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Buckle up for the bone shaking, the nail biting, the scoop drinking and the whole shebang. It’s that most wonderful time of year again and It’s a concept rugby people are very familiar with, and even with the amount of familiarity an annual competition brings… the heart beats as eagerly as if it was the first of its kind… a new competition dreamt up. Each year cooks up familiar things and some new ones on top of it.

It brings a bit of light in to the late winter. It brings visits from Celtic and European neighbours, excitement to the dark evenings and dull days of late January and early February, giving people detective work to do…. who will be in and who will be out? Who will win this match? Who will win this year? The whole brilliant thing guides us from the first fireworks in to the February afternoon and the first fist pump in to the sky in to the middle of spring, when colours are  returning to the world. There, it tips its hat leaving us fend for ourselves until the following year; trusting us not to go around knocking in to walls looking for something to do and places to go.

We’ll have visitors over to play host with, and we’ll visit cities. This weekend we’ll have Welsh people over, and in the last weekend we’ll have Scots. Always good craic with those sets of fans in Dublin, then in the middle of that we’ll have the Italians – also a good bunch and a bit of style to the whole affair and I suppose the café owners feel as hyper as the pub owners on the weekends the Italian folks are in the city. Paris and London are the cities Irish people have the option of visiting this year and next year they come here.

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The Six Nations while a very serious matter on the rugby field while games are being played, and so it should be, is a matter of serious craic off it when you have fans over visiting whether they come dressed in a Kilt, or holding inflatable daffodils off of a Ryanair plane looking for a place to laugh the days and nights away before and after they and urge our men to tear strips off whoever may get in their path. There’ll be a truce in the friendliness for that couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday, then we can go back to making lifelong friends under loud music who we never see again, but for Facebook and a lingering promise we’ll call them if ever we’re at a match here or there. It’s a beautiful thing in rugby, after the game we’re friends again, and I didn’t mean what I said about your country during the afternoon, it was just in the moment – and I’m sure you didn’t mean what you said about mine. We’ll meet people from different clubs, allegiances, traditions, songs and memories but it’s all under rugby. Hug an opposition fan, and wish them well against their opposition next week – because your teams are done with each other – I’ve never seen Jamie Heaslip puck the head off Sam Warburton in Copper Face Jacks, so there’s no need for the fans to be that way either.

This Friday I’ll take myself in to Temple Bar – leaving the work house and joining the throngs as the place fills up with Welsh rugby fans and dragons. We’ll be hearing the Welsh voices, the Scottish voices and Italian voices this year. I look forward to watching games in rugby pubs, rugby clubs, rugby stadiums with rugby people or home ready to place my heart in my mouth and shout, worry, celebrate a win and become disgruntled over a loss – suggest I could do better myself having gotten out of breath running for a bus.

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I look forward to seeing new players step up and make names for themselves and to seeing legends and classics being made, records being broken, tackles being smashed, tries and points and rucks and mauls. There’s players out there running their guts out with a couple of caps and in the future they’ll be looked upon in the same esteem as the ones we call legends now. But do we know who they are yet? Will they come to light at the weekend. I look forward to rugby I look forward to now.

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