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Ben Dirs

Salty old madam puts on a show (26)

Montpellier - I’d heard Marseille was a bit on the grim side, so when The Bloggernaut snaked round one last mountain bend to reveal the salty old Madam in all its glory, I was more than a mite surprised.

Stick a giant statue of Chrissy Waddle, arms outstretched, on one of the hills overlooking France’s second city, and you’d have a pretty close approximation of Rio.

The local legend and shambling old step-over merchant even had a similar haircut to Jesus, although I’m sure the son of God would have baulked at the idea of luminous socks.

So cocky are they about the weather in Marseille that they’ve only bothered putting a roof over one of the stands, and it was another rip-roaring evening on Saturday as we watched Argentina give our old friends Namibia a damn good thrashing.

Fans of the Pumas, out in force at this World Cup, clearly know how to tear a place up, and even a few of their journalists joined in with what we were reliably told is an old Mexico ’86 classic, If You’re Not Singing and Dancing, You’re English.

Pumas fans pose in France

Similarly, the French public cannot be praised highly enough for the way they’ve embraced this event, the colour and vibrancy of which is making the cricket equivalent look more and more pathetic by the day.

Tommy and I thought England looked better in holding off Samoa in Nantes, although the Aussies we watched it with weren’t exactly blown away by the display.

The consensus among most southern hemisphere fans we’ve met is that, frankly, Six Nations rugby is a load of old cobblers. I’m beginning to think they’re on to something.

Watching Australia defeat Fiji at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, I decided it had a lot to do with personality.

This Wallaby side is packed with players with ‘rascal’, men such as Chris Latham and Matt Giteau, who not only like winning, but like making opponents look a bit silly in doing so.

Matt Dawson, Neil Back, Austin Healey – they had rascal in spades. But the current England outfit has less rascal than the Pope during Lent.

But who am I to throw stones when Phil Collins, Joe Mangel and overweight Hollywood ‘character’ actor Seth Rogen have all been added to my ever-growing list of lookeylikies in the past 24 hours.

Thanks for the texts chaps, the knowledge that I resemble three of the most average-looking humans on the planet has buoyed the spirit no end.

Calvados – what’s that all about? Like a doting mother serving her son up some medicine before bedtime, Tom insists I have a tot every night. I haven’t the heart to tell him it tastes like Domestos.

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Talking of Tom, the silly sausage has decided to pedal up Mont Ventoux on Monday, scene of British cycling legend Tommy Simpson’s demise during the 1967 Tour de France.

He assures me he’ll be dosed up with nothing more potent than Evian and muesli, so, fingers crossed, I’ll still have a chauffeur for the next four weeks. If he is still around on Tuesday, I’ll get him to tell you all about it.

Later this week we head to St Etienne, where we will join up with Scotland’s fans for the first time ahead of their crunch clash with Italy on Saturday.

The Lonely Planet reckons it’s a bit of a poxy little city, but we intend to give it our best shot. Any suggestions as to where to stay and where to head for a few scoops would, as ever, be much appreciated.

PS. Many thanks to Patricia and Dave, who sorted a sad cigarette addict out with a pack of fags last night and without whom this blog would never have been written.

PPS. About that weather, I can’t promise anything, but I reckon we might be able to tie the sun to the back of The Bloggernaut and tow it home at the end of the tournament.

Ben Dirs is a BBC Sport journalist travelling around France in a camper van with Tom Fordyce. Click here to search for all of Tom and Ben's blog videos.


Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:21 AM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Any updates on the condition of the grass in southern France? Have you visited anymore training grounds yet? I'm becoming slightly derranged about my grass obsession now. Nevermind, c'est la vie.

  • 2.
  • At 11:23 AM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Any updates on the condition of the grass in southern France? Have you visited anymore training grounds yet? I'm becoming slightly derranged about my grass obsession now. Nevermind, c'est la vie.

  • 3.
  • At 11:28 AM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Ally the scally wrote:

Tear up that guide book! Was in st etienne for the scotland portugal game and it is nice. The people are really friendly and they have put a real effort into being a host venue.

Apparently scots fans are particularly well welcomed after the tartan army's charm offensive in 98. There is even a pub called the glasgow. Apart from that and the usual irish bars, i think there is a Smoking Dog there and the people from Dirty Old Town were tres friendly, though we never made it there.

  • 4.
  • At 12:05 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Why has my computer made me comment twice earlier? How stupid, and how embarrassing .

  • 5.
  • At 12:46 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • steve wrote:

I probably missed other people's comments cos I don't read everything
but am I alone in thinking that Michalak and Chabal are both trying
for the Palme d'Or in Cannes last friday evening ? ok the hits were high or late but even so - strange
what stardom can do to a caveman.

  • 6.
  • At 01:44 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Boys,

Use the fee money better. I do not want to hear a dribble about campsite this, campsite that. If you are going to make an inofmrative blog about the local area all I care about are ladies, rugby and beer. The blogs are too short and there is way too much ego in them.

Dirs, coming from the same part of Essex as you I am shocked to find you are neither, A) A toff who goes round slapping Frenchies out the way with a leather bound passport complaining about the smell. or B) A drunk idiot looking down on Basildon folk and claiming their best mate is Frank Lampard. So I am quite sure you are an imposter and not to be trusted.

Tom, you seem alright. Lads sort yer lives out, cut the rubbish blogging and focus on more women and for christ sake more rugby.

  • 7.
  • At 02:40 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • James Turnbull wrote:

you are right Dirs..
But for the aussies, it is not referred to as "showing a bit of rascal",(that seems a bit too tame) it is "showing a bit of mongrel!"

Someone without a convict past who also displays this "mongrel" is Jerry Collins of the ABs.
Sadly (for me) I think the ABs will stop the Wallabies in their tracks in the semis.

Finally, why are the Southern hemisphere sides better? To be honest, it is the weather initially, so the skill levels of our players and opportunity to develop are there in abundance.

Go the Wallabies!
Cheers,
Jimmy

  • 8.
  • At 03:45 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Bobby H wrote:

Weather! James I have heard some bloody poor excuses for the 6 nations showing thus far in WC07 but "the Weather!" takes the chocolate bourbon! I would love to train in warm dry weather and as a kid i am sure sports day would have been better without the usual last minute postponement until a dry day came - but basics are basics - any sport has the same principals - our boys just do not do enough skill based training - maybe its too cold and wet for them..... oh i see what you mean now! Yeah i agree -it's all the fault of the weather - so our strategy is...burn more fossil fuel- wait twenty years - we'll have'em in 2027! - ps have you ever been to Wellington NZ?

  • 9.
  • At 03:59 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Dr Socrates wrote:

Does anyone think that its a cyclic thing that NH sides are so poor this WC and SH sides appear so good? Will the seat of power ever change again -or even in my lifetime (I'm a youthful 38, ahem)or is this curtains for NH rugby?

Its true that England are and have been dire since the last WC, but a good piece in the paper yesterday put some of the blame on the poor quality of coaching at international level compared to club level. Perhaps England need a SH coach to change the mindset?

However I'm at a loss to explain why the others are so poor - France might contine strongly after their poor start, as might Wales, but I can't see Scotland or Ireland testing any SH sides when required?
(That shouldn't be read as sour grapes as I'm half Scottish.)

Is the 6 nations really to blame?

The thing is being a sport that doesn't really mean much in the Americas (Argentina & Canada excepted), much of Europe and Asia, can rugby union afford to have such a one sided, predictable tournament.
As much as everyone loves to see England crumble, a great deal of money is generated this end (by all NH sides through tours, sponsership, corporate etc) when teams are successful and in the global nature of rugby, if this money disappears, rugby may slip further compared to football? It great to see the success and huge improvement of the other nations but they going to get money and sponsorship into game?

My example is England getting NZ up to the Twickenham last autumn, for the extra test (and the inevitable beating) but generating a lot of cash which NZ saw a share of and the RFU carved up for the south stand kitty. When Argentina played the next week they got **** all share of the money, which was considerably less, even though they also won well.
In fact the only thing that has made the RFU sit up recently has been the large reduction in income that Englands poor form has produced - nothing to do with the embarrassment of being the worst world cup holders ever.

Or am i being a t**t?

  • 10.
  • At 04:24 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • hinzsa wrote:

Dont worry Ireland..
Ireland has the players to win their next match against Pumas and pass to
the next stage, no doubt about that. (Even though the south Americans are having a good campaign, but they still part of the ‘minows’) . But what it worries me is the appointment of the (official) referee Paul Honiss , this kiwi-man, has the tendency to apply different rules to different teams, showing a favoritism for the ‘bigger team’ (especially the ones that generate bigger revenues) the international press vote him the worst official in history, after the Springboks beat Samoa, it also made awful decisions in the opening match in Australia 2003. He will be the mayor threat for the Pumas.

  • 11.
  • At 04:48 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Eric Shaw Phillips wrote:

I'm off to the England Tonga game on Friday - any ideas where there will be a good knees up after the match?

  • 12.
  • At 05:11 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Ben Dirs wrote:

Stuart - The grass at the foot of Mont Ventoux, from where I am typing this, is currently sopping with the sweat of Tom Fordyce. He's cycling up it as I type...

Ally the scally - Many thanks for your reassuring words and kind advice. We will follow it to the letter.

Dave - Thank you for your lucid and informative post. That said, are you out of your mind? Toffs in Brentwood? This is a town whose two most famous exports are Frank Lampard and Jodie Marsh, and they both went to the local public school. And if you think there are toffs in Romford, which I currently call home, you want to get yourself down the quacks, and fast. Also, seeing as most of this blog is about the two matches we saw this weekend, the previous couple have been all about women and I didn't mention the campsite once, I'll put your rant down to a few too many Stellas down Bas Vegas.

James Turnbu! ll - Aah yes, mongrel, another trait sadly lacking in this England side...

Bobby H - Have to say, I agree with you. It's a sad day when we start blaming all our sporting failure on the weather.

Dr Socrates - Good chat. As with most sport in Britain, I feel that British and Irish rugby so rarely matches up to the southern hemisphere version because players are so far ahead in terms of basic skills and nous at a younger age. It's been side many times about English football, tennis and countless other sports. I can attest to this having played Australian and South African sides while at school. The top schools over there are on a different level, and I believe northern hemisphere sides are permanently having to play catch-up.

  • 13.
  • At 05:43 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Alex Trickett wrote:

Dear all - after spending a very annoying 15 minutes trying to post a comment from Ben, who had spent a hugely annoying 30 minutes attempting to do the same, I can say with some certainty that our blog is publishing very slowly at the moment.

This is a known problem (sadly out of our control) so if you have been having difficulty commenting on this or any other post, we are sorry.

We do want to hear from you. Please try again later if you can.

Then again, you'll probably never get to read this because it will take so long to publish...

  • 14.
  • At 07:11 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Thompson wrote:

Maybe the fact that the southern hemisphere teams are just coming off the back of the tri nations and finishing their season whereas the 6N teams are just starting and haven't got into their stride yet?
I expect Wales, Scotland and France to get better and maybe cause a few surprises before this world cup is finished. England may even surprise us all and get through to the quarter finals........! Nurse! where's my medicine.!!!!!

  • 15.
  • At 07:24 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Thompson wrote:

Maybe the fact that the southern hemisphere teams are just coming off the back of the tri nations and finishing their season whereas the 6N teams are just starting and haven't got into their stride yet?
I expect Wales, Scotland and France to get better and maybe cause a few surprises before this world cup is finished. England may even surprise us all and get through to the quarter finals........! Nurse! where's my medicine.!!!!!

  • 16.
  • At 08:50 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • PJ wrote:

Buy some fish, find some NZ supporters and help yourself to the chips on their shoulders - voila, instant meal!
And while you're at it, why don't you look up an old flame of mine, Chantal. This Gallic beauty was mad for what she referred to as my "creme Anglaise" - I think you would enjoy her...

  • 17.
  • At 09:06 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • John Ginivan wrote:

On the subject of toffs in Romford.....well there used to be two of them. One in the market place and one in south street. I should know I bought a pair of burgundy waffles from there circa 1982.

You'll always be a Mintz and Davis man Dirssy!!

  • 18.
  • At 11:23 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

At 11:28 AM on 24 Sep 2007, Ally the scally wrote:
Tear up that guide book! Was in st etienne for the scotland portugal game and it is nice.
************************************************************************************

Nice is nice.
St Etienne is ...well....St Etienne.

Glad to clear up your confusion.

  • 19.
  • At 02:41 AM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Shazza wrote:

Hi guys
Do some of you think that it is just the male species that are licence payers (Dave no.4)? I'm loving the blog, forget the talk about girls what about the men! And I'm not talking about the Welsh guy who uses hair straighteners (too scary).

I went to Nantes this weekend and must admit, the Nantelians (?) knew how to make everyone welcome and put on an event. I know England had a win, but Paris last weekend was so cold in comparison.

By the way if the Beeb would like to send out a female to give a slightly different perspective of what is going on I would happily volunteer!

I know it's a bit belated, but being Canadian, I've just managed to watch the England vs Samoa game. Being a bit of nuetral. I want to offer my thanks to both teams for the entertainment they provided; edge of the seat stuff...for both sets of supporters. They all played with heart and soul...good job you guys, you ALL stepped up to the plate. I hope their next two games are just exciting, can't wait.....

  • 21.
  • At 09:35 AM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Steven H. wrote:

Do we get to find out what time Tom did Mont Ventoux in?

PS. I don't think you look like Phil Collins - I think you look like this guy.

  • 22.
  • At 11:34 AM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • James wrote:

* At 09:35 AM on 25 Sep 2007,
* Steven H. wrote:
PS. I don't think you look like Phil Collins - I think you look like this guy.

Interestingly enough, I saw Mr Beaumont at Murrayfield on Sunday, Princess Anne seemed to be explaining the rules of the ruck and maul to him.

  • 23.
  • At 02:25 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • James Turnbull wrote:

Bobby H, yes I take your point :-)

And yes, I have been to Wellington a few times - what a rain-ravaged dump!
So that rules out the weather being a fairly significant factor (tho' I am sure it does play a part!)

Could it be a simple as national character having various traits - those kiwis in particular are absolutely sport obsessed.. and with plenty of maori character they see the rugby pitch as the modern tribal proving ground.

It could be argued also that we aussies have a 'b#gger you' chip on our shoulder from our convict days..

  • 24.
  • At 08:16 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Nook wrote:

I was in St Etienne for Scotland v Portugal and had a whale of a time. The locals have really got themselves up for the rugby. The accommodation situation is pretty hopeless, but the main town square (Place Jean Jaures) and Dirty Old Town are first class drinking venues.

What do you think are the odds for an all-SH semi final line up?

Highly likely I'd say...

Ben - pls can we swap jobs. Meandering around France watching rugby and drinking beer whilst penning a few witty observations en route sounds top banana to me! How do you fancy a bit of (rather dull) business analysis in Nottingham instead?

What do you think are the odds for an all-SH semi final line up?

Highly likely I'd say...

Ben - pls can we swap jobs. Meandering around France watching rugby and drinking beer whilst penning a few witty observations en route sounds top banana to me! How do you fancy a bit of (rather dull) business analysis in Nottingham instead?

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