An oh so alluring aroma of sweaty kit pervades the hallway, the remote appears jammed on sport and strange refreshments of coconut water and beetroot juice are breeding in the fridge. My husband is home. It must be the Six Nations. Brace yourself.
One thing you can be sure of when the great tournament comes to town: everyone develops a penchant for punditry. From the die-hard rugby addict to the girl – or guy – who simply enjoys a dose of men in tight shorts (no shame – you know who you are!) – every fan becomes a sports critic. And to work in a TV station is to be at the epi-centre of armchair analysis. I have often experienced the awkward colleague avoiding interaction with me on team selection day. When Wales are ‘in camp’, the office is an extraordinary place for me to be. Home, on the other hand, offers the novelty of the ordinary.
As a long-distance wife (Lee plays his club rugby in France), the tournament gives me a rare chance to indulge in the pleasures – and the sweet annoyances – most married couples take for granted. On average we see one another once every 6 weeks, so even doing a supermarket shop together is something of an event – and opening a recipe book instead of piercing a microwave meal induces a childish excitement in me! In fact, the most loathed of domestic chores can succeed in offering a degree of satisfaction. Yes, I do find myself wanting to clear the carpet of my husband’s boxers, which have been discarded a mere stride from the laundry basket. Proof, if you ever needed it, that absence really does make the heart grow fonder!
Speaking of pants, I made a discovery this tournament. They’re actually more important than you might have thought to my husband’s game. He revealed to me that one of his pre-match superstitions is to make sure he’s wearing a lucky white pair. So Coach, listen up. Forget tactics and tinkering. A simple all-player undies policy could be the answer. And if Lee’s lucky boxers don’t do it for you, here are some other picks of players’ superstitious indulgences. Scrum-half Mike Phillips can’t start a match without saying good luck to the referee. And perhaps the one with the ‘aaah’ factor – fly-half James Hook has to ring his grandpa before an international. Sweet.
Unfortunately though, there is no superstition powerful enough to calm the emotional barometer of a loyal rugby wife. During the Six Nations, it swings passionately between ‘ferociously angry’ (when husband isn’t selected) and intensely anxious (when he is). And, be warned, we are naturally programmed to defend. Whether or not you are interested in hearing it, his sporting credentials are ready on repeat to be reeled off at the mere hint of criticism –sometimes pre-emptively.
If you’ve fallen victim, I can only apologise. Of course, the boys themselves are hardier. After several turns on the emotional rollercoaster of professional sport, they have learnt better to handle the pressure and the criticism. Superstitions are one useful tool -humour another. And you need not look much further than twitter for the requisite banter of course:
*Mike to Lee * @byrney_15 someone’s up for the 6 nations! Hasn’t stopped ringing me asking questions !*hesready*
*Lee to Mike * @mikephillips009 Can I stay round yours the night before please ..#gointogether
I compare first day back in camp to something like that first day back at school. Apprehension and nerves soon give way to anticipation and excitement once you’re back amongst good friends. For all those involved, on or off the pitch, the magnificence of such an historic rugby tournament is guaranteed to stir the emotions. But, at least I know I’ve done my little bit for rugby and for country. I’ve washed the lucky boxers. White pants to win.
From my new Cardiff Life column.
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