Never been to a rugby game before? Here’s a first timers guide to the essential Cardiff experience.
Wales is synonymous with Rugby. Since its establishment in 1881 the national team has represented Wales throughout the world, in events ranging from the 6 Nations to the Rugby World cup. This autumn Wales will be playing 4 games in the Under Amour series.
The first thing to know when you attend your first game is that a rugby game doesn’t simply start at kick off. Most games begin at the pub and eventually the fans will meander towards the city center.
Cardiff city center during a Rugby game is something of an event in itself. Pop up stores are set up to provide people with the kit of their chosen teams including scarves, hats, daffodil head gear and face paint. This combined with the close proximity of such a large number of people creates an almost carnival atmosphere as people make their way towards to the stadium.
Wales plays its rugby games in the 74,500 capacity principality stadium right in the center of town. The stadium with its roof up is truly something to behold, akin the ancient Colosseum.
Before the game starts there’s the odd tradition of the army band parading across the pitch led by their mascot Fusilier Llywelyn, who happens to be a goat. The band then leads the home fans in a few stirring renditions of Welsh classics including the often used Delilah by Tom Jones.
After the band has left, the main spectacle begins and it’s definitely worth the build-up. As the players run onto the pitch the tunnels are bathed in a red light, music is blasted from the speakers and pillars of fire surround the pitch. This is rugby not as a sport but as a spectacle designed to impassion the crowd and it works.
The anthems are sang and the game kicks off. The first thing you will probably notice if this is your first game is the absence of commentary and for a while at least it provides an eerie silence.
The festival atmosphere continues once the game has begun with peoples making paper airplanes with the intention of reaching the pitch and the crowd uniformly shouting Olé and heave during scrums.
The only drawback of watching the game at the stadium is that you’re at the mercy of other people’s desires, if the person in the middles of the seating wants to go get a beer, and people often do, then you have to stand to let them out. After about the 10th time this becomes pretty tedious.
As the match draws to a finish and the scores become increasingly close the atmosphere again reaches a new crescendo, the win would be the cherry on the cake. Wales do get the win with a final second drop goal.
An international rugby game is something that everybody who lives in Cardiff should try and experience. It’s not just a sporting event but a spectacle, littered with its own unique traditions. However what it really provides is quick look at the character of Wales, proud, unified and often just a little bit quirky.
5 Stars out of 5