‘Wales defeated England in a fast and open game’

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And we were singing hymns and arias,
‘Land of my Fathers’, ‘Ar Hyd y Nos’.

Gosh, my email is eerily quiet this morning, writes Rebecca Mann. It was inordinately busy last week, in the run-up to the final weekend of the Six Nations 2013. My phone was pretty busy with texts too, up to and including half-time on Saturday. Then, mysteriously, all my English friends in the travel retail industry fell silent. Most of them have stayed that way. How strange that they all managed to mislay my contact details at Exactly The Same Time.

Warburton
A happy shot from Sam Warburton’s Twitter feed. The player subsequently auctioned his match boots, for Welsh cancer hospital Velindre

In case you somehow missed it, Wales retained the Six Nations Championship (yes, we were Champions going into the game, a fact the English media chose largely to ignore). And we retained it in some style, clocking up a record 30-3 win over our, er, friendly rivals from across the Severn. England had been on for a Grand Slam – their first one in a decade I believe – (Wales has won three in the past nine years, thanks for asking), but a magnificent masterclass from the Welsh made it more of a Grand Sham for those fans wearing white. But for those wearing red, Cardiff was the place to be this weekend.

So what’s all this got to do with travel retail, I hear you ask? Anything at all? Or am I just shamelessly taking the opportunity to enjoy the teensiest little gloat? As if… For starters, I know that quite a few members of the industry were at the match, which surely justifies a Blog. The Moodie Report itself was represented by Moodie International President Jaclyn Wampler, who has hopefully seen the error of her ways in terms of supporting the Saes.

On a serious note, the real reason I’m writing this today is because of Alan Edwards, my much-loved and much-missed Welsh friend and industry figure, who passed away suddenly last September. He was in my thoughts on Saturday; as no doubt he was in the thoughts of many.

The last time I went to see a Wales-England Six Nations match was in February 2010, courtesy of Scorpio’s Stuart McGuire. As I recall, on that occasion England scrabbled to a lucky, last-gasp win over an injury-depleted Wales at Twickenham and as the only Welsh guests on the corporate outing, Alan and I consoled each other at Enemy HQ, numbing the pain post-game with plenty of red wine and (unprintable) jokes about chariots.

stuart_alan
The late, great Alan Edwards, in red, at a very different England-Wales encounter

Fast-forward three years, and look how much has changed. Alan would have LOVED the game on Saturday, not just for the win, but for the manner in which it was achieved. Over the weekend, I was in contact with his son Chris, who was at the Millennium Stadium, with his sister and his mum. He revelled in that win every bit as much as Alan would have. And I have a good idea of how much he’d have loved his dad to have been there with them.

Because, regardless of any result, the Six Nations will always be tinged with sadness for me too. Cancer claimed my father mid-way though last year’s Championship, two days before the Wales-Scotland match, for which we had tickets. My mother (epitome of the fearsome Welsh Mam) insisted I go, citing how horrified my rugby-mad dad would have been if we’d wasted them.

I remember precious little about the game except the fact that we won it, and how much that (and later, the 2012 Grand Slam) would have pleased my dad. This year’s tournament invariably resurrected some difficult memories, and while time is a great healer, I think any Six Nations victories from now on will always be slightly bitter-sweet.

That said, I’ll take every victory that’s going, diolch yn fawr iawn, especially one that’s delivered in the style of Saturday’s thriller. You see, where I come from, rugby’s way more than just a game. Naturally, my dad, and Alan, understood that. I thought of them both when Wales lifted that trophy.

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