In a year where I’m planning on watching as much sport as I can I thought I’d have a 6 Nations tournament with a difference. My plan? To watch 5 games in 5 countries. At this point I’m going to give a list of the games, then write about my experience at all of the venues giving a ranking at the same time.
- Stade De France France v Scotland
- Twickenham England v Italy
- Aviva Stadium Ireland v England
- The Millennium Wales v Ireland
- Murrayfield Scotland v Ireland
I have to confirm that although there is some Scottish ancestry going on in my family tree I am 100% English; the list above might suggest some Irish blood, but that was just how the games fell for me to make my 6 Nations plan work out. I should probably also say here that I don’t really drink, consider that as you read on. I’m also included a link to my blog where you’ll be able to see more photos.
I knew it would be hard for me to get tickets for the 3 England him games which was some of the reason behind my 5 in 5.
First up was the Stade De France, my daughter lives in Paris and those of you who know anything about me won’t be surprised to know that this was my 4th trip to the Stade since she’s lived there.
I bought 4 tickets easily on the Stade De France website; I’m on their mailing list so get prompt access to tickets. They cost 75 Euros apiece – equivalent to £55. Rather than pay fortunes for postage I chose the pick up at a store option, that meant a Metro ride out to La Defense to collect them. Useful to have a Parisienne daughter to guide the way!
As far as the City is concerned I’d say Paris certainly amongst this group is hard to beat as far as a cultural experience is concerned, by its nature the trip involved a Friday to Sunday trip, with Eurostar as the mode of transport. That gave the chance for sightseeing as well as rugby watching. It’s a trip I’d recommend with no reservation.
To the stadium and game experience; we were a little naive on the trip out to the Stade, it’s virtually at the end of Metro line 13, we didn’t give ourselves enough time to get there and couldn’t get on the train when it did arrive. We took the UBER taxi option and thanks to a very knowledgeable driver got there just in time for the game to start.
That was a blow for me, seeing the build up and listening to the anthems is a real part of the day, that’ll be the first and last time that happens when I go to the Stade De France. We could just about hear the anthems as we bombed to the stadium, having heard La Marseillaise sung several times I’ll make my anthems judgement on past experience. A wonderfully passionate rendition of a rousing anthem! The French know how to do atmosphere.
One noteworthy thing which I believe makes the viewing experience a good one, is that there is no alcohol for sale in the Stade, that tends to mean the crowd stay in their seat, they’re there to watch the game. Although I had a fairly harmless drunk man in front of me for the 1st half, he stayed seated after I moaned, well probably yelled a bit as he blocked my view.
The game was one of the best of the 5 I saw, although low scoring it was end to end and a very exciting affair.
France were the victors which meant a happy crowd in general. Getting away from the ground and back into the centre of Paris isn’t fun We tried to contact an UBER taxi but failed, tried a taxi rank, but there were no taxis. And I knew the Metro would mean a huge queue, it took me well over an hour to get on the train after the England match last year.
I’d say the bets bet is to wait it out in a bar, we went into a hotel bar, had a drink then walked out to a taxi straight away. I’d say a 20-25 minute trip took us straight to where we needed to be. Overall a good experience, the atmosphere was loud and enthusiastic. With what was the most reasonably priced ticket, International rugby is accessible to ordinary rugby fans in France.
Next up was Twickenham, a place I try to get to as often as I can, I usually manage a good 10 times a year one way or another. I bought my ticket online and although a few rows further back was in a similar spot to my Stade seat. The cost however was rather different – £114.48 – an astronomical sum of money in comparison!
Again I go my timing wrong to get to the game, or rather I thought there’d be more than one slow train going to Twickenham, I thought I’d arrived at Waterloo in plenty of time to get to the game, and make both anthems! But no, I missed the Italy rendition! I was in my seat for God Save The Queen, which was belted out, but, sorry The Queen, it’s my least favourite anthem amongst the 6 nations. Swing Low Sweet Chariot does however make up for it! Twickenham in common with The Stade De France isn’t easy to get to.
My biggest issue with Twickenham on international day is that I’m really not convinced that the majority of the crowd are actually rugby fans. I was sat at the end of a row, and I really wish I’d counted the number of times I had to stand up to let people go out to get beer, go to the loo, because of said beer, and of course to buy chips! I’m sure it’s not really only me that wants to see every minute of every game, some people missed 20 minutes play to get a beer, after paying in excess of £100 to be there! I just don’t get it!
The game was enjoyable to watch as an England fan, with a big win for England, I admit I cheered the Italian tries, I of course had no idea how important they’d be in the scheme of things. I of course shouted louder for the English tries!
I don’t always feel safe leaving Twickenham so was happy to meet up with a friend, I can feel a bit vulnerable as a vertically challenged lady alone amongst lots of huge drunk people. The emphasis on drinking is really regrettable for me when it comes to this great stadium.
Next up was the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, this was a trip I was thrilled to be making, apart from the Ryanair part. I’m not a fan of flying at all, but was pleased that this airline seems to have chilled a little. Now, for this ticket I was very, very lucky. I met a man called Louis Magee at a London Irish Event, when I told him that I’d never watched rugby at the Aviva and had no concept of how to get a ticket, he gave me his card. When the President of The Irish Rugby Union asks the ticket office to help I imagine they usually do, and so it was to prove for me.
My ticket was again lower tier and in a great spot, the cost 95 Euros – £70.00 equivalent. I stayed in the centre of Dublin and although I chose to take a taxi, due to the snow! The Aviva Stadium is accessible and easy to get to, it’s a small yet very attractive stadium being the newest of the 5 I visited.
The anthems were impressive, especially those sung by the Irish, I was there to watch England of course, and felt thrilled and privileged to be there. My neighbours weren’t very chatty, maybe not used to a lady there alone?
The game was controlled by Ireland and they went in deserved winners, I enjoyed the experience but was a little disappointed by the quiet atmosphere. The England fans managed a few round of Swing Low Sweet Chariot which was good to hear, I imagine the tense nature of the game had something to do with the fans being quiet.
The game wasn’t disturbed by people wandering off to buy beer which was a relief after being a Jack in the Box at Twickers. Leaving the ground amongst a group of happy fans felt safe and convivial, I was picked up by a very lovely friend who went out of her way to make sure I enjoyed my weekend, she really added to my experience with her kindness.
After a break in proceedings next up was The Millennium – I’m a Welsh Gold Member which cost me £45 this season – that gives me access to tickets. I try to go to at least one Autumn International and one Six Nations each season. I was thrilled to have a ticket to what was that weeks decider – that ticket cost me £85 and my seat was the best of the 5.
I stayed in Bristol and drove to the Park & Ride just on the outskirts of Cardiff, it costs £6 a car and really is a great way to get into the centre of the city. My blog explains my pre and post match experience, so to the ground.
The Millennium and the Welsh know how to put on a show, one of the biggest and best factors of the match day experience are the Welsh Male Voice choirs. For me they can’t be beaten, they sing a number of songs before we get to the anthems, the choir sings both anthems and as always this was an amazing event. I sang along to both at the top of my voice – well not so much the Welsh anthem but I had a good go at it!
The match was the best I’d seen live for the 6 Nations this year, and wasn’t surpassed by the final game in Scotland. Again it wasn’t high scoring but it was an exciting display by the Welsh as for a week they put paid to an Irish Grand Slam.
In common with The Aviva alcohol was available and it was being drunk, but the crowd wanted to watch what was a great game, so I wasn’t up and down every 5 minutes. The atmosphere was electric from moment one and stayed that way throughout, leaving the stadium can be a bit rowdy but I had no concerns. I had the best afternoon, I suppose my decision to buy membership gives away my opinion of the place on international day.
My blog won’t load for this game – but if you fancy it – it’s Event 30 on debsknigsport.com
Last but not least was a trip to Edinburgh to visit Murrayfield, the journey was made by train, rather than a dreaded flight, what a relaxing enjoyable way to travel! I bought 2 tickets for the match, not knowing ahead of time that it would be the game that saw Ireland win the Championship! The tickets cost £75 and I bought them on the Scotland RU website.
Again Murrayfield is easy to get to from the centre of Edinburgh, it’s a walk from Haymarket station. I went with my good friend Monica and we set off nice and early to the stadium. The Italy v Wales game was being shown so there were plenty of people around with many shouting for the Italians, well those in green anyway.
Our seats were at the top of the stadium, so the furthest I’d been from the pitch, we were able to see most of the wonderful city buildings as well as watch the rugby.
I’d been to Murrayfield to watch England and can say I didn’t like it at all, it was very different being a neutral. The Scottish have lifted their game and are nearly as good at the pomp and ceremony as the Welsh! The anthems were wonderful, the Irish accompanied by a Brass Band and the Scottish by bagpipes – I loved it!
The atmosphere was good, in spite of the clear disappointment of the home crowd as they watched a fairly woeful Scottish performance. Ireland were in determined mood led by their man mountain of a captain, Paul O’Connell. They had to wait for the England result, but were crowned 6 Nations winners later that evening.
Leaving the ground was no problem at all, a nice walk back to Haymarket we did get a bit muddled up with the crowds wanting t catch a train. We tried to watch what was clearly an amazing England game, but failed to find a good place to do so, so a really decent curry was the choice before heading off to Waverley station.
And so that was the end of my 6 Nations adventure – I’ve written loads so won’t ramble much longer, I guess you can read between the lines on my placings of the stadiums. What I will say is that I’m a Welsh Gold member for a reason, it really is my favourite place to watch international rugby. I was like a little kid from moment one until the final whistle was blown.
I’d say the 2 out of town stadiums; Stade De France and Twickenham have a disadvantage over the others. As a non-drinker I find the obsession with alcohol at the home of English rugby, a place I love, highly regrettable.
Time to sign off before I write another book! Let us know what you think of the different stadiums! 2016 must mean I add Rome!