Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Raeburn Shield...

...an alternative history of world rugby.

I stumbled across an article about this recently on Scrum.com and it rang a few bells as I'm sure I've heard the Raeburn Shield mentioned before somewhere (can't think where).

But what on earth, I hear you ask, is the Raeburn Shield?

I'm glad you asked because it appears that, amidst all the hullabaloo (good word that, hullabaloo) about who will win the Six Nations, or who will triumph at this year's World Cup, the big question should in fact be who are the current holders of the Raeburn Shield and how the devil can my country win it?

The answer, of course, to the first part of the question is South Africa (who won it from England last November) and, in order to wrestle the Raeburn Shield from their grasp, all a team has to do is to turn up and beat the current holders.

It's a simple enough concept. You win the Shield by beating the current holders and keep the Shield until you're next beaten.

The only flaw, sadly, is that the Raeburn Shield does not actually exist or, at least, it does not exist in any corporeal form. As a hypothetical concept, however, it's pretty much flawless, and the chaps over at http://raeburnshield.com/ (who, it might be argued, have a little bit too much time on their hands) have even re-constructed an historical lineage for the Raeburn Shield dating back to the very first first game of international rugby union between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1871.

Scotland - Raeburn Shield winners in 1871
In that first ever game the winner (Scotland) won the mythical Shield, a trophy which has continued to be played for, won and lost until this day. Even the likes of Samoa (1999), Romania (1984) and Wales (sorry, couldn't resist) have held the Shield at some point in their histories and next up for the Raeburn Shield challenge is Australia who take on the Saffas on 23rd July in the first match of the Tri Nations.

Far from being satisfied with its metaphysical status, however, the Shield's supporters are campaigning to have the Shield recognised with a proper, real, physical trophy and you can show your support for the concept by joining the campaigners' Facebook Group.

So far, sadly, the idea has fallen on deaf ears (mainly belonging to the IRB) but it seems to me that it's an idea that's just about mad enough to work. After all, there's usually some non-sensical, meaningless, sponsor-led trophy awarded at the end of most international matches these days - why not, then, award a trophy that already has such a rich history and widespread support?

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