Last weekend, I went to a rugby match between Leinster and the Scarlets from Whales. This was my first rugby game and I had no idea what to expect considering my lack of knowledge in regard to rugby. Studying in Dublin, I naturally supported the home team (Leinster), and attempted to follow what was going on in the game.
The first thing to strike me was the speed and physicality of the sport. The men on offense, or in possession of the ball, would run full speed at the other team in an attempt to the move the ball up the field and into the in-goal area. Those on defense do all they can to bring the man with the ball to the ground and gain possession of the ball. The players do not wear pads or any protective equipment. This may in part explain the many injuries that occurred throughout the course of the game. Nonetheless, I could not take my eyes away from the non-stop action that was occurring.
The atmosphere of the game was not all too different than a sport event in the United States. However, I found that the fans were relatively respectful of the opposing team. There was no booing or negative comment directed at the Scarlets. At football or baseball games in the United States there tends to be more negative commentary by the fans. I personally enjoyed that the fans were positive and content simply cheering on their team. The cold weather made the experience a little less pleasant, but overall I was happy to experience such an integral part of Irish culture.
Leinster ended up defeating the Scarlets, and I walked away with a far better understanding of rugby. While, not a traditional Irish sport like hurling or Gaelic football, I still found it eye-opening to watch a sport that commands such a large Irish fan base. I certainly would like to continue to watch rugby games in the future and would now consider myself a Leinster fan.