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February 12, 2013

Was rugby the real reason the Pope resigned?

on 02/12/2013

Pope Jean Paul II with the England squad in 2004 © Getty Images

As if the first two weekends of the Six Nations had not produced enough surprises, the Papal resignation adds to the intrigue.

It is a fact that five of the last seven Popes have died in years when Wales won the Home/Five/Six Nations Championship. They were Benedict XV in 1922, Pius XI in 1939, Paul VI and John-Paul I in 1978 and John-Paul II in 2005.

The form book doesn't suggest that Wales are serious title contenders for this season, but if any mortal has a closer link to the Great Redeemer than the Pontiff, let's hear from him or her now.

While correspondents on radio and TV are musing over the possible reasons for Pope Benedict's shock resignation, all have so far overlooked the possibility that he saw the game in Paris on Saturday and rates Rob Howley's team as a good bet for the Championship. His Holiness, however, is probably not a great patron of Rome's betting industry, so is unlikely to be sticking a few Euros on Ryan Jones to lift the trophy.

The statistical probability of a reigning Pope seeing in another new year may be another bet he is not prepared to take for a third time. Pope Benedict has already survived Welsh Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, statistically the odds become longer each year.

The rugby aspect stands scrutiny. Wales' next match is against Italy in Rome on 23 February. It will be the Pope's last chance to see a Six Nations game before he leaves office, and it could go either way. Then Wales go to Murrayfield. Scotland have not beaten Wales in the year of any papal death since 1903. Finally, on 16 March, England visit Cardiff for what could be the championship decider.

France are playing so badly now that they represent a major banana skin for England in this topsy-turvey championship. Even if England beat France and Italy in the meantime, the match in Cardiff could hand Wales the championship on points difference. For England blowing a Grand Slam decider against Wales, look no further than this match.

All of which explains why, in the interests of self preservation, Pope Benedict will leave the Vatican on 28 February, significantly before the last two rounds of the Six Nations Championship. Clearly, he doesn't think it's worth risking an improbable Welsh win.



Posted Tight Ed on 03/13/2013

Or did he realize that he was in charge of an organization even more dysfunctional than the IRB?

Posted Rick on 02/12/2013

If the Pope was as well connected as some think then wouldn't Ireland or France win the Six Nations every time. And if he wanted to show miracles still happen, wouldn't he fix it so Italy won it one year?

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Writer Bio

Richard SeecktsRichard Seeckts’ rugby career consisted of one school match where he froze on the wing and despite no substitutes being available he was withdrawn from the game at half-time for mocking the opposition’s line-out calls. Thereafter Richard and the sport agreed active participation was not the way ahead, but that has not prevented him from avidly writing about and watching the game. He now contributes his random observations to the Crooked Feed blog on