How Rugby Explains the World

Scotland 12. Ireland 8.

Our first class on our Scotland travel course was a 6 Nations rugby match between Scotland and Ireland. After arriving in the United Kingdom at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning we briefly checked into our hotel before boarding a bus to Edinburgh.

Fighting off sleep, we rode on the bus for about an hour until we reached Murrayfield. The weather on our trip started off fine but quickly turned from rain to snow. Luckily, when we arrived in Edinburgh the weather calmed down. After getting off the bus we picked up Scottish flags, hats and of course, scarves before heading into the first pub we found. Two hours, a few pints and some games of snooker later, we were walking towards the stadium’s front gate amid a mass of Scottish and Irish fans blending together.

We were told to make sure we arrived inside the stadium before the match. Thankfully we listened. Sitting in a tryzone, we were captivated by the national anthems prior to the match. There were 67000 people inside Murrayfield, and it felt like they were split evenly between Scottish and Irish supporters. However, each national anthem sounded like it was being sung by the entire stadium. Fireworks ensued and the match was about to begin.

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Over the next 90 minutes the match played out in an expected fashion. The Irish were dominant, but they seemed unable to put points on the board. Scotland continued hanging on. Each time Ireland drove down the field, Scotland dug in and made sure the Irish didn’t score a try. As the first half gave way to halftime, we were picking up the nuances of rugby. As the match neared its end, we realized just how big a moment we were involved in. In the dying moments of the match Ireland frantically attempted to score. Scotland dug its feet into the ground for a final stand. Sitting in the tryzone Scotland was defending meant we had the best seats to witness the ending play out. Most of us joined our Scottish brethren on our feet to will the final whistle. When final time was called, Ireland was still outside the tryzone. The crowd erupted into a frenzy as the scoreboard read “Scotland 12 | Ireland 8.”

The Irish fans sitting in our section were gracious in defeat. As Murrayfield emptied, we were walking out with a group of Irish fans and took a couple pictures together. An Irish flag and a Scottish flag, our group and theirs, intermingled. We wished them well and headed back to our bus. Although this trip will involve guest lecturers at the University of Glasgow, tours of historical monuments dating back centuries, and a conversation with a Court of Session judge, I was happy with our first event. Understanding rugby helped our group understand Scotland in a way that will be beneficial throughout the rest of the week.

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For the first time in 36 hours, I managed to sleep. A Scottish victory at my first ever rugby match made that sleep feel even better.

Not a bad first day of school.

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