, that the appeal of turning out to watch the team play at the magnificent Murrayfield Stadium would have diminished. Not a bit of it.

And indeed, passion for the game is on the up again as the national team returns to its best strengths – the commitment and belief of its very best homegrown talent.

Unlike many other sports, the whole day around an international rugby match contributes to the event, and that is most certainly the case in Edinburgh.

There’s something very special about being in the capital when there’s a major international rugby match on and certainly that was very much the case again this year.

Indeed, after a brave showing against the world’s best side, the New Zealand All Blacks, rugby fans approached the tournament this year with renewed hope, even though the fixture schedule hasn’t been kind, with Scotland facing the tournament’s best two sides at home and therefore having no easier games at all.

If you’ve never been to a rugby game, then Murrayfield is as good a place as any to start.

Like Dublin, Edinburgh is the perfect place to go out for a drink before the match, and to rub shoulders with convivial sports fans from both sides in a city steeped in culture and history.

The ground itself is a worthy theatre for international sport, and the wonderful atmosphere, the jolly banter and the sheer excitement of the game – even when Scotland aren’t winning – make for a perfect day out.

If you don’t understand the rules, don’t worry – hardly anyone does but there are always plenty of people on hand to try and explain them anyway. And if Scotland loses? Well there’s always the trip back to the bar for a nice warming whisky to get over the chill and the defeat.

International rugby union in Edinburgh is to see the Scottish sportsman at his finest; as a warrior swelled with national pride. I look forward to these matches every year, and they never disappoint.

And when they’re over, Spring is just around the corner.