First contested in 1879 the Calcutta Cup is awarded annually to the winner of the England vs. Scotland Rugby Union match played, these days, as one round of the Six Nations Championship.
England are expected to win in Edinburgh today but without going into details these are the occasions when the Scots manage to conjure an unlikely victory. It is on these days in particular when New York (and today Singapore) feel a long way from home. Of all the sporting contests the Six Nations is my favourite to watch either live or on television.
It seems that every game matters, that any team can beat any other, that even the absence of the bragging rights of a world cup, series or championship fails to detract from the apparent importance of every game. In that respect it is perfect sport that has a capacity to bring friends or, more accurately, mates (you know who you are) together on boys weekends, the day trip to the home games or even gathered in front of the biggest TV in the group for beer, wine and cheese.
Just as importantly, Six Nations fixtures are scarce. England only play Scotland and the other nations once not on multiple occasions like the Tri-Nations or the one day cricket glut around the world. It seems that it puts a bit more ‘on it’ if the players and fans know they have to wait a year for redemption.
In a world of abundant everything this has a purity and scarcity that is worth preserving and not sacrificing to the demands for leagues, cups and other invented fixtures. This year is noteworthy, not for the game itself, but because it comes in the week when Australia and New Zealand agreed to play not one but four games to settle the Bledisloe Cup and to play that final game in Hong Kong.
The PR says the intent is to globalize the game. What nonsense. The World Cup already exists, Hong Kong already plays and already hosts the world’s biggest 7’s tournament (rugby lite). Perhaps the motivation has a tiny bit more to do with money. If that is not the case a bolder group than the International Rugby Board would have chosen Beijing for its new adventure and made the sacrifice of the home fans a little more worthwhile.