Ben Dirs

Paris primed for English invasion (48)

I’m normally loathe to use military metaphors when writing about sport. Unless, of course, Phil Taylor is playing Peter Manley at arrows, in which case, it’s entirely appropriate.

But, as I sit here tapping this out in a darkened hotel room, the glow from my laptop serving as my only light, I can’t help feeling like an army scout, sent into enemy territory to test the waters in advance of England’s invading hordes.

A hotel room, I hear Carole from Maidenhead say. Yes, that’s right Carole, Tommy and I jettisoned Le Bloggernaut on the outskirts of Paris on Friday afternoon, grabbed our essential kit and ghosted into the big smoke - agitated, excited and, in my case, a little bit constipated (anyone got any suggestions?).

We had booked in at a campsite on the outskirts of town, but, having been warned we might see things even Simon Cowell would rather not see, we made alternative plans.

We have taken sanctuary in a mate’s gaff just round the corner from the Folies Bergere, although, truth be known, there wasn’t much revelry on the Rue Richer on Friday night. The natives are keeping their powder dry.

Neither was there much evidence of fellow England fans. No George Crosses, no Jerusalem, nobody telling the pretty blonde waitress what sweet chariots she has.

However, having access to a television and having witnessed the chaotic scenes at London’s Waterloo Station, we are acutely aware an explosion is imminent.

England captain Phil Vickery poses outside the Arc de Triomphe

The World Cup went stratospheric last week and now it seems the whole of England wants to be a part of it. Good old England – it’s got plenty of faults, but, my life, what fans.

It is difficult to convey breathless anticipation while typing with cotton wool taped to your fingertips so as not to wake your pals (I got the floor – it’s laminate…).

But my impatience is now acute. To bastardise Cat Stevens: I could lay my head on a piece of lead and imagine it was a springy bed - but it’s difficult to sleep while thinking of the colossal smash-up ahead.

Last week, it became official – I know nothing about rugby. Forecasting humiliation for the northern hemisphere teams, England and France pulled my pants down and proved me wrong.

So I have no pre-match prediction. Other than that the streets of Paris will be the greatest place on Earth to be on Saturday 13 October. That’s a fact - my cabbie told me.

As I write, I’m doubtful there can ever be a better day of rugby than last Saturday. I suggest you gird your loins and do your best to prove me wrong.

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 10:36 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Paulina wrote:

I feel we can do it. Am in Geneva about to catch a plane to London for a friend's wedding party in a Soho bar tonight - and thank god they have organised a telly...

Reserved my train and booked accommodation to see England in the final next Saturday, being the eternal optimist.

We can do it - and the fans are going to help make it happen.


  • 2.
  • At 11:40 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew in Durham wrote:

Having witnessed the torrid affair which was England V South Africa at the Stade de France, the sheer disapointment and bewilderment that game brought was in complete opposition to the energy and extasy of the build up in Paris.

The friendly baiting of the Boka and the serious discussion of form was a joy.

I can agree with Ben's cabbie the atmosphere was devine.

We CAN do it, the ubiquitous C'mon! will resound in every bar & home - where the cross of St George flies in the heart of the spectator. Cheering our boys on.


  • 3.
  • At 11:41 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Glyn from the Alps wrote:

I hope the English fans - if ever England should lose- will show just how great they are and join in one hell of a party on Saturday night. After all, it is supposed to be the French World Cup this time round.
By the way, I'm sure you'll be better off in the city on Saturday night- quite right to have left the van out of town.

  • 4.
  • At 11:51 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

I'm in the Isle of Man and am going to a Gaelic Football Dinner tonight.
We sit down to eat at 7.30pm and at 9.00pm UK time the dinner will stop and we'll be watching the game on Sky Plus on a big screen.

In the immortal words of the prophet Let's Get It On!

  • 5.
  • At 12:10 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Une francaise en Angleterre wrote:

Prunes d'Agen

  • 6.
  • At 12:17 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Stu wrote:

On the constipation front, I suggest some warm, hop rich, English beer coupled with the excitement of a nerve racking tight game. If all else fails you could even drink the beer....

  • 7.
  • At 12:17 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Antony wrote:

in regards to the constipation, large amounts of cider normally does the job for me!!

Allez le Blanc!! England Argie final, argentina to win.

  • 8.
  • At 12:34 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Adil Hussain wrote:

I find that if you drink brown sugar in boiled water, constipation goes away

Also make sure you have lots of fruit.

  • 9.
  • At 12:42 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Chris A wrote:

So Ben, did you finally convince the two rather spiffing Swedish ladies that think you are handsome (tee hee), to accompany you to the festivities today?

  • 10.
  • At 12:49 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Carole Maidenhead wrote:

Ben dear, delighted to hear you have safe lodgings in Paris. I worry about you boys, you see,like a surrogate auntie. Re constipation - you are probably dehydrated - best thing is not to drink any alcohol this weekend.HA HA HA HA HA Now that is funny. SO excited about today, enjoy yourselves, and tell Tommy to put a clean vest on. Your loving Auntie Carole

  • 11.
  • At 12:50 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

about to hit my SU for a 1/4 burger and 4 pints for 8.75 (you know it makes sense) and the footie, then scooting across london to the 02 dome to watch the rugby. its gonna be a big messy (hopefully joyful) experience

  • 12.
  • At 01:06 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Constipation? You're in Paris!

1x packet Gitanes (strong)
1x cheeky espresso
1x handful of prunes
1x handful of dried figs

All readily available at the Mediterranean fruit markets, or on the walk to it.

(1x cheeky espresso, for afterwards)

You will lose weight. Do not wear your flip flops while attempting the above. It would also be advised that you are in permanent line-of-sight with the nearest 'municipale'.

Either that, or lay off the dry pasta.

  • 13.
  • At 01:27 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Une francaise en Angleterre wrote:

Sorry if I am repeating myself but I am having trouble posting this blog again today.

If all natural remedies fail, visit the Pharmacie for some 'suppositoires'

  • 14.
  • At 02:12 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • paul wrote:

Pour les nondrop - thirty sit ups a day.
Carn england - in all three.

  • 15.
  • At 03:54 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • lamiette wrote:

We know English are good... but Frenchies 've discovered their rubgy since the begining of this world cup.
So, see you at 8PM and on the third half-time friends!!!

I hope just it'll be the greatest match of the world cup!

good luck

Lamiette the frog

  • 16.
  • At 03:55 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Carole Maidenhead wrote:

Ben dear, I am delighted you and Tommy have somewhere safe to stay. Have a lovely time. I am so excited. Tell Tommy to put a clean vest on, and make sure you let a responsible grown-up know where you are. Your loving Auntie Carole

  • 17.
  • At 04:01 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Gary Thompson wrote:

a shed load of red wine should do the trick followed by the hotest chill concarn you can get. you might need the cotton wool for somthing else, and not padding your fingers.

england to win - very tight, head mashing game.

  • 18.
  • At 04:01 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Carole Maidenhead wrote:

Ben dear, I am delighted you and Tommy have somewhere safe to stay. Have a lovely time. I am so excited. Tell Tommy to put a clean vest on, and make sure you let a responsible grown-up know where you are. Your loving Auntie Carole

  • 19.
  • At 04:56 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • stuckinaruck wrote:

c'mon England lets have it.

  • 20.
  • At 04:59 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • stuckinaruck wrote:

Who gave Latham a bag of sour sweets last week, by the look on his boat he ate the lot in one go.

  • 21.
  • At 05:00 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

I'm not sure about laxatives. You don't wanna spend the first half in le khazi do you?
Bulk up on eggs and toffee. That should block up the works for the rest of today and by tomorrow the internal pressure should sort the problem out unaided.

  • 22.
  • At 05:03 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Mike wrote: we go again.
England v France.........
World Cup Semi Final..

and ive got to work at a 21st birthday party some idiot booked last weekend.

no telly, no net what am i gonna do

never mind im off next week to see us in th final


We CAN Do It

  • 23.
  • At 05:21 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

I am in Canada and had virtually given up all hope after the SA game then saw the Austraila game and what a difference- committed, agressive just lacked some finishing.

Hopefully Jonny's boot will be back to the form we love and the 3/4's will find their touch.

Should be a great game. cannot wait-even if it does cost me $24 to watch it on pay per view.

  • 24.
  • At 05:39 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Laura wrote:

If anyone is in Nantes watching this match, go to the John McByrne Irish pub, the staff are great, the beer is great and the atmosphere is totally out of this world. We were in Nantes for Eng V Samoa and spent most of our time in that pub!!! Come on England, let's show the rest of the world that we're serious!

  • 25.
  • At 06:48 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Alan from PAris wrote:

I am off to my Anglo-French daughter's Parisian flat to watch the match with my French wife, my daughter's Germano-Iranian (but most of life in France) boyfriend and an Argentinian couple who are friends of my daughter... And I am taking the champagne!!!! Lucky I will be in London next week for the final...
Come on England

  • 26.
  • At 06:52 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • james gibbons wrote:


  • 27.
  • At 09:37 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Kat wrote:

Conspirency from France?
Question from France!!!

  • 28.
  • At 09:43 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Kat wrote:

Conspirency from France? Organasing....
Question from France!!!Well don't matter...
Or does it?

  • 29.
  • At 09:49 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Syamantak Bhattacharya wrote:

I have no idea about the rules of this game,as I am a cricket and football fan. But I have been living in the UK for the last three years and for some unknown reason I would like to see England win.

  • 30.
  • At 10:09 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • charlie wrote:

Well congratulations England. You dogged out that win. France had more chances but just couldn't get there in the end.

  • 31.
  • At 10:36 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Cock of the North wrote:

You wont need laxatives now our French friends need sedatives and you need Paracetamol.. Well done England France have been excellent hosts very gracious in defeat unlike our ex colonial opposition GO ENGLAND 7-1 between 1-5 points I promise I will buy the next Frenchman I meet a good drink..Cheers

  • 32.
  • At 10:39 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • st george wrote:



  • 33.
  • At 10:44 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Here's a message to David Kirk and all you New Zealand fans... You think your team are world beaters but once again it's England in the final with the NZ chokers nowhere.

  • 34.
  • At 10:48 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Gordon Donovan wrote:

Being English and living in Australia last week was fantastic, walked around melbourne all week with big grin and england rugby top on.

Lots of snide remarks about how the French were going to dismantle us.

Heart, bottle, determination was shown today on that pitch. It was a fantastic performance to win in Paris.

I commiserate with the french for putting up a great performance, for never giving up and for the sportsmanship both before and after the game. It's nice to see it still around.

If it is South Africa in the Final, I don't see England winning, then again I've not seen us winning the last two games either.

Off to wash the shirt to wear it for another week!!!!

  • 35.
  • At 11:03 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • spracer22 wrote:

Every time England do this we get more kids coming to the club wanting to play'-tastic!

C'mon England - let's get playing what we're best in the world at.

Constipation? Just try coaching 40 under 11yr olds for 3 hours on a Sunday morning!

  • 36.
  • At 11:11 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Yet again, England made us sweat. They gave away many good chances and Johnny's kicking wasn't working.

But, apart from a few moments of ill discipline, our boys held the line with a lion heart and bull dog spirit. France never looked very threatening against our rock solid defence. And when it really mattered, our Johnny didn't let us down.

Let's all eat cuisse de grenouille and quoff the finest burgundy, our bounty from the defeated French man of war - the "La Porte"!

  • 37.
  • At 11:13 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

Rugby should be capable of being watched by neutrals and enjoyed. England may have won but I think the loser from this World Cup is Rugby Union. Any chance of getting commentators on the telly who are first and foremost commentators and not primarily England supporters???!!!

  • 38.
  • At 11:27 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • simon fixter wrote:

As any team would say, I'll take a win. Well done England, it was up to the oppo be they Aus or whoever to do their homework, no matter how brill they were they couldn't beat you. The Setanta studio pundit team are a disgrace to our sport and commentators to say the ref. intentionally favoured the English. Pity they couldn't comment post match, and lose with good grace.

  • 39.
  • At 11:29 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Englishman down Under wrote:

Going to work on Monday is gonna be even sweeter than it was last Monday...

  • 40.
  • At 11:44 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

I was at rugby town in Paris for the debacle against South Africa and was lucky enough not to be able to remember it the next morning. What I do remember is the shock of the SOuth Afrcans of how badly we played. The following day was a testement to the spirit of rugby when meeting Boks there was no crowing, well not a lot, but a genuine feeling of camaraderie for supporters whose team seem to have lost their way. Recent reults have changed things but I for one will never forget that day when rugby was a winner and the world became a smaller and friendlier place.Thank you France for a magnificent world cup, thank you South Africa for the wake up call, and thank you England for restoring pride to our game. Sorry for going on but emotion and beer after the semi final make a man do strange things.

One last thing,


  • 41.
  • At 12:18 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Hello winners !

I'm a frenchie who is sad tonight becaude his team lost few hours ago. I want to greet or to dip the english flag. It's not the greatest techical game of the year tonight but it's probably the most thrilling party of the world cup. I'm blazed by the eternal rivality between England and France. we are humans, all with our defaults and quality. We are not dirty (french) and a lot of you (english)knows and likes prepare food. Ok we loose , but tonight i feel pleasure because sports and humanity win in a communion spirit, a communion between supporters and their sports beyond my hope. I want also to greet your rage of win and your fighting spirit which do the diiference one more time tonight.
To finish, I expect a lot of moment and game with this spirit of respect and exchange with a great culture and great humans which are the english people.
Take care and see you soon (6 nations for exemple), to another explanation and another moment of sharing and respect.

Long life to your dreams and all others who want a better world.

  • 42.
  • At 02:40 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Well done England! The 5am wake up call this morning was well worth it... Being in Australia has not been easy for an Englishman here down under. Thank you Australia for the last three years - now it's time for torture and revenge ! :)
Am looking forward to putting up the English flag in office next Monday!

  • 43.
  • At 03:41 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • garygooner wrote:

Comment 31, the Normans were not French ,they were Norsemen,Vikings that had been granted lands by the French king because the French were unable to get rid of them by force

  • 44.
  • At 08:18 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • garygooner wrote:

What happened to comment 31? can it be put back please?

  • 45.
  • At 11:57 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Smudge wrote:

Can't believe it,fantastic. and I have tickets for the final never expecting to see England there! Just been speaking to my sad french buddies and they want to sell their tickets for the final. I am going to meet them in Paris and guide them to some real England fans looking for tickets thus avoiding touts, toffs and fair weather supporters - look out for me, my wife and 6 glum frenchmen who are preparing to watch the match from a big screen with lots of Euros in their pockets.

  • 46.
  • At 12:40 PM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • nigel b wrote:

What a busy morning! Booked the ferry (Norfolk Line to Dunkirk are the cheapest)found a room in Paris (!) opposite the Eiffel tower on on Friday!

  • 47.
  • At 03:51 PM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Cock of the North wrote:

Re Comment 41 long life to your dreams to my friend.. I notice there are no messages of support from our other so called British Nieghbours. I have spoken with a friend of mine who lives in Glasgow this morning and the Scots hate it that England have made the final WHY ?? Even our own Prime Minister isnt interested ( Scottish of course) come on Scotland get behind us we gave you your stone back didnt we.. One of the Irish lads down the pub was less than complimentary about our performance ?? at least a Welsh friend of mine was gracious enough to ring with congratulations S.Africa and Argentina shirts are fetching more than tickets for the final in Scotland.

  • 48.
  • At 04:44 PM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • herbert chatters wrote:

This is England at its best.
Determined and dogged. We can go all the way.
Only regret. Why cann't Bryn Turvell be English and let's have Sweet Chariot sung by a real enthusiast.
Comments from Portugal, but we'll be in France on Saturday

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