> The Six Nations is thundering toward its conclusion, and the patriotism it inspires is more apparent than ever before.  Few other European competitions can claim to match the tournament for pure, unadulterated national pride.

Who went crazy when Chris Ashton went over for his first try against Wales two weeks ago in the opening match of the Six Nations in Cardiff? I think there is a fair chance that a few of you would have done. And no doubt those of you who are Welsh supporters would not have been so happy. Either way, you can’t help but be swept up in the emotion and passion that the games in the Six Nations create.

In the crowds at the venues throughout the tournament, whether it is in Paris, Rome, Dublin, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Twickenham, you are sure to find people donning some form of patriotism. A daffodil hat, a beret, a St Patricks hat, someone dressed an English knight, a Scottish hat on top of a ginger wig and the Italians with their tricolour painted on their face.

Each one of these people are proud to wear the colours of their team and of their country. This passion or national pride is enhanced by the fact that the six nations is a competition, with each nation vying to win all of their games and so win the championship and the grand slam. Even if you lose a game, the incentive is still there to win the remainder of the games with the ‘triple crown’, another trophy available to win for the ‘home nations’. Also, there’s the wooden spoon which is the title that no team wants, awarded to the team that loses all of their games.

So for this reason, the incentive is there for each nation to compete in every game regardless of previous results in the competition. To suggest that they would do otherwise would be insulting to the twenty two players representing their country, all very proud men, some of whom are not afraid to shed a tear whilst singing their respective anthems before a game. This national pride is shared by both fans and players, and the intensification of this patriotism in the build up to a big test match is huge, and the passion of the respective supporters contagious.

Take the build up to the opening game of this year’s tournament; England’s fullback Ben Foden made comments along the lines of England being the older brother of Wales coming to Cardiff to teach them a lesson. This of course did not go down too well in Wales and the Welsh head coach Warren Gatland’s comments about England hooker Dylan Hartley being a weak link in the England team all added spice to an already mouth watering contest.

It is no secret that there is an intense Anglo-Welsh rivalry, and a rivalry between England and every other team in the tournament for that matter. History and past encounters between the respective countries account for these rivalries and the supporters always want to win the bragging rights for the bar after the game. For the home nations that make up the British Isles, it is a chance for them to directly compete against one another, not something seen in most other sports in a major competition, to show how good they are in their own right. It is this national pride and unreserved patriotism that makes the six nations such a great tournament.

Khiam Barry