Many of us, of a certain age, hark back to what we remember to be the halcyon days of rugby, but were they actually as wonderful as we remember ?
The mind is an amazing machine, we convince ourselves that the sun shone every day, throughout every summer, that it snowed at Christmas, and that Mars bars were much bigger than they are today, also that our sport was a wonderful free flowing game, where the spirit of rugby shone through like a beacon of hope , for society to grasp as a template for life.
Now, I admit that I was first in the queue when the waxing lyrical genes were handed out, but after sharing a flat white, and a chat, with my literary hero, Stephen Jones, it got me thinking in more realistic terms about the past.
I will never lose the memory of the thrill of watching David Duckham, his long blonde hair, blowing in the wind as he swerved his way around spread eagled defenders, or Gerald Davies side stepping and weaving, and I could go on and on, maximising my waxing lyrical gene, on Serge Blanco, Denis Charvet, Barry John, JPR etc etc but attending international matches as a spectator left quite a lot to be desired.
The matchday experience of today is incredible, the comfort is Incomparable to those we were subjected to in the sixties and seventies.
I’ve stood at Twickenham in the old South stand, in freezing cold and pouring rain ,two hours before kick off, to get a view of England v Wales that consisted of a quarter of the pitch, the people stood behind you, would deposit warm water, which would splash against the backs of your legs, (If you get my drift), and sadly you were actually glad of the experience because it warmed you up for a split second.
One of the other myths the nostalgic mind produces is that the game was more free flowing and that every match was a replica of Barbarians v All Blacks classic of 1973.
Well I can put you right on that one, England v Wales in 1978, at my trouser soaked Twickenham, mentioned earlier, consisted of five penalties, and a 9-6 victory for Wales, the highlight of which was 50 yard (metres hadn’t been invented then) kick to touch by Gareth Edwards.
A match between Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield in 1963 included 111 line outs, nearly all of which were created by kicks to touch from Wales scrum half Clive Rowlands.
I watched a re run of Llanelli’s epic 1972 win over New Zealand recently, I could not believe my eyes, there was every form of physical assault possible taking place , virtually non stop throughout the match.
There were more attacks on view than in an entire season of Crimewatch !
The playing surfaces of today are a joy to behold, the new hybrid grass systems make the top level level matches immune from the hippo like swamps, that were familiar to older readers, apart from the permanent divot that is the Stade de France, of course.
In fact I’m going to lock away my waxing lyrical nostalgia gene for good, as I think of the magnificent stadia that exist today, the Principality stadium even has a roof !
So let’s revel in the brilliance of the game as it is today , sure there are lots of things on and off the field that are wrong, but when I lock up my waxing lyrical nostalgia gene, I thrill at visiting The Principality, crammed into the centre of Cardiff like a Giant beetle clinging to the flats and offices of the city, of days at Twickenham, Murrayfield and Dublin, and knowing that I, in the most part, will return with dry trousers.
I am enjoying watching Dan Carter, Guilhem Guirado, George North, Maro Itoje just as much as I did Gerald, JPR, Gareth and company….well nearly !
The final day of the Guinness Pro 12 resolved the endless permutations that were available prior to kick off at 3pm on Saturday.
But when it came to the crunch it was rather an anti climax as the Irish and the Scots came out on top, in a fairly straight forward manner.
With the EU referendum still weeks away, the Welsh regions, with the exception of the Scarlets, launched their own Brexit campaign, and decided to leave Europe en masse
Once again “West was best” , unfortunately it was so far West we had to cross the Irish Sea to find it.
For the Welsh, joyous judgement day was replaced, seven days later, by Sad Super Saturday, as the Ospreys failed to qualify for the champions cup, and Scarlets missed out on a play off place, after both lost heavily to Irish opposition.
As a result Dublin will host Leinster v Ulster, and Connacht will entertain Glasgow in the semi final play offs.