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Why rugby beats football and how I became a proud supporter of Wales

PUBLISHED: 17:40 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:40 25 February 2019

Wales' Josh Navidi (centre) shows the resilence that inspired Liz against England in Cardiff on Saturday. PHOTO: David Davies/PA Wire.

Wales' Josh Navidi (centre) shows the resilence that inspired Liz against England in Cardiff on Saturday. PHOTO: David Davies/PA Wire.

PA Wire

Liz Nice didn't even like rugby - until she watched Wales beat England on Saturday and her opinion was transformed. Here's why...

I almost died before I was born. My mother was walking in Wales while pregnant with me when she started to experience the telltale signs of miscarriage.

Fortunately for me (and the world?!), a passing van picked her up, racing her to the nearest hospital where I was saved by a doctor called Gareth, after whom I was to be named. Whether this was because Gareth saved me, or because of his particular charms (which I gather were substantial), history does not record.

Either way, he made enough of an impression to ensure that, as I could not oblige him with a naming due to the gender issue, my brother, John, born two years later, was given the middle name Gareth instead.

My mother has always loved the Welsh so when my brother married a Welsh woman (imagine the hymn-singing at the church!), she was beside herself. We all were because John’s wife, Jo, is magic. Though of course, she does support Wales in the rugby, a sport she dearly loves.

I was at my parents’ with John and Jo at the weekend and the Wales v England match was in full flow.

I love football and have never much cared for rugby, much to my father’s disappointment - he is a former rugby referee who even took me to Twickenham in a bid to convert me to the ways of the odd-shaped ball and also, as is his wont, to pretend I am his much younger girlfriend, which always amuses him greatly, though clearly, as we look so alike, no one is ever fooled.

However, his daughter-in-law loves rugby so much she admitted to me that after the previous encounter between Wales and England which England ‘jammily’ won, she may have even gotten ‘the hump’ with John for a brief bit.

This, I must say, is very un-Jo. So, what is it, I wondered, about this game, that makes her care about it so much?

I paid the match on Saturday scant attention until Wales started their comeback.

They were several points away from England but really going for it. After a strong effort, one more try would take them past England’s score.

I watched their agonisingly slow progress towards the try-line. Each time they moved an inch, the England forwards kept knocking them down. Onward a centimetre, bam! Another millimetre, down again!

A strange sensation came over me as I watched. On, down, on, down. I began to feel it in my stomach. Come on Wales! You can do this! Get over that bloody line!

With all that effort, pushing against the tide, bashing against those obstacles and just getting up and going on again, I began to feel that if they did not get their try, I might not be able to bear it.

And that was when it hit me. Rugby aficionados say rugby is a better game than football because of the great atmosphere, the fact that opposing fans can sit side by side, there’s always a handshake at the end, whatever has gone on...

But really there is more and it has taken me 48 years to see it; perhaps because, in recent times, my life has felt very much like a case of pushing on, falling down and getting back up again. Of thinking you’re OK, happy even, only to be knocked back down again in the very moment when you had actually started to believe you might finally make it over that line.

But Wales did make it and so will I; so, with apologies to my father and brother, I guess I support Wales in the rugby now. The Welsh, for the second time in my life, with their tenacity, determination and unbowed spirit in the face of seemingly unbreakable obstacles, may have saved me again.

I looked at our Jo, who is the best sister anyone could ever 
wish for.

‘Rugby’s life, isn’t it?” I said, and her eyes, in the joy of victory, shone.

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