Representing England… Robin Richards
The catastrophic has happened. After a mere 30 days there is no longer a single British or Irish team left in our own World Cup. Despite England’s outstandingly early exit we’ve been treated to real drama from the rest of the host nations. I imagine there were very few Brits who didn’t celebrate Mark Bennett’s late try against Australia before feeling sympathy for the Scottish team when Craig Joubert awarded the Aussies a late penalty. This sentiment has even carried over into the realms of football, with the majority of people celebrating the phenomenal success of the majority of the home nations in qualifying for Euro 2016.
Until the emergence of this latest Welsh team – who stunned many by getting through the largest (and therefore easiest) Euro qualifying stages in history – English football has been untouchable compared to the other home nations. The support we’d given them in recent years had been little more than patronising encouragement to teams we viewed as beneath us. And yet now, Wales in particular with the force of Gareth Bale in their ranks, seemingly have as good a chance as any at progressing in a major tournament. Just as the other home nations would hate us (England) to win another piece of silverware, must we now begin to take them seriously on the football pitch in case of serious embarrassment?
At this point people will, no doubt, be screaming that our nationality is British and therefore we share a bond! So what? The sporting stage is set not on the level of our sovereign state but rather on a national one and last time I checked proximity was a factor in increasing rivalry, not aiding support.
Would it be reasonable for the people of Southampton to claim they were wishing Portsmouth FC well in their struggles at the foot of the Football League? No. Do Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos want each other to succeed? No, nor should they ever. This claim of a “right to support” is the sort of logic that leads to the very worst kind of person: Home Counties born-and-bred Manchester United fans and their ilk. It is simply support of convenience with little regard for the fact that it is the differences between us that define us and therefore the competition we are in.
“This claim of a “right to support” is the sort of logic that leads to the very worst kind of person: Home Counties born-and-bred Manchester United fans and their ilk.”
The sooner we get out of ridiculous mindset of supporting multiple nations at a tournament the sooner we will realise what makes sport so great: rivalries. If you enjoy watching rugby or football, watch the tournament and appreciate the quality. You shouldn’t need three or four teams to support to enjoy such an event. People will point to the reference I made earlier to feeling deflated over the Scottish defeat. Yes, yes I did, and I’ll admit there was a small patronising part of me that did want the underdog to win. However, more important than that was the fact that I simply dislike Australia more. There it is, the driving motivation behind why so many of us watch sport: to watch rivals lose and for us to gain. Of course many will disagree, and that’s fine, keep your lukewarm, fake smile and cheer for a nation you have no real reason to support. I will be perfectly happy with the vindictive, sweet pleasure of watching a rival lose and when the next tournament rolls around I’ll know that I’ve got one chance of glory, not four. God save the Queen.
Words by Robin Richards
Representing Wales… Mat Evans
The river Severn does more than separate two nations; in sporting terms it keeps apart the English roses and the Welsh daffodils. Yet, for Welsh-born Newcastle cricketer, Mat Evans, this divide must be put aside in the world of cricket. “It’s the England and Wales Cricket Board, so it’s our team too”, states Evans, “even if we haven’t had a player in the team for a while, Simon Jones 2005 Ashes anyone?”
Despite this, Evans explains that when it comes to any other sport he simply can’t bring himself to cheer on the boys or girls in white. The Welshman echoes the general consensus felt right across the valleys, “as long as we beat the English right?”
Wales recently broke English hearts by helping to knock out the hosts of their own Rugby World Cup, but Evans admits that he doesn’t hold the same level of hostility for all the home nation rugby teams. “I’m part Irish on my mum’s side so I’ve always had a soft spot for them in the rugby.”
“The Welshman echoes the general consensus felt right across the valleys, ‘as long as we beat the English right?'”
Led by the talismanic Gareth Bale, the Welsh football team have qualified for their first major tournament since 1958 and there’s no questioning who Evans will be cheering on. “In the football its 100% Wales, couldn’t bring myself to support anyone else.”
Whether or not Wales manage to progress beyond the group stage next summer remains to be seen, but their rise through the FIFA world rankings suggests that they are a force to be reckoned with.
For Evans, the jury is still out on whether Wales can do well on the big stage, “it’s going to be tough, ask me again closer to kick off”.
Words by Calum Wilson
Representing Northern Ireland… James Leary
Despite the Irish rugby boys recently exiting the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the hands of the Argentinians, their performance at the tournament was considerably more impressive than England’s. With comprehensive victories over Canada, Romania, Italy and France, there were no embarrassing stumbles for the men in green.
For Northern Irish born Newcastle rugby player James Leary, it’s all about the Celtic union. “I primarily cheer on Ireland, but enjoy seeing Scotland, our Celtic brothers do well too” – proving relations within Britain are viable. If the Northern Irish – Scottish bond is a common one, there’ll have been plenty of moans across Belfast when the Scots crashed out to the Australians last weekend.
The Northern Ireland footballers, including ex-Burnley and current Norwich hero Kyle Lafferty have qualified for their first ever Euros, a campaign including tough matches against Hungary and 2004 champions Greece.
Our Northern Irish representative James Leary told us, “we had a quality qualifying campaign and have looked good for the first time in years. Last Thursday was the first time I’ve been to Windsor Park and seen us score three goals since we beat Spain! I have every confidence and hope we outperform England”.
Despite this desire to shadow the English at next summer’s tournament, Leary suggested that he didn’t cheer against England for every sport. “Mainly just rugby. I’m actually a half English so I don’t mind them doing well in other sports such as cricket”.
From this evidence it’s fair to say that the English – Northern Irish sporting rivalry isn’t quite as intense as perhaps widely expected.
Words by Alex Hendley
Representing Scotland… Lynsey Brownlie
The 2015 Rugby World Cup saw England become the first host nation in the competitions history to not qualify from the pool stages of the competition. Following a narrow defeat to Wales in the closing minutes, 25-28, the men in white needed to overcome the Aussies in order to qualify for the knock out stages.
However, Australia proved too strong of a unit, and defeated the hosts 33-13, sending England out of the competition. The first of the British teams was out.
All other British teams qualified out of the pools, leaving many English fans slightly bitter. The Scottish/English rivalry has always been fiery and tense, but as the Scottish team managed to qualify out of the pools, should English fans have put aside their egos and supported their fellow British nation?
The support in England during previous Scotland games had been substantial, with the Scots playing two of their pool games at England’s very own St. James’ Park. The RWC provided a fanzone area behind the stadium for those who could not get their hands on tickets.
Having watched the Scotland v Samoa match in the fanzone, it was clear to see that the majority of us Brits are dual supporters of our sporting nations. A mix of nationalities turned out in support, the atmosphere was electric!
Scotland’s victory earned them a place in the knock out stages, and I’m sure secured the support of a vast amount of downhearted England fans.
Scotland faced their biggest challenge of the competition so far, as they lined up to play the Aussies, who had been the competition villains knocking out the Englishmen.
Scotland is renowned for being the “weakest” sporting nation of the British Isles, yet as they began the match, they were the last standing home nation.
“Scotland’s victory earned them a place in the knock out stages, and I’m sure secured the support of a vast amount of downhearted England fans.”
The support for the Scots should have been unanimous across Great Britain, for the English fans the prospect of beating Australia should have been enough to fuel the support. For Wales and Ireland, a Scotland victory could have pulled on the British heartstrings.
After the narrow defeat in the dying minutes to a controversial penalty, the feeling amongst the majority of Rugby fans was pure disappointment that the last of the British teams had been dumped from the competition.
So, with the 2016 Euro’s coming up, and the Scots being the only home nation not to make it to the finals, should they support their fellow Brits? There is arguably a different temperament between Rugby and Football that determines whether Scotland can support England and vice versa.
The upper class etiquette of rugby allows room for supporters to be mixed whereas in football, all hell would break loose if supporters were all mixed in with each other!
Words by Lynsey Brownlie