For a rugby fan, England is like an “Eldorado” as Brazil is for football or the United States for basketball.
The sport was invented here during the 19th century in the town of Rugby. The story says that one day during a football game one player named William Webb Ellis picked up the ball with his hands and ran with it. Even if there are still some doubts about the truthfulness of this story, William Webb Ellis is considered as the original inventor of this sport. The Rugby World Cup trophy bears his name is here as a reminder of the sport’s beginnings.
Rugby is strongly settled in the British culture, and we had the opportunity to observe the strong popularity of this sport during our stay in Cambridge. We went to different kinds of events like a professional game in London between the Saracens and the London Wasps which are two of the best teams in the country and in Europe. Nearly each week we also had the opportunity to go to the Cambridge stadium to see the “Blues” which is the Cambridge University team playing against other universities or professional club reserves in an amateur championship.
Even if the level is quite different between these two championships, it was really impressive to observe the fervour of the fans whatever the level of the team is and the deep passion this sport creates.
Going to see a professional Rugby game:
Going to see a rugby game is a really nice experience to have in England for several reasons. First if you are a sport fan and don’t want to spend £150 to have a bad seat in a football stadium, rugby is perfect as the tickets for the best seats are only £40. We went to London to see the best two teams of the English championship: The Wasps, the leader, vs the Saracens, the 2nd and winner of the European Champions Cup. Half of the players of the national team of England were on the field which led to a really nice show.
However, the show began a little bit early. In the transport, we were amazed by the quantity of beers the supporters could handle before watching the game… and also during the game…and after the game.
The stadium is also a cheerful place where the supporters are mixed together with lots of families and people from all generations. There is also a lot of respect. The supporters clap when the other team makes a clever move and everybody is quiet when one of the kickers is going to score, which is not the case in some stadiums in France.
After the game, a lot of people stay in the stadium to drink a beer, talk between families and look at children playing together as every family seems to bring its own ball. Half an hour after the match of the masculine team, there is a game between the women rugby teams. It is a way to attract more people to the games. Many people stay to watch it with the same good spirit.
To sum up, watching a professional rugby game is a really pleasant experience and we highly recommend going to watch some, even if you are not a big fan of this sport. The people going to the stadium for the first time never regret it and often want to go again as soon as possible.
Attending Cambridge University Rugby Games:
We attended two of Cambridge University, “the Blues” matches at the Grange Road, the stadium of Cambridge. The team is composed of the best players of the 31 colleges of Cambridge.
In the stadium, there was a cheerful atmosphere even if the public didn’t support the same team. As we said before, everyone is “polite” (The supporters clap when the other team makes a clever move and everybody is quiet when one of the kickers is going to score).
It’s obvious that rugby is anchored in the British culture. Indeed, there were as many students as families. It’s very cheap as it’s free for students. The tradition here is to drink a beer and eat a hot dog during the match.
The first match we saw was Cambridge University vs Trinity College Dublin. At the first sight, we clearly saw that Trinity College Dublin would win against Cambridge. Indeed, the Irish team is pretty massive and has really good technique.
The public continued encouraging Cambridge players, even if everyone was hurt and sad for the players. In the middle of the match, the speaker stopped saying the score of Cambridge when the Irish team scored…Trinity College Dublin beat Cambridge University by 50 to 0.
Then, we saw Cambridge University vs Northampton Saints. Northampton Saints is not a college but a professional team. It was either the Juniors or reserve team. Those players are earmarked to be professional players. Hence, we know that it would be difficult for Cambridge to win.
At the end of the match, there was only 10 minutes left, Cambridge was about to score, the tension was palpable. It was their last chance to score. The public was standing. There was no sound. When Cambridge scored, everyone cried and was cheerful. It’s was the first time Cambridge-University scored in two matches. However, Northampton Saints beat Cambridge University by 61 to 7.
(By Hugo PETITJEAN, Flore-Anne RE, Thomas VIGIER)