And so, the end. A Farewell To Arms, as it were.
But before the curtain comes down on this oldest of rugby tournaments, the final act is to be played out. The dénouement, the thrilling climax, where spoons of timber are accepted mournfully and Grand Slam crowns are taken only by those who want them most.
A championship is still alive, raging against the dying of the light, still drawing the eye. It is there to be taken by one of two teams, two of the oldest foes in the game. Llywelyn’s men face Edward Longshanks’ on the battlefield of the Millenium Stadium.
Expect hell to be unleashed as all eyes will be turned to Cardiff this Saturday.
But prior to – and following – what is no doubt the weekend’s centrepiece in Wales are two matches which offer intrigue and debate in no less measure.
What of I Figli di Garibaldi who showed at Twickenham a glimpse of the team that dismissed Les Bleus on that eventful first week? A match in the Eternal City to round out their campaign against the battered, bruised and depleted sons of St Patrick.
In what may be both Declan Kidney and Brian O’Driscoll’s last game, the lads from Hibernia need to prove to their doubting fans, and perhaps themselves, that they still have the stomach for the fight. BOD himself would expect no less.
And from the Eternal City to the City of Love, the Auld Alliance meets in Lutetia for what in many parts may be viewed as an exiguous filigree, une babiole rounding off the tournament. But not for France and Scotland.
There is more than just pride. The sense of fierté regained by Philippe Saint-André’s men in their Baile Átha Cliath fightback needs to be augmented with direction and a will to win. For the Caledonians, it may be a case of à la recherche du temps perdu – they need a performance akin to that which brought them victory in 1999 when Gregor Townsend strode the Stade like a colossus.
So one last hurrah for those doughty yeomen who have ventured to their local with my tips safely ensconced underarm as their guide. And if you have surived up to this point – well, reward yourself with another drink or two. Graham Price doubted my ability to imbibe heady brews, but one empty wellington and a week’s worth of dysentry later, I proved him wrong.
You too can put any doubts to bed by following my final top tippling tips.
Six Nations Championship Week Five
Saturday March 16
Italy v Ireland Stadio Olimpico 14:30
On your last Six Nations weekend, it is important to start as you mean to go on. And for that reason, nothing less than a balanced diet of Limoncello and Guinness, side-by-side and pint-by-pint will do. You may also feel free to add liberal doses of Fernet Branca and Sassolino to get in the mood. Do not forget to stand and applaud Brian O’Driscoll, the centre nonpareil, raising a glass of Ireland’s finest, a Bushmill’s 25 year old malt. Nothing else will do. The Man Himself may well need one, too, as the Italians romp home by 5 points.Wales v England Millennium Stadium 17:00
Cardiff – and the showpiece of the Six Nations – requires a strong stomach to calm the nerves. Nothing less than a mix and match job will do, the quality equally and keenly felt: a Taffy Apple Cider matched by Aspall’s finest efforts, a Fursty Ferret followed by an equally delicious Chwarae Teg, Bishop’s Finger, Braf, Landlord’s and Green Dragon. It’s hard to separate them. And hard to separate them on the pitch too. If a Welsh win shuts up Inverdale, go the Welsh. The other upside being Jiffy losing all power of speech. But the margin of victory will not be enough for the Championship to go west of the Severn. Just like the faithful follower of this guide, vomiting may well be an option for me.
France v Scotland Stade de France 20:00
The last match of the championship and one to savour as much as the drinks in front of you. Winding down, feel free to mix and match Sémillon with Scotch, a Picpoul de Pinet Camp de Rousse 2010 with Buckfast. Enjoy your pints of Deuchars and round out the evening in the right style with a delicious Armagnac as France win comfortably and the jumped-up scarf salesman, Inverdale and Mini-Me head to a boozer in South West London twenty minutes before the match concludes.
And so, the curtain will come down. A victor will be crowned, be they Grand Slam winner or Championship; no matter. Our odyssey is nearly at its conclusion, and, commenting on an Odyssey of a very different type, the Greek scholar Eustathius had the right of it: He who has put a good finish to his undertaking is said to have placed a golden crown to the whole. Too wordy for my liking. He needed a good editor.
And so it goes. Until next season.
Forwarded by Droptheclaw after he found it being used as a bookmark in Eddie’s well-thumbed Roget’s Thesaurus