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This is my favourite weekend of the Six Nations, but please, stop messing around with the anthems

Suspending neutrality for a brief moment here and being honest, this is my favourite Six Nations fixture block of all.

The Calcutta Cup is just such a wonderfully historic fixture, with so much needle and bite in it that it almost does not matter that Scotland are so woefully short of the standards set by the other home unions at the moment.

Particularly at Murrayfield there is always a sense that, despite the general acceptance that England are the better side, Scotland can cause an upset and steal the victory. Throw in a dodgy pitch and weather forecast as it is for the weekend, and suddenly you have a very real contest on your hands. These games are rarely the most exciting, but boy are they engrossing. That rather dire draw in 2010 aside.

There is a bit of a sense that Scotland’s decline has seen just a hint of a similar decline the passion of the Murrayfield crowd and the joviality of the walk to the stadium from the city centre to the stadium. However in a rare moment of inspiration, or perhaps luck, the SRU have come up with a superb solution to get the passion and atmosphere fizzing.

No, not those daft fireworks and smoke machines, the money for which could perhaps be put into helping the team, no I’m talking about cutting out the music for the second verse of the Scottish anthem, leaving it to the crowd to belt it out. It, better than anything else I have seen, cranks up the atmosphere brilliantly.

Too often national anthems are now ruined by bringing in professional singers to warble their way through the anthem, ‘stamping their own authority on it’, nonsense. The crowd knows the words and knows the tune, and they normally know it for just about every anthem, leave it to them. There is hardly a more irritating feeling before a game than having to give up on singing the last line of a national anthem because someone is shrieking every note down the microphone, trying to make each one last a minute.

The rest of the Six Nations should take note of what happens at Murrayfield this weekend, the crowd loves being free to sing that second verse, and in this age of paying fortunes to try to raise the atmosphere, what could be better than this free and effective way of doing so?

The other reason I particularly love the weekend is because of Ireland v Wales. Forget the O’Driscoll/Gatland nonsense, or any talk of needle building between these sides. The reason this fixture helps makes this my favourite weekend of the Six Nations is because over the last eight or nine years these two sides have been the most consistently good teams in the Championship. France might argue with that, though even the most stoic Frenchman would have to agree that consistency is perhaps not their strongest suit.

Some of the most attractive rugby of recent times, in the Northern hemisphere, has been played by these two, and matches between them recently have tended to be full of tries and high on excitement.

They have won Grand Slams against each other, had last minute thrillers against each other, had controversy, skill, drama, huge hits, everything that one could wish for really.

Indeed Ireland v Wales is fast becoming the game to watch in the Six Nations. We can say what we like about the virtues of England, Scotland, and Italy, but exciting play has not been one of their strengths lately.

France do tend to be exciting though, and games between them and the Welsh particularly have tended to be excellent recently, however there is something special about Ireland v Wales, and I love it.

So it will be with great pleasure that I settle in to watch the Six Nations this weekend, pleasure at not having to hear yet another anthem go begging for the crowd as another singer butchers the end of it, but more than that, pleasure at seeing two of the classic Six Nations fixtures, and two of by favourites.

As I’m harping on about National Anthems, what is your favourites anthem? Are you a sucker for the dulcet tones of the Welsh? The passion of the Italians, or the joviality of the Irish call to arms? Perhaps you are a Flower of Scotland fan, crowd additions and all, or is the reserved but militarily precise God Save the Queen the number for you? Or, like many, are you a frustrated Frenchman, desperate to give out a rendition of La Marseillaise? Would love to hear your opinions, as always.

By Angus Savage

@AngusSavageXV

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