The Six Nations kicks off this weekend, sadly without the crowds and camaraderie that makes it our favourite annual sporting event. There’ll be no sheepskin jackets in the Twickenham car-park, no kilted Scots packed in the tube, travelling more in hope than expectation; no bands from France’s Basque country in what will be a ghostly Stadio Olympico in Rome, no Cwm Rhonda or Fields of Athenry being sung in Cardiff where Wales meet Ireland; in short none of the off-the-field fun of Rugby’s grand carnival. A barren land bereft of pilgrims.
Nevertheless, the show goes on, and matches will be played without, one hopes, any Covid-related postponements. Like footballers and cricketers, the players themselves have now grown accustomed – no matter how unwillingly – to the absence of spectators. Nobody knows what difference the lack of atmosphere makes. In England’s football Premiership there seems to have been more away wins than normal.
Interestingly, while acknowledging the inspiration that surging home support may offer, the Scottish flanker, Hamish Watson, remarked this week that sometimes the away team could be inspired if they take the lead and the home fans fall ominously silent.