Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

(image by Nicoze on Flickr)

I come from a rugby playing family.  Family lore (i.e. my ma) tells me that my parents had a long engagement, due to my dad being unwilling/unable to get married in the rugby season.  This was the mid-70s and he was playing for Bedford at the time.  His dedication to the rugby cause paid off; in April 1975, Bedford won the Anglo-Welsh knockout cup (now called the LV Cup) at Twickenham.  My dad, a prop, scored a try, and then tied the knot with my ma in June.  Hurrah!  On the day I was born, my mum went into labour in the morning.  My dad, however, had rugby training.  This being far more important than the birth of his first child, off he went, leaving her to get on with it.  (Calm down: he was back by the time I arrived.)  When I was actually born and proved to be a girl, my godfather joked, “Never mind: there’ll be an England women’s rugby team by the time she’s 16”.  At 14, I wasn’t playing rugby, but my dad still was: at this point for England veterans.  My two youngest brothers, at the age of 12, were being coached by Brian Ashton, who later went on to coach England.  When Jonny Wilkinson kicked his winning drop goal against Australia in the World Cup, I cried.  (So did my Australian flatmate, for that matter, but for rather different reasons.) I kept the final score on my mobile phone for years, and was devastated when I upgraded and lost the text. I think, therefore, it’s fair to say that rugby has been a big part of my life thus far.


Now, I know Italy is a footballing country, but, given that they play in the Six Nations, I didn’t think I’d have a problem finding a channel showing it on TV here.  More fool me.  Maybe it’s just the channels that we get (or don’t get) here, but rugby was nowhere to be seen.  Loads of football commentary, a good few schlocky 80s films, an episode of Poirot dubbed into Italian and about 10 tacky game shows, but no rugby.  Aargh!


At this point in time, if you’re not in the UK, you can’t access BBC iPlayer.I’m an English national who is domiciled in Italy.  I pay for a UK TV licence, despite rarely watching the BBC even when I am in England.  Why, therefore, am I not allowed to access BBC iPlayer here in Italy?  There must be some way of setting up a login service, linked to each person’s licence.  The Beeb really ought to get on that one.  Even if they set it up as a subscription service (à la Spotify) it would be better than nowt.  However, that’s a pie-in-the-sky dream for another day, which doesn’t help with my current rugby-free state.


Channelling the temperament of my adopted country, I completely fly off the handle.  No English stiff-upper-lip for me.  Oh no.  I stamp.  I shout.  I even wail a little bit.  The power of the internet comes to help me, and friends recommend various streaming sites.  Nothing seems to work, though.  The BBC should be proud of their copyright nazis.  About 15 minutes into the Ireland-Italy game, to which I had just found a working link, it was taken offline from the site I was using.  Dammit!  LivePlayer doesn’t work on a Mac.  ATDHE isn’t showing the rugby.  Proxy sites look like they might help, but then iPlayer’s simultaneous transmission breaks down.  CatchupTV won’t let me log in.  It seems I am doomed to an afternoon of merely reading twitter updates; the beggar at the sporting feast.  Luckily, however, just as I am descending into a truly epic sulk, a friend recommends FilmOn, which works like an absolute dream.  It’s free, there aren’t any annoying pop-ups, it runs happily on the Mac, and the quality’s great.  Hooray!  I’m as happy as a clam, and fill my boots with rugby all weekend.


Watching the mid-game adverts, it suddenly hits me: England’s next game is against Italy.  In Rome.  On Sunday the 14th.  Valentine’s Day.  The perverse side of me loves the thought of going to Rome, alone, to watch rugby, on that day of all days.  It’s expensive, and I’d spend up to 20 hours travelling for 80 minutes of sport, but I’m definitely tempted.  Should I …?


I’ll keep you posted.

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
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9 Responses to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

  1. carrieitly says:

    If it promised to be a fantastic match, I'd say 20 hours be damned, you should. But sadly I doubt it'd be worth it. We were in a similar rut over the weekend trying to watch the Ireland-Italy match (we don't have RAI Sport, which apparently it was on), so we had to settle watching it rebroadcast later that evening on RAI Uno. Thanks for the recommendation of FilmOn. I'll have to check it out.

    We went to the Italy-Samoa match in Ascoli Piceno several weeks back. Stadium was chalk-a-block, and the crowd was great. Has to be said, Italians are great fans. It was the Azzurri's first win in 17 or something games. While not stellar rugby it was so good to just be at a match. Hopefully Italy's rugby affinity will just keep increasing- both in game quality and fan base.

    Here's hoping we're able to see the rest of the tournament, some way, some how.

  2. Louise says:

    Hi! I'm also from a Rugby family. Actually, I'm from Rugby, so the game is pretty hard to get away from. I also am fed up with the Beeb not allowing us to access stuff when we're abroad…"Let's get together and call ourselves an institute"!

  3. Katja says:

    Carrie: yes, it would be a bit of a pain to go all that way for a rubbish match – but then again, it'd be a great 'idiot traveller' story. ;) My flatmate suggested flying (which hadn't even occurred to me), and that looks like it could actually be a goer. It's not all that much more expensive, and would knock travel time down to only 3-4 hours, which is rather more reasonable and would mean I could spend some time mooching around Rome.

    It would be great if rugby's profile was raised in Italy, the way it has been in the UK. Pre-World Cup, no-one really watched it, and it was often hard to find televised matches, but it's much more mainstream now, which is great for the armchair viewers among us.

    Louise: Hehe! The People's Front of Expatia. Or should that be the Expatian People's Front?

  4. LindyLouMac says:

    Definitely Rugby, but as we do not have Sport with our Sky subscription my husband rarely watches, although it is on Italian TV sometimes?

    As for BBC Entertainment which we get via Sky, well don't ask. Constant repeats of ancient programmes!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Last year I was in Puglia and I shocked myself by finding the 6 nations rugby live on terrestrial tv – I think it was channel 5 ? We will be in Italy again on Sunday so will give the tv a go – prior to finding it on tv I found a French radio commentary – that was better than nothing! Barbara

  6. Katja says:

    Hmm. Sounds like it may be our rubbish TV reception that's at fault from what you say, Lindy and Barbara. Maybe I should try giving it a bit of a retune and see what I find …

  7. Anonymous says:

    Have done a bit of research and think it is actually on la 7 if you can get it where you are,I will certainly have a go at tuning in on Sunday, Barbara

  8. Katja says:

    Perfetto! Thanks, Barbara. I'll give it a go …

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