I’m looking forward to the Wales/Ireland game today. I’ll be supporting Wales, and hadn’t even considered supporting Ireland, so I was quite intrigued to read Simon Barnes‘s assumption that the English would support Ireland.
He says “Partly, this is because the English have always loved the Irish when they are not actually shooting them. And partly it�s because it would be so good to see the Welsh fail.” It’s not that either of those things are untrue – we do tend to have a soft spot for the Irish and we are often rude about the Welsh – but I wouldn’t have thought people’s loyalties were as clear-cut as all that. For a start, there’s a sentimental English affection for the great Welsh rugby teams of JPR and JJ. Those were before my time, but I still think ‘Welsh rugby’ has a slightly different public image to ‘Wales’. Especially as they’ve been playing such attractive rugby during this championship.
Anyway, I was thinking how odd the English hostility to Wales is. The fact that the three Celtic nations are always so keen to get one over on the English is unsurprising; even if it wasn’t for all historical baggage, the simple power relationship (England being much bigger and richer, with London as the capital) would tend to encourage that. Rather like everyone disliking the Americans. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the English returned the hostility all round. But actually the English tend to quite like the Scots and Irish and are always slightly hurt when they are nasty about us. But we regularly make rude or disparaging comments about the Welsh. I don’t think they’re generally very seriously meant, but still. It puts them in an odd little club with the Americans, Australians, and French – all of whom the English are liable to make disparaging comments about for no particular reason. Not that the English aren’t rude about Italians, Belgians, Germans, Greeks, New Zealanders, Dutch, Japanese, Swiss or Swedish, but that’s different, I think.
And I don’t think all this general-purpose xenophobia is anything like racism, really. The French may be annoying, but that doesn’t mean we hate them or anything.
Anyway, time for the rugby. Go on, Wales.