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Tom Fordyce

Sweet and sour memories of Marseille (84)

Marseille, Monday morning - There’s no two ways about it – that was without doubt the greatest sporting weekend I’ve ever been involved in.

Marseille this weekend has been a city drenched in beer, tension, disbelief, sorrow, happiness and wild, wide-eyed celebration.

Even now, with the streets finally emptying of campervans, sleeping fans and plastic pint pots, you can still almost feel the excitement bouncing off the sticky pavements.

It would have been enough had the city simply played host to England’s gob-smacking, gast-flabbering win over Australia.

But for France to then do that to the All Blacks in Cardiff, when the entire nation was resigned to their side going out of their own World Cup in a different country – well, it just picked the whole thing up by the scruff of the neck and threw it high into hyperspace.

Dirs joins the crusaders

Memories of Saturday night in the Vieux Port after the final whistle in Cardiff keep drifting back in fractured technicolour flashbacks: bars so rammed with fans that they were 20-deep on the pavements; men dressed as Zulu-era, red-coated British soldiers thrashing each other with inflatable kangaroos; Aussies and English singing endless happy choruses of “Allez les Bleus”;

French supporters stripping off their blue shirts and diving into the yacht-packed harbour; men in pink wigs astride life-sized plastic cows while 30-a-side games of full-contact rugby broke out all around them.

For the England fans, the total unexpectedness of the win left them staggering around in open-mouthed, stranger-hugging ecstasy.

The tension in the Stade Velodrome on Saturday afternoon? Fearsome. Brutal. At 60 minutes, my hands were shaking so much I had to clasp them together, and even then my shoulders starting wobbling.

As for the Aussies – I’ve never seen a bunch of fans take defeat so well.

Magnanimous doesn’t even get close. I don’t know why they’re such good losers – it can’t be through practise – but I was congratulated on England’s win by so many of them that you would have thought I’d actually been playing.

When it came to the All Blacks game, shown on giant screens and in every café, restaurant and bar in town, there was a unity of support so powerful that it brought the entire city together into one bellowing, inebriated army.

England fans were screaming for France, on the basis that they didn’t want to face New Zealand in the semis. So were the Aussies, simply to get revenge for all the cockahoop crowing text messages they’d got from Kiwi fans after their own defeat.

And the thousands of Welsh fans who’d come over to support Fiji in Sunday’s match? They weren’t in any mood to poop the party.

People must have stopped drinking at some stage. They must have done. But by mid-morning on Sunday the Irish bars were once again full of croaky-voiced fans rehydrating on Guinness, hell-bent on proving the old adage that you can take the hoarse to porter but you can’t make them think.

It seemed inconceivable that the city had anything left in its tank for the South Africa match.

That was before Fiji, roared on by thousands of Welsh, French and Aussie fans wearing garlands of plastic flowers, came so thunderously close to knocking the Springboks out that people were pinching themselves in astonishment.

Dirs meets the Queen

Sadly, we’ll also be leaving Marseille with some far less pleasant memories.

On Saturday night, with taxis in such short supply that even Andy Farrell was left waiting at the rank for almost an hour, the police came up to the group of fans I was talking to and warned us not to risk walking back to their hotels.

Why? Because, they told us, you will get mugged.

At the time, we laughed uproariously. Got to stick that in the blog, I thought – the cops telling eight towering, brooding rugby fans that someone would be mad enough to attempt to mug them.

Lesson number one: the local police know their city better than you do.

On Sunday evening, Ben went out and returned later - his eyes puffed up like a punched-out panda’s – to tell me that he’d been walking back home alone the coastal road, and was attacked.

He’d been squirted in the face with pepper spray and robbed of everything he had on him.

Ben being Ben, he was doing his best to play it down.

“At least they didn’t knife me,” he said, as we rinsed his eyes and nose.

Before you fly over, Mrs Dirs, I should tell you that he swears he’s fine this morning.

Admittedly he no longer has a mobile from which to call you, or credit cards with which to buy you presents, but I do, and the Bloggernaut residents always look after their own.

It also takes more than a can of pepper spray to put a man like Dirsy off his World Cup fun. Even last night the main thing he kept repeating was simply, “England v France! In Paris! In Paris!”

So, in a few hours time, we’ll begin our slow journey up north, probably a fair bit quieter than we had imagined we would be.

Any suggestions for stop-offs en route – we’ll probably aim to get to the capital by Thursday night – hugely welcome as always. Hey – there’s even room in Le Bloggernaut for a couple of passengers if you need a ride.

If we don’t see you en route, get yourself over to Paris next weekend. It’ll be awesome. And you can give Ben a hug when you’re over too.

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


Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 01:27 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Well Done England. You actually played as a team with some beautiful passes. Unfortunately the win was solely down to Johnnys' boot, so once again proving that he is the talisman of English Rugby. If he is not on the pitch, as we saw against South Africa, you can't win, but when he is you play with passion.

Scotland could learn a lot from that, judging by last nights performance. Although we play as a team with or without Chris Paterson on the pitch.

I would support England, if it weren't for the stupid biased commentary. If you listen to the commentators, you'd wonder why other teams turn up.

Can I ask is it true that England don't play their national anthem (Land of Hope and Glory) at the start of matches, because the F.A. refused to do likewise? God Save The Queen is the National Anthem of Great Britain which England is only part of! This only perpetuates the confusion, in the minds of people form other countries calling Britain England.

  • 2.
  • At 01:38 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Carole in Maidenhead wrote:

After a fantastic weekend of rugby, plus England winning the 3rd ODI, Jamie Toseland doing us proud in Moto GP, Amir Khan doing the biz, and Lewis Hamilton still right in it, I am a proud and happy bunny! However, I am incredibly upset to hear that Dirsy has been attacked. Please Tom, hold your breath if you have to, and give him a BIG hug and kiss from me.

  • 3.
  • At 01:41 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Mrs Dirs? Is that his mother or his wife? Please don't tell me Dirs actually got someone to agree to marry him? Cheer up boys, Dirsy might not be able to see but the blog has kept me going for the past 4 weeks. Onwards to Paris!!

  • 4.
  • At 01:46 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • One legged Ed wrote:

I came to work this morning with "four more years" still ringing in my ears.

I broke my leg playing rugby just before the tournament, and am unable to travel, so have had to live it through you guys. I've never felt my licence fee was being better spent.

A shame about Ben - when on tour, never do anything alone... If nothing else you get an alibi!

  • 5.
  • At 01:47 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

Gutted to hear about Ben, some people truely are scum. I hope everything gets sorted and you continue to entertain us and make us laugh through this wondeful blog.

As for the game I was drunkenly watching the game in Walkabout telling the Aussies in there how Sheridan and co would batter them into submission, not actually believing a word I was saying myself so you can imagine their reaction! I couldn't contain my excitement at the end, and Tom I ahd exactly the same experience with the Aussies stood around us, what an excellent set of people.

Bring on the French!

  • 6.
  • At 01:48 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Nick Jarvie wrote:

As a Wales fan watching the Eng v Aus game, I found myself thinking, "Now why couldn't Australia have spilt so much ball and missed all their penalties against us... why God, why?" Then Fiji would've fielded their stronger side against Australia... and probably won!
Jibber jibber... sob sob, etc.
All in all, what a fantastic weekend!

  • 7.
  • At 01:48 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Jules wrote:

What a night it was in the Vieux Port!! Like you said, just when you think it cannot get any better, boom! it goes off with the French dumping the most arrogant set of fans in the world on a plane back to kiwiland!.. The entente cordial was certainly in full flow after that!

But, I have to join Tom and say hats off to our Aussie brothers and sisters, they made it a great night with their banter and humility.

Final point - where were the Saffers on saturday night? I think I only saw about 5!! and they were very quiet!

  • 8.
  • At 01:49 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Chin up Dirsy, I may be Welsh but I take my hat off to your lads for dumping the Aussies out on the weekend, just make sure you don't let the dirty mugging b**tards ruin your trip, the blog has been entertaining from the start but surely England can't go all the way ? can they ?

  • 9.
  • At 01:52 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

English biased commentary? Surely that does not encompass Stuart Barnes, who at last count wants to have the children of every person playing against England, ever.

  • 10.
  • At 01:54 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Get well soon Dirsy. If we can mug the French next Saturday justice will be done!

  • 11.
  • At 01:55 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Bloody muggers! Hope you're ok Mr Dirs, and I'm pleased that the forthcoming England v France game is helping you take your mind off of things!

What a world cup, and what a Saturday/night! Fantastic! It was so good I even forgot about my grass obsession for the day!!

So about the grass in Marseille then.....

  • 12.
  • At 01:57 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • One legged Ed wrote:

I came to work this morning with "four more years" still ringing in my ears.

I broke my leg playing rugby just before the tournament, and am unable to travel, so have had to live it through you guys. I've never felt my licence fee was being better spent.

A shame about Ben - when on tour, never do anything alone... If nothing else you get an alibi!

  • 13.
  • At 01:57 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Rory wrote:

God bless you fellas. That blog just brought a tear to my eye. I write this after having had to chuck a sickie at work cos I keep shaking from blood poisoning induced from boozing my way through the greatest weekend in the history of the game we love so much. The Zambuca shots came out after we beat the Aussies and things went rapidly downhill from there - at least what I remember of it. Every team involved were simply breathtaking. It was the perfect advertisement there could have possibly ever been for the game. I'm just getting a bit concerned about how expansive the South American coverage was and wether Brazil will start playing! Just goes to show that in sport you never know. Bring on the frogs!

Hope Mr Dirs is feeling better, but hey this is France!! I just thought I’d add my tuppence worth of congratulations to les ros boeuf and les blues for keeping the end up for the NH teams, and there’ll be a large welcome for you here in Paris.

So what was the catalyst for the metamorphosed change of form from the boys in red and white? Gelling? Training? No. Before you read the exposé in the ‘current bun’ or such other tosh, it was in fact my son!

Yes shortly after the low point after the SA game his godmother sent him a dummy with the St Georges cross on it and since then he has been sucking for the ‘old country’ every game and they’ve been getting ‘better’! (it was either this or the fact that he ate the missing St G’s fridge magnet – I did try to hold him up to the fridge on both sides to verify the matter but decided to let the topic lie with him at the bottom of the fridge when he failed to stick)

There is one problem with this; being of joint nationality and the next game against France could be a dilemma. Will he stop sucking? or stuck half as strong? I feel a week of sleepless nights coming on and plying his one year old mouth with unknown (and nice) substances like chocolate and such like, in order to bribe us to the finals. If we lose I take NO responsibility – he is his own man.

I pointed out to my wife (French) before the France game yesterday, whilst the Kiwis did the Haka, why didn’t the French team do the Cancan (ultimate riposte I would have thought) – she laughed and said “Would you try suggesting that to Chabal?”

It may be a selfish point of view, but do any of the team know what it’s like to live here in France when we lose against them?? I won’t be able to sleep this week.

Swing low (keep that sucking going son) sweet chariot……..

  • 15.
  • At 02:05 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Paris exploded on Saturday night - in the afternoon people queueing to get into Australian bars (after they lost, or maybe it was a queue of gloating Englishmen). I was getting rounds of applause from French fans on the way to the big screen in front of the Hôtel de Ville just for being in an England shirt. Afterwards, horns until 4 in the morning, and I've never seen so many people dancing around cars at traffic lights with flags. And everywhere, "allez les bleus".

Next weekend is going to be huge - if you can't get tickets I'd recommend a big screen, but get there early!

PS This is my first post, just thought I'd say I love the blog (especially the Monaco grand prix entry)

  • 16.
  • At 02:08 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Ian A wrote:

Peter your out of your mind, Jonny didnt play that well in my opinion it was down to one of the best pack performances i have ever seen that were going to Paris, not Jonny this time.

  • 17.
  • At 02:12 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Get well soon Dirsy. If we can mug the French next Saturday justice will be done!

Ben,

I hope you recover fast. The only other good story I have was my Dad re-living the David Platt World Cup 1990 goal, as the ball came over his shoulder, he hit it first time without looking forwards.

Well, needless to say, dad re-enacted the "not looking forwards" bit perfectly, much to the annoyance of a little old french lady. Luckily it wasn't Platt's normal piledriver.. but these World Cups are dangerous things.

  • 19.
  • At 02:40 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Peter - obviously inebriated from the night before. Err... Land of Hope and Glory isn't the national anthem of England - because there isn't one.

And if you want to hear stupid biased commentators, try Kiwi's - good to see everyone united against them in Marseille!

Finally - have you guys got possibly the best job on the planet right now (pepper spray not withstanding!)?!

  • 20.
  • At 02:43 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

Dirsy/Tom

On your way up the Route de Soleil, hang a right at Valence and head to Geneva - the safest city in the world, Brits all over the place, bars open until 5am and some of the best kebabs this side of the Levant...only thing is, may have to sell a kidney to afford a few scoops....still, would be perfect R & R for Mr D!

  • 21.
  • At 02:43 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I saw the England game in an Australian bar in Dublin sat next to a south african, a welshman and an Irishman. There were New Zealanders there too. All the above wanted England to win!The multitude of Aussies took it very well except one girl who starting blaming the English for every problem in the world ever.

France game was also awesome, in an Irish bar in Dublin watching with some French girls. The whole weekend was spectacular!

Even the Kiwi we met later took their loss well!

  • 22.
  • At 02:44 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Margie wrote:

Hi Everyone,

Dirsy, hope you're ok mate - I imagine the thought of England in the semis (against all odds) is perking you up somewhat...:)

The descriptions of each country's fans commiserating with each other, celebrating with each other and having a bloody good weekend together is fantastic. It is what makes rugby the greatest game in the world!

What a weekend, what a tournament, what a blog!

  • 23.
  • At 02:52 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Absolutely top weekend! I have read some fairly cutting comments from the Australian Press prior to Saturdays match, none quite so sinister as Wayne Smiths' report http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,22539169-5013519,00.html
I am absolutely delighted that idiots like this get to eat their words. In general I would say that the English enjoy sport without malace to other nations and we tend to tour very well and engage in harmless banter!
The weekends result has left the World Cup wide open and it was really sweet that it was England who sent the Wallabys packing.
For me, at least, Saturday was the biggest and best game of rugby since the last World Cup Final.
I'm sure there will be many more supporters making their way to France this week (if only to replace the Ausies going home!).

  • 24.
  • At 02:58 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Tim Hames wrote:

I can't believe Ben sprayed himself in face with pepper spray and threw away phone and credit cards just to get out buying presents for and phoning up Mrs Dirs!!

Seriously though, I really hope Ben's OK and fully recivered. I echo the comments above about scumbags in the world.

Hope your weekend in Paris makes up for it. Was at Waterloo yesterday and was so tempted just to hop on a eurostar!

Best wishes

Tim

  • 25.
  • At 03:15 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Tom McConalogue wrote:

Just wanted to post a message to say this blog has been fantastic and can't stop reading the blog and attached comments, and will have to do overtime after the World Cup to catch up at work!!

Ben, a shame to hear you got attacked by some mindless idiots, but let's have some of that Campion spirit, surely Campion Day or a circuit/figure of 8/circuit was worse than being attacked with pepper spray! Hope life is treating you well.

The past weekends games have been fantastic, Saturday had 2 of the best games I have seen for years, the Rugby World Cup has been the best so far for rugby. The Pacific Island rugby teams have really impressed me on their improvement since 2003, and the spirit of the World Cup has been excellent.

  • 26.
  • At 03:27 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Kirkby wrote:

Here's a tip for getting home in Paris if you can't get a taxi, Dirsy. Last Friday after the Tonga game we found oursleves sans taxi at 2.30am somewhere near the Parc de Princes. After wandering further in the wrong direction in a drunken haze we stumbled across a rank of Velib free bicycles. Stick your credit card in a machine to pay a 150euro deposit and hey presto a bike for 24 hours! Trouble was we still didn't know where we going. Two of us set off on the bikes and just as we got going the other three in our party flagged down a taxi. Oh well when on tour!!! Race you back to the hotel fellas. We were advised by an astonished looking chinese bloke at a bus stop just to follow the river so off we went. 15 miles and an hour and half later having seen all the sites (eiffel tower, louvre, notre dame etc) we arrived back at the hotel, refreshed, sober and not mugged.

  • 27.
  • At 04:05 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Laura Weeden wrote:

My husband and I are trying to get over to Paris from the States for the matches this weekend or the next. Anyone have a suggestion of whereabouts to camp or hang out when/if we get there?

  • 28.
  • At 04:41 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Sir Clive Woodward, God bless him, was right again...well,partially. Last week in The Times, he talked up an England victory and explained that the usual torrent of invective from the Australians was actually a form of respect. It's turning out to be a pretty stupid form of respect and a national trait that is backfiring on them more and more. Are they trying to take over as the world's most hated nation? They've now blown the Rugby 07 WC and got knocked out of the Twenty20 WC. Maybe they should confine their puerile comments to the W.C.

  • 29.
  • At 04:47 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • dan wrote:

I was in Cardiff and at the game. truly great to see my boys win in the afternoon in such a dominant fashion and then the crazy French fans wipe the floor with the Kiwis in the stands and on the pitch.

  • 30.
  • At 04:48 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Ben Stanley wrote:

'Pepper - better on steak frites than on your face!'

That's the spirit Dirsy. Keep on wasting our licence fee like only you know how.

That Wayne Smith article is very amusing reading...

'The simple fact is Australia is a better rugby team than England. There is now just the minor and somewhat inconvenient matter of having to go out in Marseille and prove it.'

Hmm. Proved a little more inconvenient than you thought...

  • 31.
  • At 04:53 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Sir Clive Woodward, God bless him, was right again...well,partially. Last week in The Times, he talked up an England victory and explained that the usual torrent of invective from the Australians was actually a form of respect. It's turning out to be a pretty stupid form of respect and a national trait that is backfiring on them more and more. Are they trying to take over as the world's most hated nation? They've now blown the Rugby 07 WC and got knocked out of the Twenty20 WC. Maybe they should confine their puerile comments to the W.C.

  • 32.
  • At 05:10 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Sarah, Bucks wrote:

Hope you're alright Dirsy! England need to beat the French and all will be right again. I want to go to Paris now!

  • 33.
  • At 06:02 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Nick J wrote:

By the way (snigger) do England really believe that they'll beat a France side absed on the fact that they've won 2/3 'world cup' matches against them?
How many would 'actually' put money on it? Really, how many would put say, oh I don't know, £500 on England beating a French side that have beaten them twice convincingly prior to the tournament and also beaten, not fluked, but truly outwitted and beaten New Zealand? Oh, and it will be played in France.
I'm not trying to be nasty, I think it's great that England have done as well as Germany did in the 2002 football world cup, but I just don't want you all to set yourselves up for a fall.
Be realistic, don't get over-excited, but simply 'believe' you can do it and you may just get to face South Africa in the Final... or a team better than South Africa if they lose it!

  • 34.
  • At 06:20 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Dave Jones wrote:

If you think Wayne Smith's article in The Australian on Saturday was bad, have a look at his column AFTER the event. He holds New Zealand (and Graham Henry in particular) responsible for the Aussies' poor showing and early exit. He thinks that NZ's decision to keep their best 22 players out of half of the Super 14 is what scuppered the Aussies...
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22546988-5012430,00.html

He displays the same amount of talent for journalism as Dunning, Moore and Shepherdson do for scrummaging.

Anyway, I wouldn't want to be seen to be gloating still. Well, not too much....
Excellent blog, fellas. Hope Mr Dirs is feeling better.

  • 35.
  • At 06:28 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

Is licence fee money really paying for these two to have a jolly round France in order to get a daily "entertaining" update?

  • 36.
  • At 06:32 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Absolutely spot on report Tom
Having just limped back home from a flight home shared with least 3 World Cup winners - Greenwood, Lynagh and Farr-Jones - Am now thinking that the 30 a side rolling maul we initiated in the Old Port was not such a good idea

The atmosphere was quite incredible - passionate French, generally magnanimous Aussies, less-confident-now Bokers, and of course hilarious English blokes.

And isn't it amaing how huge afros wigs and Fiji shirts make the whole world want to talk to you. Even Sir Bob Dwyer wanted to talk to us, bless him

Here's to keeping the party going in Paris

  • 37.
  • At 06:38 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • bobT wrote:

Marvelous blog article keep going, i'm almost cryin !
i was in Marseilles too and i well know this city, i've only one word to say :
FANTASTIC NIGHT!
for the pepper, it's the shortcomings of all big cities, but to be honest I was expecting more troubles and i was the first suprised of that wonderful and brotherly ambiance all night long!!

bob

  • 38.
  • At 06:58 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Taffy from Toulouse wrote:

Thanks for this blog - as one of those Welshmen with tickets for "our" quarter final we went anyway Marseille this weekend to finally close out the post-Nantes mourning process by seeing the SA/Fiji game.
What a brilliant weekend - everything you guys have said about Marseille is spot-on, and we were even cheering on England from in front of the big screen. Loads of people, loads of booze, and loads and loads of laughs.
The local Marseille paper said there were 150 riot police on duty in the vieux port Saturday afternoon, and they spent their time watching the televised Marseille football match because they had no aggro to deal with - a far cry from events there in 1998 when England played a world cup soccer game in Marseille. This
world cup's been great, and there really was nowhere better to have been on Saturday night when France won than the vieux port (except maybe cardiff..) it even brough smiles to the Aussies' faces!.
By the way, who's millionaire's yacht was that moored behind the screen, with the Welsh flag at half-mast?

  • 39.
  • At 07:17 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Nicholas Morgan wrote:

Damn muggers, ruining such a fine World Cup :(

  • 40.
  • At 08:05 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Roger Linsley wrote:

I, too, was in Marseille at the weekend and went to both games. For me that was just the best sporting weekend ever. On your way to Paris stop off in Montpellier (if you haven't already gone past it!). Apart from the fact that it is a stunning city it is also the home to the most beautiful women in France!

  • 41.
  • At 08:22 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Benny wrote:

Taffy, that was Terry Matthew's boat (he of Celtic Manor). Had to be really, didn't it...

  • 42.
  • At 08:24 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Amanda Hill wrote:

I live in France and work as an English Language assistant at a school here. I've decided to use your blog as a test for English comprehension. Should be interesting trying to explain gob-smacking, gast-flabbering, scruff of the neck, "men in pink wigs astride life sized plastic cows" etc - welcome to English sporting culture. At least I can say they're the words of a BBC journalist! I'm going to Paris for a long planned week-end this Friday, with a friend from England who doesn't like Rugby and is coming for the culture.....Feel free to pass by La Flèche (near Le Mans) if you want to help with the english lessons in person!

  • 43.
  • At 08:26 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Fred wrote:

ahh Nick (post 33) sport is more than 'realism'..its about passion, grit, believing in the impossible. Ask a French fan or English fan. They dared to dream...

  • 44.
  • At 08:30 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • petaJ wrote:

Peter - forget the English commentary - you may or may not be right, I don't know. If you understand French, listen to the French one. It is much more fun!

  • 45.
  • At 08:59 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Muzza wrote:

I didn't think it was possible for me to scream as loud as I did four years ago when Jonny dropped THAT goal in Sydney, but I managed to prove myself wrong twice on Saturday: first when Stirling Mortlock pulled his 77th minute kick wide in Marseille, and then when Ellisalde smashed the ball into touch in Cardiff. I was jumping round the house, and couldn't believe how well we had done. Our forwards were AMAZING, and it was great to see Catty back to his fine best. France is going to be a great match, but no doubt we'll be marching onto the final- and as for South Africa... well as an Englishman I never thought I'd say this... but COME ON ARGENTINA!

  • 46.
  • At 10:23 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • spooner wrote:

Nick J, snigger all you want and you may be right about the impending result, but perhaps too much sniggering has led to the downfall of too many sniggerers this RWC?
Must admit though, I've sniggered far more than expected this week!

  • 47.
  • At 11:40 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Luke Smith wrote:

Aussie battler

I was always worried about this one, Clive Woodward's article in the Times summed it up fairly well - what if the Aussies lost again? We were completely out played, out bantered and just possibly out drunk..Well done pommies - I take note and solace in the Aussie huddle at the end of the game - true professionals, all of em'. What a weekend - the banter after the game was magnificant. Is there any two nations on earth that share this rivalry & respect - i think not?
I did however secretly cover my losses and dump £17 on England to win the World Cup at 66/1 prior to the game. Long way to go but I believe I have a new team to very quietly support for the rest of the tornament.

Homesick Aussie in London

Bring on the Ashes..

What a weekend of new experiences; being thrilled by a French win in Cardiff, and being honestly, genuinely pleased to see England win. The world has indeed gone completely catfish.

Saturday in Cardiff was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced, beating even RWC99. It seemed like the whole world was in town - check out the pictures in the column to the right of this page.

Hope you recover quickly Ben!

What a weekend of new experiences; being thrilled by a French win in Cardiff, and being honestly, genuinely pleased to see England win. The world has indeed gone completely catfish.

Saturday in Cardiff was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced, beating even RWC99. It seemed like the whole world was in town - check out the pictures in the column to the right of this page.

Hope you recover quickly Ben!

What a weekend of new experiences; being thrilled by a French win in Cardiff, and being honestly, genuinely pleased to see England win. The world has indeed gone completely catfish.

Saturday in Cardiff was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced, beating even RWC99. It seemed like the whole world was in town - check out the pictures in the column to the right of this page.

Hope you recover quickly Ben!

  • 51.
  • At 07:42 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Mate,

I'm an Aussie living in London. I appreciate your comments about us being decent losers and just wanted to say thanks.

We all think our cricket team, albeit freakishly good, are rude and obnoxious embarrassing so-and-so's. However, with the exception of Campo (who is a maniac that even Australians love watching and not listening to) and some sometimes slightly bitter comments when we've been pipped by "boring" penalty goal wins, I think the Australian rugby crowd are a decent sort.

I think it's most unfair that much of the press and public here are attacking the so-called "smug Aussies" for their loss.

Prior to the game on Saturday the only people bagging the English, were their own fans; not us.

Thanks again,
Paul

  • 52.
  • At 07:42 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Great to see the world cup producing the surprises that make it such a wonderful tournament...well done to England and Les bleu's ...but surely a South Africa -France final in Paris will be something special...lots of S.A support on its way..so be prepared.Nkosi sikelela Africa !

  • 53.
  • At 08:36 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Colin wrote:

Commentators biased towards England, Peter can't be listening when Stuart Barnes has been commentating. He was nearly choking on Saturday when we were getting the better of Australia.
He thinks the sun shines out of the rear end of every Aussie,Kiwi and South African rugby player.

  • 54.
  • At 08:52 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Well Done England. You actually played as a team with some beautiful passes. Unfortunately the win was solely down to Johnnys' boot, so once again proving that he is the talisman of English Rugby. If he is not on the pitch, as we saw against South Africa, you can't win, but when he is you play with passion.

Scotland could learn a lot from that, judging by last nights performance. Although we play as a team with or without Chris Paterson on the pitch.

I would support England, if it weren't for the stupid biased commentary. If you listen to the commentators, you'd wonder why other teams turn up.

Can I ask is it true that England don't play their national anthem (Land of Hope and Glory) at the start of matches, because the F.A. refused to do likewise? God Save The Queen is the National Anthem of Great Britain which England is only part of! This only perpetuates the confusion, in the minds of people form other countries calling Britain England.

  • 55.
  • At 09:13 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

For the benefit of anonymous, I wish i had been inebriated on Sunday night. Scotland did not play well until the last 20 minutes and then failed to capitalise.

By putting Land of Hope and glory in brackets I was suggesting it as a possible. I wasn't sure if England had one, maybe the BBC should run a poll for an English National Anthem that both the FA and the English Rugby Union and others can agree to play at the start of matches.

Once again Well done England on Saturday. Shame you brought on Dalgallio.

  • 56.
  • At 09:18 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Martin Smith wrote:

Well commented Tom Fordyce !!
I more or less agree with all you have described of the weekend in Marseille but would at least like to comment on the total lack of organisation at hand for events of this magnitude.
Considering the many,many thousands of Rugby fans who certainly were expected and did pilger to Marseille,why on earth did the French not supply shuttle busses and portaloos en masse.It was hard enough trying to get a beer or something to eat (where were the street stalls?)never mind actually getting from the Veledrom to the Port area or indeed trying to be a respectful visitor and not pee in our hosts streets !!
Great game though!!

  • 57.
  • At 10:15 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • faceplanter wrote:

That was the best sporting weekend...ever. The French were fantastic after our win, and I've never seen a sea of white shirts sing "allez les bleus" before. If the Fiji 5 knew how to dive for the corner, and sent the Boks packing as well, I don't think we'd have been able to get up for the plane on Monday morning. Roll on Paris....

Great atmosphere in Mars all weekend. But its a dodgy city. We were out of the melee, in a quieter bar on Prado but heard of 4 english guys that got jumped at the same time. Its a 'vibrant' city as they say, a 'melting pot' but it seems to have an explosive mix of haves (Vieux Port) and have not (Algerians, moroccans etc etc and is pretty filthy off the main tourist drags. Not for the faint-hearted or romantic weekend, but a full on weekend, never to return is very appropriate.

  • 59.
  • At 11:06 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • chearypimms wrote:

Nick J
Are you the same Nick J in the previous blog you wrote 6 paragraphs (October 4) concerning “everyone hates the English” and how the English press will “spin” the result when we (Eng) lose?
Oh and how you and your NZ & SA mate’s blah blah (only one left then?) just thought I would ask!

  • 60.
  • At 11:33 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • resh wrote:

Gr8 quarter finals. Most impressive of all was FIJI! Did anyone believe that they would feature in the quarters against the mights of SA? Really made SA feel the heat. Way to go FIJI, u guyz brought joy to ur fans when 2 tries were scored within mins,... with only 14 men.
Congrats to the FIJI team.

  • 61.
  • At 11:57 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • david johnson wrote:

As an Englishman despairing since the 1980s of ever seeing the England team play attractive rugby I was not surprised by the euphoria after the week end. Why was it such a great week end? because the aussies and the Kiwis are out, meaning that the limited quais rugby league England team, drilled in only two or three effective functions, can set about beating the Boks in the final. So, we will have two average teams, neither with a great deal of flair, slogging it out until the English pack either force the Boks into conceding a penaltiy for good old Jonnie to score, or push up into the 22 so that Jonnie can be fed to kick a drop goal. Sounds familiar? doesn't 2003 seem like just yesterday?

  • 62.
  • At 12:04 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Pagey 54 wrote:

Fanatastic weekend for rugby. Any recommendations where to go for pre-match drinks on Saturday evening as I guess the alcohol free exclusion zone will be in force in Paris again - but why? it just encourages people to turn up late, leave early, and cause major pedestrian crushes.

  • 63.
  • At 12:05 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Elvis wrote:

A fine weekend in the vieux port, were we the only ones to find the bars running out of the yellow beer sat nite/ sun morn and as a consequence had to switch to the ricaaaard and 51?
Never seen Les Bleus so emotional with les blancs, lots of male bonding going on all night in every bar with every nation joining in (cept the all greys).
Allez le crunch!!

  • 64.
  • At 12:41 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Stu the Falcons Fan wrote:

What a weekend! I have been to some sporting events but this one beats them all! I am still in shock at what I witnessed. England beating Australia, France silencing the all blacks and Marseille exploding at the final whistle and Fiji tearing the Boks apart for seventy minutes with their do or die spirit! Marseille rocked for two days! I have to agree that the Aussie fans in the Stade Velodrome were very gracious in defeat! The South Africans want to take a leaf out of the Aussies books!
As a fan of Mr Wilkinson's home club I could say that he won the game for England, But I won't. It was a great team effort with the forwards leading the assault. The Aussie pack were running scared and could not take the pressure. We outplayed them tactically and had more desire to win!
Thankyou Marseille for a great weekend of rugby and fellowship! But not for the scummy muggers!

  • 65.
  • At 12:47 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Cerys Matthews wrote:

Re. the big yacht in the vieux port.
I was told it was Bernard Matthew's boat - another load of turkeys grouped under the Welsh Flag.

  • 66.
  • At 12:53 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

Mark at 23

Mate you need to get a sense of humour.

Smith says absolutely nothing untoward in that article.

He actually says that (in his opinion) Australia are a better team but that he is concerned that exactly what happened last Saturday would happen. That the big English forward pack would bully the Aussie pack and Wilko would boot them home. Thats what happened isn't it?

You may not agree that the Aussies had a better team before the game (everyone else thought so) but you need to stop being so precious.

  • 67.
  • At 01:03 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Andy Fleming wrote:

I would agree with Peter about God Save the Queen as the English national anthem. Rubbish tune, and it does confuse as the British national anthem. Jerusalem or I vow to thee my country would be better.

However, I fully disagree that our win against Australia was purely down to Wilkinson. The only way he scored our penalties is through the brutal and relentless pressure that our scrum put on the Australians.

South Africa are much better scrummagers than the Australians and our backs got found out as a consequence in the pool match.

As for commentator bias towards England and his supposed perception that the English are arrogant, has he heard the Australians and the New Zealanders in the build up to this World Cup???

  • 68.
  • At 01:20 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Sammy wrote:

I was in Marseilles and I also had my wallet pinched by some light-fingered frenchtype.

But even that didn't detract from one of the best weekends ever.

We travelled to watch england more in hope than expectation and to beat the aussies was great. Hats of to the aussies, they are a great bunch. We were in the wallaby supporters marquee after the game and had a great laugh.

All in all a top weekend. Bring on Paris.

  • 69.
  • At 01:34 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Nick J wrote:

Hi chearypimms... I haven;t got a clue what you're referring to. I suspect it's another Nick J. I have no particular love for NZ and Aus, so it wouldn't be me crowing over potential England defeat... all power to you (although I'm not an England fan m'self).
Could it have been Nick Farr-Jones perhaps?
I think people sometimes get a little sensetive over comments. My posts have been slightly teasing, but nothing nasty I hope.

  • 70.
  • At 01:37 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

3 days in Marseilles makes a hard man humble.....
I am ruined. What an experience, and I don't normally even like Rugby that much really... Singing Bread of Heaven with a minor Welsh TV star and 2 blokes dressed from Rorkes Drift at 3 am was memorable if a tad strange. Well I stumbled around Marseilles til 8 am Wednesday morning, and spoke to some local robbers (as far as I could tell), never got mugged, I probably looked like a tramp by that point though....
Bring on the 6 nations, Rugby tours are the new stag do's!

  • 71.
  • At 01:53 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

Mon dieu, Martin Smith (56)! Maybe it's just Marseilles, but I've been lucky enough to see 3 games, and have been impressed by the organisation at them all (except for the Amstel Free!). The trams in Nantes were very well organised, and the atmosphere in Paris at 2 in the morning as we walked back to our hotel (couldn't get a taxi for amour or l'argent) was fantastic - loads of people asking about the game and congratulating us.
As for the portaloos, my son was caught short outside the Parc des Princes before the Tonga game - we asked the gendarme where the nearest loo was, to which he replied 'dans les arbres!' - astonished that we should even ask.

What a weekend of new experiences; being thrilled by a French win in Cardiff, and being honestly, genuinely pleased to see England win. The world has indeed gone completely catfish.

Saturday in Cardiff was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced, beating even RWC99. It seemed like the whole world was in town - check out the pictures in the column to the right of this page.

Hope you recover quickly Ben!

  • 73.
  • At 02:31 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • steeve wrote:

weekend great, but have just heard that the yaught in the harbour with the welsh flag was in fact not the big white one but a smaller (like I could afford either) one behind!!
very cheeky to have the welsh flag at half mast

  • 74.
  • At 02:39 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Amateur2 wrote:

Brilliant weekend and RWC so far!

Me and some mates so excited by England performance we decided to go and have an impromptu, beer fuelled, session putting garryowens up to each other and chasing them a la J-M Hernandez (player of the tournament so far)before Bleus/Blacks kick off.

All went well until I mistimed a jump and ended up in a painful and untidy heap.

Picked myself up and thought nothing of it until I leaped out of my chair when Jauzion scored France's winning try only for my left leg to give way upon landing and find myself doing the backstroke in a pool of the amber nectar with damaged medial ligaments!

Hope the semis and final live up to what's gone before!

  • 75.
  • At 02:48 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • parka wrote:

just one of the best weekends ever down in marseille !!
my liver gets out of rehab on Friday in time for the next bout of abuse!!
apart from the results the things that will really stick in the brain are:
the 3rd foot and mouth (rorke's drift guys - great sideburns lads!)
the elvii (plural of elvis ?)
the queens!
those girls in the real flower dresses and huge hats!
the total disappearnce overnight of any aussie shirts - where were they all on sunday??
how could the IRB ever think they should attempt to sell alcohol free beer in the ground ?!
why did the IRB not even think to put in place even a few public toilets - at least we blokes got to find out what it is really like to queue for miles to use one single loo (just like twickenham for the ladies i suppose!!)
finally at least the pint at Nice airport monday morning still tasted as sweet as the rest of the god-knows-how-many pints drunk over the weekend!.

roll on the weekend !!! allez les rosbifs

  • 76.
  • At 03:16 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Charlotte wrote:

A comment on Wayne Smith's article prior to the game on Saturday...perhaps he should be reflective on his comment about England being grateful for victory over Samoa and Tonga - humility is a far more attractive quality than the arrogance Smith's journalism portrays.

I was in Marseille at the weekend and had one of the best weekends of my life. I am still hoarse from the whole experience!

Get well wishes to Mr. Dirs.

  • 77.
  • At 03:50 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • TABS wrote:

Having just spent a fantastic weekend in marseille, now looking forward to another one in Paris - Can anyone suggest the best place to meet up pre and post match for the best atmosphere and party as Im travelling alone and not sure of Paris and the party hang outs..

  • 78.
  • At 09:21 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Big G wrote:

Marseille was awesome - one of the finest sporting weekends I have ever witnessed. Still struggling to recover now but it has all been worth it to see us beat the Aussies. Pre the game on Friday night one group of Aussies gave us a 5% chance - I said the game was nearer 60/40 in the Aussies favour - I only have 4 things to say to those boys - crouch, touch, pause - ENGAGE!!!!
Get in there England!

  • 79.
  • At 10:30 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • big al wrote:

What a weekend.

well done organizers. The future RWC organisers were, i hope, paying attention to how many fans turn up if they know that their team is going to play in that city regardless if they come first or second in their group. No more, it could be here or there, let 2 cities host the 4 QF's, and lets have 2 monster parties.

well done marseilles, luckily i didnt get mugged, but i didnt move away from the vieux port. top party

Well done ozzie fans, thousands of them, so much for fourth sport in oz, and i didnt hear any whingeing, at least not after the games. took it well, and partied on

well done kiwi fans. 20 years of choking, and its still not your fault. most all black games resemble US football with the number of forward passes, but lose a game and its all the refs fault. Maybe your team should have played some contact sport in the last year.

well done scotland, putting your seconds out against the all blacks deprived them of a decent workout

Well done gullivers, top tour

Well done england. Best game you have played since november 2003, do it again and the french will fold under the expectation. Beat them and wee can take the Saarth Effricens

well done fiji, if you didnt have a green shirt on, you were a fiji supporter, and they nearly paid us back

Oh and peter, land of hope and glory is not the national anthem of the UK or England.

COME ON ENGLAND

  • 80.
  • At 11:52 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Mark, Paris wrote:

Marseille was awesome. A great atmosphere, two great live games and a tv spectacular, wonderful fun.

The IRB sell alcohol free in grounds because it's against the law to sell alcohol in grounds here...

I'm going Saturday, one of the lucky ones, and I'll be s hoarse as I was last week whatever the result. If it rains like it did here today, it will be a 50/50 game.

Make us proud again lads, that's all we ask.

  • 81.
  • At 12:18 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • David Williams wrote:

I have to agree, Marseille was the greatest weekend in the history of the game and will go down in folklore. As Max Boyce would say, "I was there!"
Though travelling alone, I was never stuck for company or a beery companion. Too many highlights to mention, though I was impressed by the Welsh drinking-dry our adopted Veiux Port bar. Next was trying to explain the concept of "Scotish backs couldn't score in a brothel" to a frenchman.
Six countries' fans, partying hard together. "World in Union" indeed!

Can't wait for Saturday England to win with lots of kicks at goal --no tries mind you and in reality 10 at most of the team participating others make up the numbers. But wait salvation at hand. This Saturday also sees RL Grand Final Saints v Leeds. Now that will be worth watching.Thank God not all of us are taken in by the rah rah hype.

A couple of days late, but it's taken me this long to recover.

Dirsy wasn't the only one to get mugged in Marseille on Sunday night. My mate and I both got done, although not with pepper spray.

He lost his wallet, phone and sunglasses. I lost my wallet only. So with one mobile between us, our passports safe and train tickets to London via Paris, we set off on Monday morning.

Our grand total of small change bought us one small bottle of water for the entire journey and two tube tickets at Waterloo.

Not a great way to end the weekend, and being Australian, not the greatest way to exit the 2007 RWC.

  • 84.
  • At 01:20 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Richard Marshall wrote:

Easy Tom, Remember us from Monday morning....the boys from Enfield? Got back Monday night, been on a comedown since. Had the best weekend ever! There was so much LOL, beer, banter and baguettes! Like you said Ben was playing the mugging down when we saw you but i'm not surprised, there are some ghetto areas in Marseilles. Fingers crossed for Saturday, i'll be looking out on the website mate. Have a good one!

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