London isn’t like Dublin or Cardiff or Edinburgh. It’s much bigger. But it’s too big. When it’s a Six Nations rugby weekend in Dublin, Cardiff or Edinburgh, everybody there knows there’s a game on. They cannot avoid knowing; there are too many clues.
The influx of visitors wearing the colours and singing the songs of the nation they have come to support is obvious. Put 15,000 or 20,000 newcomers onto the streets of those capitals and they will be noticed.
They’re out spending lots of money on food and drink and somewhere to stay, and because they cause no trouble, everywhere they are welcome.
It’s different in London. You can distribute 20,000 throughout this sprawling, massive city and it’s barely noticeable. Other than in the stadium their impact is diluted almost to the point of irrelevance.
You have to know where to go to find them.
A clue? Follow the singing.
The Scots and the Irish major on sad events, past wrongs and those who stood against injustices. The Welsh sing hymns. Put eight of them together and they will attempt to form a choir. It’s what Welsh men do.
Occasionally, too, men of Harlech will sing about women with impossible to pronounce — and certainly spell — names.
Ireland’s sizeable travelling support awoke to a wet squally Saturday morning after the night before.
The night before France had beaten Wales to register their third win from three starts, thereby maintaining their 100 per cent record and firmly putting the ball back in two-out-of-two-England’s court.
If the English were to keep alive the chance of setting up a Grand Slam play-off with France in Paris on March 20, they were required to beat Ireland. And then see off Scotland at Murrayfield.
The Irish were keen to relieve their Celtic cousins of any responsibility for derailing John Bull. Indeed, the idea of tripping up England before they got anywhere near Edinburgh seemed to appeal enormously.
So early (ish) on Saturday morning, the first of them began assembling in bars in Hounslow, there to plot their host’s demise.
Hunched together in conspiratorial huddles, midfield, they decided, was where the battle would be won or lost. D’Arcy and O’Driscoll versus Tait and Flutey.
It was vital that the Irish supply lines were kept open. It was equally important that, when the English tried to advance along this stretch of the front, support units were in place lest D’Arcy and O’Driscoll became cut off from the main body of men.
Out wide, bring in the Bowe man. And we’d stun them by deploying the flight of fleet-footed Earls.
After four pints of stout, good tactics. After eight, mint-perfect. A flawless plan. Onward to Twickenham to witness the execution. It all went to plan.
Oh, how the Irish love puncturing England’s balloon.
Another round please, barman. Have one yourself. And best of order for the singer, gentlemen.