The Strangest Six Nations Ever Started This Weekend, as all games are behind closed doors instead of in front of the crowd that we always took for granted

The crowd had a whiff of the empty stadium backdrop when last year’s pandemic-ravaged championship wrapped up in the fall, but it still feels far from normal

The Six Nations is not just about rugby, it is also about the social side We all love these wonderful weekends in the capitals of the competing countries, where fans mingle freely

Ireland, which begins its campaign to Wales on a Sunday, brings me back to an afternoon in Cardiff 14 years ago when the same scenario happened

On that occasion, a certain Rory Best scored a try on his first start in Six Nations when the Men in Green got to their feet with a crucial win, completing the Triple Crown

This season Ireland beat England on a memorable evening at Croke Park, but despite a strong win in Rome, they were denied the title due to the point difference

Poyntzpass man Rory came on as a substitute against Wales the year before in Dublin, but the Ulster hooker had to wait a while for his next opportunity

However, this 2007 Cardiff game was notably the first of Best’s 51 consecutive appearances in the Six Nations until an overnight illness occurred in Rome a decade later

Retired after a great career, Rory joins the media machine, writes a column for BBC Online and appears as a television expert

Like many of us, Rory’s earliest memories of the Five Nations of the time went as a schoolboy to old Lansdowne Road, overwhelmed by the experience

Armagh Royal took us on day trips and went first thing in the morning so we could play a game against a Dublin school in the morning or watch an early kick-off club game

It is remembered how former Irish propeller Phil Orr played for Old Wesley, three pound confectionery sold out of the stroller and our seats on the crowded terrace

We saw Ireland brutalized in 1989 by a huge English pack including Dean Richards, but saw a rare home win over Wales the following spring

Rory says steak eating is part of the attraction of traveling to Dublin, but since we were there with school we were satisfied with the chicken, fries and peas at the old Rosnaree Hotel

Our Drogheda meeting point was later renamed Europe and is no longer, not that we see these places anyway these days as the motorway makes the journey south so convenient

Rory realized the dream of putting on the green jersey, but in my case it was also a privilege to be a reporter again as a reporter shortly after graduating from school

Until the postponed game in Italy, this author had not missed a home game in the championship in the old Lansdowne, Croke Park and the new Aviva Stadium since 1997

As a rugby correspondent for the daily newspaper for 13 years, you have been fortunate enough to win all away games and to try the unique experience of each city yourself at work

In a journalistic capacity, your columnist reported seven times on Ireland in Twickenham, in half a dozen Six Nations Games in Paris and on the first five visits to wonderful Rome

Edinburgh also has its attractions as a rugby weekend destination, while trips to Cardiff have always been a reminder of Wales’ particular passion for rugby

My first away game in Wales as a rugby writer actually took place at Wembley, while the Millennium Stadium was being built to replace the old weapon park in time for the 1999 World Cup

The 2001 game was postponed until autumn due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, but it was worth the wait when Ulsters David Humphreys took Wales by the sword

Ireland left Cardiff with a narrow win to meet an unfortunate Grand Slam decider against England 18 months later, while 2005 was unforgettable in its own way

Wales was on the brink of a first Grand Slam since 1978, an unthinkable famine for such a rugby-mad nation, and the atmosphere when the 27 year wait ended was sensational

After visiting Cheltenham on Friday, I spent that evening at the invitation of a former Welsh woman at the Croesyceiliog rugby club in the Cwmbran in the valleys

Your team had stayed at the same hotel in Barcelona for the 2002 Women’s World Cup, and the friendship meant experiencing firsthand the passion in the Welsh rugby heartland

That was a privilege and on the day itself, the thousands of inflatable daffodils waved wildly as Wales did the job, aided by Gethin Jenkins, who attacked Ronan O’Gara for a try

However, Rory hit the first blow on Ireland’s successful next visit and our local hero was on the field when the final whistle in 2009 confirmed a first green Grand Slam in 61 years

That was a really wonderful day, and while this weekend is much less important and lacks atmosphere, all of these precious memories of the Six Nations will flood back when we watch from afar

There were diversions in the Ballymoney area on Sunday morning after a number of suspicious objects were discovered Photo: Ciaran Clancy

The scene outside the Coleraine courthouse during the Hazel Stewart trial that began 10 years ago this week

Six Nations

World News – GB – RICHARD BULLICK: There is nothing more beautiful than the Six Nations