IT’S that time of year again – when our capital city braces itself for four successive weekends of unadulterated rugby themed carnage.

The fixtures against Australia, New Zealand, Georgia and South Africa will of course, bring all sorts to Cardiff.

Dedicated fans, students of the game, casual onlookers, plus those who care considerably more for the occasion than they do the scoreline, will all try to mix harmoniously whilst welcoming supporters from the other side of the globe.

Rugby will dominate both the front and back of Welsh newspapers, and depending on how Warren Gatland’s men perform, the public will either end 2017 elated at the prospect of a nailed on Grand Slam in the next Six Nations, or in despair at our ongoing failure to topple Southern Hemisphere sides.

There was a time when our rugby loving nation viewed the period of November and early December with relish. A chance to watch Wales take on the best sides in the world, in one of the best sporting venues in the world, all whilst enjoying a colourful and passionate atmosphere both inside and outside what is now the Principality Stadium.

Yes, you had those in cowboy hats who perhaps could not decipher the rules of lifting in the lineout, you had those shouting ‘give it to Shane’ despite not knowing how many points one of his numerous tries was worth, and you had those who would wave plastic daffodils simply for show whilst downing pints in the now defunct Model Inn.

However, that was all part of fun, and added to the day for home and away fans alike.

But of course, we no longer live in a society where such fun can be had without intense scrutiny and criticism. Unless a ‘supporter’ has watched every international since 1989, owns a Welsh shirt that was made by Cotton Traders, follows the regions intensely and can spend 80 minutes in the stadium without obscuring views by going to the toilet – then he or she must be called out.

The above is obviously meant in jest, but the connotations are clear.

Scroll through the ever influential social media sites in the build up to a Welsh international, and it is frequented with views on bandwagon fans.

Of course, how dare people pile their hard earned money into international tickets and the pubs of Cardiff when they can’t even reel off the names of the infamous Pontypool front row?

After all, where was Dai ‘bach’ over there when we lost to Romania at the old Cardiff Arms Park in 1988?

The recent emergence of Wales on the international football stage these past four years has further widened the debate.

Sadly for a small nation like Wales, there are many who feel the need to attach themselves to just one of the major sports, whilst at the time, being scathingly critical of the masses that prefer the other.

Personally, I don’t see the issue with wholeheartedly getting behind both, but maybe’s that’s a debate for another day.

Fans of the round ball in particular, are currently vociferously championing how 90 minutes at the Cardiff City Stadium is a far better experience than 80 at the Principality. Ignoring the dire attendances that plagued Welsh football for much of the 90s and beyond, many argue the Barry Horns and co provide a more intense, vibrant atmosphere with fans who are more focussed on the game itself than they are with the size of the queue for a Guinness.

There is considerable truth in that notion, and yet I feel comparisons between the two are futile.

The majority of Welsh football games are currently played in midweek in a 33,280 seater stadium. In all likelihood, you don’t travel up after a long day at work if you have no specific interest in football or the Welsh team itself. And a small arena at capacity, will always produce a more intense cauldron of noise that a large one that’s not full.

On the contrary, international rugby games are usually played on a Saturday in the heart of our capital city, in a stadium surrounded by pubs, restaurants and hotels within walking distance. With the vast majority off work the following day, it is inconceivable to think games won’t double up as social occasions.

And if they do, does it really matter?

Ticket prices, despite concessions now when perceived lesser nations visit, have now inflated to extortionate prices for Welsh rugby fans. So much so that few can be blamed for opting to remain home and view on television.

But news flash - those who choose to pay and travel have a right to enjoy themselves. As do the masses who head into the city centre without the intention of attending the game.

Yes, no one wants anti-social behaviour, violence, or urinating on streets. But such behaviour is unacceptable in all forms of society – not just outside the Angel Hotel whilst dressed in red.

Yet if people do not cause trouble, and subsequently add to the colour, noise, and enthusiasm that now famously engrosses the streets of Cardiff on international day, then good on them.

After all, we can’t have it both ways. Cardiff has long been seen as one of the best match-day venues on the planet, and if you speak to away supporters from both the British Isles and Australasia, you’ll find very few complaints.

We can’t herald the above whilst at the same time, criticising those who make it so.

And whilst we would all love a world where we could watch rugby internationals with 74, 499 other knowledgeable and committed fans, let’s face it, there are greater hardships in this world than having your view of a game momentarily obscured by an inflatable leek.

Enough goes on in Welsh rugby to argue over as it is. So for the next four weekends, whether it be through social media, attending matches, or watching in pubs, can’t we all just back our nation and get along?

With or without a cowboy hat on.