Having survived five years of cringing and hiding my eyes as my boyfriend’s face gets pressed into the mud beneath another man’s backside, you’d think I’d be used to the stresses and strains that are inevitable when dating a rugby player. I’ve dealt with broken bones, black eyes, fat lips and cauliflower ears not to mention the countless sore heads after team nights out. Most traumatic of all, however, is the pouty, moody version of my boyfriend that comes out when the England squad lose.
Thankfully, so far during this year’s RBS Six Nations tournament, England are top of the table. For me, this has meant the trips to the pub to watch the game have been enjoyable and I’ve been able to ask “What was that penalty for?” without being met with a solemn frown (I’m still learning). In the past, however, watching the Six Nations has taken a turn for the worst, ending with my attempt to lift my boyfriend’s spirits with the naïvest of phrases; “It’s only a game.”
As a contingency plan for recovering a weekend spoilt by disappointing results, I’ve been considering a weekend away that combines my other half’s desire to watch the game with my desire to make the most of my two days away from the office without having to rely on fifteen men in white shorts to provide the entertainment.
The final weekend of this year’s tournament is less than a week away, and as my fella is an England fan we would of course have to plan a weekend break to the Welsh capital of Cardiff, as England’s final fixture is set to be played at the Millennium Stadium. The two other cities hosting final round games are Rome and Paris (if only I was dating a Scot or an Irishman). Joking aside, planning a weekend away in any of these three cities is easy with plenty to see and do apart from watching the game. If you’re planning a weekend break with a rugby fan or, better still, if you’ve got a group of rugby fans and rugby ‘wags’ all planning on enjoying the final weekend together, then here’s my recommendations of what to do to make the most of it.
Wales vs. England, Millennium Stadium, Sat 16 March 17.00
The final game that will determine whether or not England get the Grand Slam kicks off at the Millennium Stadium at 5pm, giving plenty of time during the day to explore the bustling Welsh capital. The Cardiff Bay area of the city is a newly redeveloped hub of bars, shops and restaurants, with Mermaid Quay providing the perfect spot for a civilised lunch before the rowdy antics of the evening commence. If, like us, you don’t have tickets to the game, piling in to a sports bar is great way of soaking up the competitive atmosphere. The Bunker Sports Bar (60-61 Mary Street) has 17 x 50” screens and 9 x 43” plasma feature walls so you’re sure to be able to find a view of a screen. After a lively evening watching the game, there’s bound to be a few sore heads the morning after. Cafe Calcio on Crwys Road make the ‘best breakfast in Cardiff’ and is the perfect setting for a post-match analysis.
Italy vs. Ireland, Stadio Olimpico, Sat 16 March 14.30
The Stadio Olimpico will be home to Ireland’s final game of the tournament against Italy and with the Italian team’s victory over France and their recent closely fought game against England, the Irish team will no doubt be nervous as they head into the huge venue north of the Italian capital. The Villa Glori Hotel in the Flaminio district north of the city is an affordable base if you’d prefer to be close to the venue during your weekend away. There are, however, plenty of cheap hotels in the centre of Rome too, with the Line A tram providing a handy connection between the stadium and the city centre. If you’re not planning on securing tickets for the Ireland final, the Irish Abbey Rome bar near Piazza Navona is ‘a slice of Ireland in Italy’ and will be showing the game live.
France vs. Scotland, Stade de France, Sat 16 March 20.00
Rounding off this year’s Six Nations tournament, the France vs. Scotland game will take place at the Stade de France next Saturday night. With the game providing evening entertainment for your Parisian sporting weekend, whether you watch the game live or in a sports bar, the rest of the weekend can be spent enjoying the French capital. As well as all the usual city centre attractions, the Parisian suburbs are also well worth exploring. The Les Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market found north-west of the city centre is the largest Parisian market of its kind. The market opens on weekends and occupies seven hectares, with endless stalls selling everything from antique jewellery to furniture. The budget Sovereign Bords de Seine Hotel is a stone’s throw from the market and is only a 10 minute drive from the Stade de France if you are planning on seeing the Scots take on the French in their own grounds.
Are you planning a rugby-filled weekend break in any of these cities? What would you recommend doing while you’re not watching the game?