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The Final Countdown: Inside the England dressing room

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Tom Fordyce | 18:18 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2012

You've been selected to play for your country. The day of the big Six Nations clash has arrived.

The hours before kick-off are crawling past, but at last you're on the team coach, arriving at the stadium, thousands of people cheering and jeering all around.

What happens next? Four of England's key men this season take us into the inner sanctum...

Game-time minus 90 mins

Through the crowds, past the stewards, off the coach.
"We arrive an hour and a half before kick-off," says skipper Chris Robshaw. "Right at the start we'll walk out onto the pitch, get used to the surroundings, and then we'll get in a huddle. We'll talk about our key messages. Before the Wales game it was, 'we know their defence is very aggressive in coming up, so our attack has to be deep'."

Off the pitch, into the dressing-room.
"As we walk in I'll always listen to the same three songs on my headphones," says prop Alex Corbisiero. "'Heartbeat' by Chase and Status, 'My Way' by Limp Bizkit and 'Til I Collapse' by Eminem. The order I listen to them in might change, but the songs never do."

England players' shirts are hung up in their individual cubicles in the dressing room. Picture: Getty

Where to sit?
"You have a plaque with your name on in your little cubicle," says full-back Ben Foden. "Your England shirt is hanging up with the number facing out. The order round the room is usually forwards one to eight, the replacements, and then the backs.

"At this stage the atmosphere is still quiet. Mobile phones are a big faux-pas in the changing-room. You do all your messages two hours beforehand, all the 'good luck' and 'see you afterwards' and 'pick up your tickets here'. I've never heard anyone's phone go off in the dressing-room."

Minus 75 mins

"You have half an hour of your own personal prep time before the team goes into its warm-up," says Foden. "Right now I'll be cleaning my boots. I wear the same pair of boots until we lose, and I'll always have mud on them from the previous game.

"Ashy (Chris Ashton) - his will be crystal clear, since he does them straight after the game in the showers. So I'll give mine a little wipe so they don't look too disgraceful."

Minus 60

One hour to go. It's time to put the armour on.
"I get my kit out," says flanker Tom Croft, "make sure the strapping on my knee and shoulder is always done the same way, by the same man Pasky (Phil Pask, team physiotherapist).

"Before we're due out as a team I'll go out myself. I always run straight across the pitch, readjust my boots, run over to the posts, stretch my hamstrings, run back to halfway, swing past the try-line and then jog in. I do that wherever I am in the world. It's almost a subconscious thing now. I don't have to think, what do I do now? My routine is laid out."

Minus 55
Nerves clanging, stomach tightening? Time to get out on the pitch and loosen up.
"I enjoy getting out there and getting a good 20 minutes of stretching and kicking done out on the pitch, soaking up the atmosphere," says Foden. "I like to run out of the tunnel and see all the kids leaning over, shouting out, watching everyone in the crowd wearing their England shirts shouting at you to get your attention. Some players like to block it all out, but for me that's what makes it special."

Captain Chris Robshaw takes part in a warm-up session before England's Six Nations game with Wales. Picture: Getty

Captain Robshaw leads the way. "In the warm-up you'll do a few shoulder hits, we'll do some scrummaging and some mauling, so you know you're ready for it," he says. "But that first impact is always so much harder..."

For some players, the physical work acts as a welcome release.
"I always get nerves, and I always have," admits Croft. "They used to be a hell of a lot worse than they are now. When I was young and first got in the England team, three days before a game I'd go quiet. Now it's the day of the match when it hits me.

"Once you're at the ground, your routine, the nerves start to shut up. You know what the next 45 minutes will be before kick-off. I will think through three or four things I know I can do - whether it's at a line-out, taking a high ball, running round someone. That settles me."

Minus 45

Back inside the dressing-room, players are preparing their bodies for the battle ahead.
"Your emotions can be all over the place before a big game, and the more hyped the game the more emotions run through you," reveals Foden.

"I think about the first kick going up, and I'm up there at the back with a big line chasing towards me and I fumble the ball and it goes through my hands. You know in movies when something's about to happen, and it will freeze and flick back to all the things that could happen? That's what goes through my head in a split second.

"But that's part of the excitement of the game. As a professional rugby player you have to have confidence in your ability, that you'll do the right thing when the big moment comes."

Others lose themselves in the practicalities.
"I get myself weighed," says Corbisiero, who usually clocks in at 18st 8lbs. "You then weigh yourself after the game, and from that you can work out how much fluid you've lost through dehydration and how much you need to replace afterwards to recover properly."

Minus 35

Fitness coach Dave Silvester, known to the players as Tweety (work it out) is in charge of playlists for the changing-room stereo. Even with music pumping out, players will find their own quiet corner.

"There's a time when you just need a minute by yourself," says Robshaw, "just to think about your role. You look around and someone will be sitting quietly, talking to himself, reminding himself what he has to do to exploit his opposite man, to get the best out of himself. The coaches will walk round to reiterate messages."

Minus 30

Half an hour to go. The atmosphere cranks up another few notches.

"There's a bit of a split between the forwards and the backs," says Foden. 'Wig' (Graham Rowntree) used to take the forwards into the showers, and they'd shout and scream at each other. Some players, like 'Dyls' (Dylan Hartley) will retch before they go on. At that point I'll walk somewhere else. That'll just make me feel ill.

"But then those guys in the pack are warriors. They need to get psyched up because they're going to come off the field hurting. They have to be a different breed, to have that mental edge."

Corbisiero, on the front line as a loose-head prop, has his own potions and tricks to fall back on.
"With half an hour left I'll take my pre-game supplements, including some caffeine, and then I'll start my pre-activation. I get my glutes [gluteal muscles] fired up with a glutes band - a rubber strap you loop around your ankles - and then work through different drills. I'll use then a Compex [an electro-stimulation machine] to get my quads fired up. I had issues with my knees when I was younger, and doing these drills gets me properly warmed up."

Minus 20

By now all warm-ups have been completed. You can hear the dull roar of the crowd in the stadium.

"The waiting around is the worst part, especially when the kick-off is a late one," says Corbisiero. "But rugby is such a calculated and technical game now as well as a physical one, and you can't be out of it. It's about accurate aggression, not mindless anger. You have to keep your head in the blue.

"The nerves are always there, but then you look around at your mates and take strength from each other. There are some guys who vomit. I'm lucky. I always think you need to have some fear in your heart to bring out the best in yourself. That fear of failure and fear of letting down your mates. You can use that as motivation. Your head is on and you're ready to play."

Minus 10

All 15 starters are laced up and good to go. All they need now are a few late words of inspiration.

"We have our leadership group within the team, and different guys will speak about attack, defence, first line-out, first scrum," reveals Croft. "The forwards will come in together, and 'Wig' (Graham Rowntree) will lead that. Then we come in as a 15, and if the boys want to talk, they'll talk. Some do, a lot don't. I'm one who will sit there quietly, trying to stay calm."

Minus 8

Now the skipper steps into the centre of the room.
"I will call a huddle together in the changing room," says Robshaw. "I want us sharp and ready. There will be key messages that we've talked about in training that week.

"I wouldn't say I'm a Winston Churchill type - it's not a five-minute epic. I'm not a shouter. You want to keep it simple - two or three clear points."

Hands clap. Feet stamp. Players snatch at final supplies.

"Just before we run out," says Croft, "I'll have a couple of Jelly Babies - red ones are the best, no argument - a banana and an energy drink. And then we're out."

Minus 5

Out through the dressing-room door, into the tunnel. Hearts pound, ears rattle.

"It's incredible being in the tunnel at Twickenham, hearing the roar of the crowd," says Robshaw. "I've played for the club there but at an international it's so intense and so passionate. It's absolutely outstanding. To run out there is like nothing else. As a kid you watch the players on TV walking down the tunnel, singing the anthem to yourself. To actually be doing it yourself alongside the other guys is incredible."

Croft, at last, is a man at ease.
"By the time you're in the tunnel ready to walk out onto the pitch, that's the easiest bit. Honestly. The hardest bit is being in the hotel beforehand. You're stuck there thinking about the result, about what might happen, what it means to everyone.

"When you're in the tunnel, everything else has fallen away. Suddenly it's just a game of rugby again."

Most of the England players like to belt out the national before kick-off, particularly Matt Stevens. Picture: Getty

Minus four

To a deafening roar, Robshaw leads the team out onto the pitch.
"By that time you're pretty much in the zone. You don't really look up. You've seen how big the stadium is during your warm-up, you've seen the crowd, and of course you hear the noise. But you're focused now, you're ready to go."

Minus three

Even to experienced Test stalwarts like Croft, the sensation is extraordinary.
"When you run out onto the pitch, particularly at Twickenham, with those flames are shooting up, crowd roaring, you suddenly get hit with this intense burst of energy. You just sprint off. I enjoy it immensely. When I first started playing I was quite in myself, but now I can let it go."

Minus two

You line up alongside your team-mates. The band strikes up. It is time to sing your national anthem.

"I love the whole thing," admits Foden. "I like to really belt it out - I'm usually engrossed in it. In the first game I played there weren't many of us singing it, so I thought, 'bugger that, I'm going to go for it'. Although It's really hard to keep in time, because the band are always close to us, the crowd are further away and so they're on a delay, always a few words behind you."

Sportsmen don't always make the best musicians. Which players are note-perfect, and which are tuneless mumblers?

"I will sing it as low as is appropriate for myself," says Croft. "I haven't got the best of voices. Matt Stevens fancies himself as the best singer. Ben Youngs has got a terrible voice. I stand next to him, and no matter how loud the crowd, you can always hear his terrible voice belting it out."

Minus 0

"When the anthem is done you whip off your tracksuit top and you're almost there," says Foden. "But it's not until the whistle blows and the ball is kicked in the air that it all dissipates, and you're simply playing another game. You subconsciously hit a switch, and it all just happens."

The waiting is over. You're knee-deep in a Six Nations epic.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    watch out here come the Lancaster bombers..........

  • Comment number 2.

    As usual great blog Tom. It was very interesting to get the "fly on the wall" view of the England warm up.

    It is far removed from my preparation as a player (many years ago). A schooner of medium sherry, 10 minutes prior to kick off, for Wilmslow 2nd XV.

  • Comment number 3.

    proper hairs on the back of your neck stuff.

    love it. Great blog.

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting stuff. Caffeine seems quite popular, I always wondered if drinking energy drinks was a good idea, fearing a short term rush and being even more knackered by the end of the match. Anyway, it is very different to my preparation.

    Normally I arrive 10 minutes before kick-off wondering why those whiskeys seemed like such a good idea at 2 in the morning. I get screamed at by the coach, get changed quickly, stagger onto the pitch only 10 seconds before kick-off, then I blow my whistle and the game begins.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog mate, a real change that one.

    I would need about six pairs of clean shorts and a couple of rolls of Andrex before I even reached the tunnel personally.

  • Comment number 6.

    essence of good writing = to feel like you were there. this blog succeeds!

    yes very different to coarse rugby, which sometimes involved introducing players' to late recruits signed up in pubs 14-15 hours previously! one of my favourites occured when the groundstaff at our place decided to take the crossbars down as they thought it was the end of the season, so we had to string a length of rope between each set of posts...

  • Comment number 7.

    Great blog Tom! Dripping with the raw emotion of competitive sport.

    This so reminded me of what I loved playing competitive team sport. Those in the changing room that joked and laughed, and those (like myself) that needed to get psyched up and into a zone. The level here is different, but I'm sure there's amateur sportsmen and women everywhere that can relate to these emotions.

  • Comment number 8.

    Really good blog. And #4 - class!

  • Comment number 9.

    This preparation is a little different from mine when I was captain of a very lowly side. Firstly I read out the team which had to be changed immediately. Some whingers would want to start on the wing or fullback in the hope of avoiding action too soon. There was one who was a prop but talked me into letting him start at fullback. It was only when the opposition kicked of and the ball went straight to him and he let it go into touch when he could have very easily caught it, that I realised he was still smoking. Most of my team were only there for the beer afterwards and ofter tried to talk the ref into reducing the playing time. A lot of laughs and good memories, not all like above.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good blog. Should be a great game.

    I think England get uneasy\nervous when playing Ireland. There must be a mental block or something. Take last year for example...England on for a grand slam playing great rugby and then once they showed up in Dublin they were like a different team and completely choked. Its a strange one. 7 out of 8 wins for Ireland in the 6N.

  • Comment number 11.

    , jamesmathew

    They didnt choke, they were choked.............literally

  • Comment number 12.

    @smacheyes. lol
    but seriously...Ireland are have not been a better team then England for the last 8 years, far from it. There must be some mental block over the English players. Maybe fear!

  • Comment number 13.

    "moodini" my eye - you can't hide your true identity that easily, Mr Rolland.

  • Comment number 14.

    Same as it appears France have one with England, Wc being the exception lately

  • Comment number 15.

    Ya...its strange when one team gets some mental block with another team and get totally dominated.
    Ireland over England
    England over France
    France over Ireland
    Everyone over Scotland

  • Comment number 16.

    jamesmathew

    Yeah the last bit is a tad sad though, wish Ritchie Gray played for England he looks a class act

  • Comment number 17.

    Actually, thinking about it, much of this seems like my pre match warm up before England matches. Except they dont have to physically restrain their kids in an effort to remove them from the xbox in time for the national anthem.

    Also no mention of having to call in a plasterer to remove finger holes that are left due to me clinging to the ceiling in rage. Apart from that, quite a factual article.

  • Comment number 18.

    It's all a very long way from the "coarse" rugby classics...the forwards having a smoke at half-time and passing around a bottle of rum...the winger leaving the field to be sick after a 50 yard sprint.

    Great blog and really interesting. Let's hope on Saturday that Paul O'Connell can keep his pre-match talk to the basics. The news of his pre-match rabble-rouser last year really soured things in my view. If an England captain came out with similar stuff in reverse he could easily found himself prosecuted for hate crimes!

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes JM, England have one knack more than any other team, winning in Paris, Wales have done it 3 times in 30 years is it? and they were all in a little group at the turn of the milenium. Scotland twice. Ireland can't do it for anything.

    Its just a shame we can't beat the Irish anymore.

    But the nice thing about England Wales is there is no mental block at all, we ain't scared of each other, the best team wins.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ooo! Tom, this hits the spot! I always get butterflies before an England match. Nowhere near the intensity the players feel of course. To have an insight into how they feel is going to heighten the experience significantly. When they played France I was sitting in the house by myself except for the two labradors. At try time, the dogs thought I'd gone bananas. They looked really worried. This time I'll be there and perhaps the dogs will have a quieter day.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tom, great article. Please could we have more like this. As rugby fans most of us at one time played the game so we know that the pre-match, the nerves, the build up and what goes on in the changing room is just as big to the total rugby experience as the game itself.
    How about some detailed blogs on the different positions e.g. front row, back row, half backs etc. It would be great to hear from the players after a game what had been their concerns, or objectives going into the game and how things worked out in the game. I would love to know players opinions on why the scrums were really collapsing, or what was going on in the line out, or the pros and cons of different defensive patterns etc. Lets hear more about the things we can't see with our own eyes from watching the game. Thanks.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great article!! Amazed to hear about so much caffeine is in the dressing room!! Good to hear the lads can enjoy the atmosphere at times as well!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Like most people on here I'm surprised by the amount of caffeine consumed. I was always warned off the stuff being told you'd get the boost early on but crash towards the end. Then again I've never been fit enough for international level....

  • Comment number 24.

    Caffeine has been proven not only to provide mental and physical stimulation, but also to improve endurance. It is also, therefore, very popular with distance athletes (in the right quantities).

    Great article Tom. Got my pulse racing by the end...or was it the caffeine?

  • Comment number 25.

    Do others feel, like me, that it is inappropriate for the England team to have the national athem as their anthem. "God save the Queen" is the national anthem of the UK, not of England. I seem to recall that "Land of hope and glory" is used at the Commonwealth games. Would that not be more appropriate?

  • Comment number 26.

    I would love to read that same article on the worlds best team...no not Wales...the All Blacks! See how they prepare!

  • Comment number 27.

    Great blog. Would love to know what the song choices are in the changing room. How do you find out the playlist? Good luck England.

  • Comment number 28.

    @Flecitur
    Ya thats an interesting point you made. In the Olympics sports people from Wales and Scotland stand to their national anthem 'God save the queen' yet when they play team sports like rugby or football they dont. Only England. Is this fair?
    God save the queen is Wales and Scotlands real anthem...maybe the players would get more fired up hearing this before a match and not those "made up" anthems they sing?

  • Comment number 29.

    Excellent blog!

  • Comment number 30.

    @6 Tom Innes
    ... a nice illustration of why I took this username. I started playing on the North Notts club circuit at about 3rd team level. A lot of the clubs were miners' teams (a story on its own). One game we were 9-0 up at half time when someone noticed we only had 14 men...at the same game, my wife (due to wearing wellies) was asked to "hold this flag and run up and down that line" which she declined. She ended up with the valuables bag which a touch kick landed on. To round the day off,we had kicked off early to watch England-France afterwards. Their telly broke down before kick off.

  • Comment number 31.

    I remember in my playeing days I used to annoy captains, as they were snarling and shouting to get everyone fired up I always had a big grin on my face and was shouted at "why are you smiling!" Because I loved to play and I couldn't wait.

    I never needed to be aggressive to put my body on the line and run myself to a standstill, it was all fun to me.

    Individual pre match rituals are always interesting, didn't Austin Healy make himself sick before a big game?

  • Comment number 32.

    Again...in complete contrast to the coarse rugby men of legend. Like the grizzled veteran forward to put the fact that he'd scored a try for the first time in years down to taking his preparation more seriously and switching from bitter to mild in the days before the game.

    I was fascinated by Alex Corbisiero's (who I rate highly) bit about weighing himself before and after to assess his hydration requirements. You forget just how scientific it has all become. Still, I could see that one catching on...

    b = w1 - (w2 - p)/t where

    w1 = initial weight
    w2 = post-match weight
    p = pie (the steak & ale variety)
    t = time
    ...and of course b = beer

  • Comment number 33.

    31 GM Massingbird

    I know what you mean. I eventually fell out with my team captain because I simply refused to go through all his brain-dead rituals of shouting, chest beating and hitting myself about the head. I mean, there are enough people out on the pitch wanting to rough you up without going for the self-inflicted stuff.

  • Comment number 34.

    Anglophone, Once I passed 26, it did nothing for me, I knew what I was facing, knew I could get hurt, didn't need to drown out the fear of it which most were doing (I think), to me playing was just worth it.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yeah, it was a good blog. I started feeling more nervous as I read. Nearly retched by the end.
    The anthems are great but I always prefer the ones in other languages because I don't understand what they are singing about ;)

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh the memories flood back!
    When playing for my school old boys, our captain was injured, but insisted on staying on the touchline to cheer us on. By the end of the game his ankle was so swollen that his boot had to be cut off and it turned out to be broken.
    You don't get devotion like that at higher levels...

  • Comment number 37.

    @jamesmathew
    your proving Ferris's point about the 'bad losers' comment....just kidding ;)

    It is a strange one alright. We (Ireland) can't beat France, England can and yet we don't have any fears against England....even back in the bad 90's when England were far superior to us, we managed the odd win.
    The problem with the psychology factor is that it is a snow ball effect...the more you lose the harder it is to win. I feasr for us on Saturday though against a young English side with very little baggage. Let's hope it's a cracker!

  • Comment number 38.

    #36 Similar memories. I remember one game when our tight head was a vet student. Come half time we noticed he had a big gash above his eyebrow through which you could see down to the bone. He refused to go off, though. At the end of the game he just went home and stitched it up himself.

  • Comment number 39.

    @38 that's tightheads for you...animals

  • Comment number 40.

    Echo everyone else - really fantastic blog. Would be interesting to see how this compared to other nations' prep for games. Or top level club rugby.

  • Comment number 41.

    channel4ball, that's us, rael men, not shandy drinkers like the rest of the team, even the Lucy head had a Dash in his Boddingtons.

  • Comment number 42.

    @18

    Yeah, should be OK as he's not playing but I know what you mean.

    The caffeine thing is interesting, as when I was playing (up until 2002), we thought caffeine was a bad move, as it's supposed to be a diuretic and act against fluid retention.

    To be honest though, at the level we were playing, the majority of the fluid was Friday night beer and I'm not sure what Lancaster and co would make of the pre-match nutrition! I don't think Burger King is involved though.....

  • Comment number 43.

    Wonderful blog - this is what I want to read about, can we please have a post game one, the first 12 hours after the whilstle, I have always been so fascinated by what happens before and after the 80

  • Comment number 44.

    That was an excellent read. It has got me even more revved up for Saturday's triple header.

    I will however now be keeping an eye out for Foden's muddy boots and hoping the camera gets close enough to let us judge Ben Youngs singing!

  • Comment number 45.

    @32, Anglophone
    This could be the way forward for maths education.
    I taught physics at a public school and lived 6 miles away and 600 feet up in the hills. I often cycled to work and calculated that my return trip would burn off the calorific value of 2 pints in the staff bar after school. A worthwhile use of numeracy.

  • Comment number 46.

    Just thinking back to watching on TV England v Scotland at my local English village pub a few years ago with a Scottish landlord (never did understand more than about 3 out of 10 words he said) but he had moved down to Gods own Country after playing for Scotland A or might have been Scotland B (depended on time left before closing time when he told story!) anyway after the first 40 minutes of every match was over the landlord irrespective of the score would mumble something undecipherable about 'hafe teem erenjees' and appear from behind the bar with a trayful of glasses of Glenfiddich which he most generously handed around to Scots, English and any other nationality watching the destiny of the Calcutta Cup and me by now being very hard of hearing from years of not wearing a scrum cap when I should have, had absolutely no idea that his tray of 'oranges' and mumblings bore any relation to one another!

  • Comment number 47.

    #46 "he had moved down to Gods own Country" lol England is the Gods country :-) do you see the irony!

  • Comment number 48.

    England over France
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    hmmm, I believe the most important meeting between these two over the last 4 years was the WC match. Im starting to get used to the deluded opinions of some posts on here.

  • Comment number 49.

    Tom - explain something to me.

    If, as you say, the players are back in the dressing room with 45 mins to go. Why are they often seen warming up on the pitch with as little as 10 minutes until KO?

  • Comment number 50.

    I have a question regarding substitutions.

    Quite often in football if a player isnt up to it his manager will pull him off at half time

    Players getting pulled off early appears to happen a lot less in Union which seems strange to me given how hard the tackle is in rugby.

    So do players have pre-set ritual they start at half time ready for the hour mark, when the manager often decides to make repalcements and remove players irrerespective of performance.

  • Comment number 51.

    BleuBlancRouge no one said France never beat England, just saying that over the last several encounters England have a good record, in the six nations I think France have won once in 6 seasons. People were commenting that it is odd when two fairly equal teams play each other and one seems to have an upper hand for no discernible reason.

    Also Ireland keep beating England but there's not much in it between the teams. Please read the comments before calling us deluded

  • Comment number 52.

    ya @BleuBlancRouge .... read the post properly before you going making cutting accusations!

    Will Scotland beat Italy in Rome?
    I hope they do but I honestly dont think they will. Italy showed England what they are like to play in Rome! They are a different team then the one that travels.

  • Comment number 53.

    The scariest part for me is the kickoff, when your receiving and you don't really kow how hard they going to hit. At least you got the pack to back you up (Y)

  • Comment number 54.

    Just been checking recent dominance of France over Ireland, Ireland over England, and England over France, to see how real the phenomenon is. It's true that in the last five 6-nations the records are 4-1 for each of the above. Less marked in the last twelve 6-nations where France have 8-4 against Ireland, Ireland have 8-4 against England, and England 7-5 against France.

  • Comment number 55.

    Great blog Tom as always - you cover cricket and RU very well.

    I'd like to see the national anthems either dropped or changed (nobody can keep time time to God Save our Queen).

    I think we'd scare the pants off the All Blacks if we sang "Save All Your Kisses for Me" Brotherhood of Man whilst they did the Haka.

    I never vomit before matches, but I have done so before big presentations.

    Bye, bye, baby, by bye.....

  • Comment number 56.

    BleuBlancRouge no one said France never beat England, just saying that over the last several encounters England have a good record, in the six nations I think France have won once in 6 seasons. People were commenting that it is odd when two fairly equal teams play each other and one seems to have an upper hand for no discernible reason.

    Also Ireland keep beating England but there's not much in it between the teams. Please read the comments before calling us deluded
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You'll have to excuse the english lesson Im about to give you, despite it being my third language and probably your first. The post insinuated that France have a mental block when playing england, and that explains why england have beaten us (slighlty) more than the other way round. It is not a mental block, it is simply losing to a better team in most of those games. some were so close that it could have gone either way and with that the record.

    @jamesmatthew

    anyone who is insulting enough before a game of rugby to state 'france dont deserve to win' in reference to match against wales is clearly not really a fan of rugby or indeed gets out much.

  • Comment number 57.

    seems to be a worringly large amount of "fear" in the players. foden saying before a game he visualises dropping the ball and the fear associated with that - why not picturing taking the perfect catch and bombing forward. several players mention the word fear as a motivator and as a preoccupying thought - i find this quite insightful. always seems that england play with more fear than other more positive and expressive teams, england have the players and i have often wondered what the block is when they wear the red rose - so intersting to hear the players admitting to the fear factor associated with playing for england - suspicions confirmed! hope we can change this at some point..... having said that we are perfornming well at the moment and if these pre match rituals and routines help channel energy then keep on doing it lads!

  • Comment number 58.

    "more positive and expressive teams"

    Like France who were out-scored by 3 tries to 1 - and that one was only possible because the French referee wrongly gave the French put-in to a 5 yard scrum.

    More insight please buddy - you clearly know your stuff.

  • Comment number 59.

    well sorry, I'm not sure if it's due to English being your third language or you're being purposefully antagonistic about giving me an 'english lesson', regardless of whether you think it is due to a mental block or just losing to a better side that doesn't mean the people who posted it are deluded just because they have a very slightly differing opinion.

    Plus at international level the difference between winning and losing is often mental, so a 'mental block' is poetic way of saying it. It's no real different than saying England is France's bogey team just a different phrase.

    You are being very insulting in your posts and I can only assume it's purposeful

  • Comment number 60.

    BleuBlancRouge
    Get a life

  • Comment number 61.

    bleublancrouge

    Take of those tricolor glassses before reading. It's not a language problem as your English seems to be very good

  • Comment number 62.

    @ simon

    when someone seemingly here to talk rugby states and i quote 'france dont deserve to win' before the ball is even kicked off, and then continues with his agenda aginst the french of stating that we have a mental block because we lose to england all the time, is in my book, deluded. perhaps you have a better word for it??

    now find in a single one, a single one of my posts, any insult towards any country. if people like jamesmatthews has nothing better to do than continuously belittle my country, then not only will i stand up for it, but i will do without insulting his country, as I clearly know that he doesnt represent his country as a whole. If you want to defend the actions of such a post it is entirely up to you. Frankly Im tired of this anti-french feeling on these rugby boards.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    ? how would you like it if i said to you before the france v england game, listen mate your team doesnt deserve to win? how is that in the spirit of the game or competition? to say i dont think you'll win, fair enough, but to go on about how better that anyone wales are and to say you may as well not turn up...

  • Comment number 65.

    BleuBlancRouge

    As ex-President Chirac once said "Ils ont raté une belle occasion de se taire*.". If you are tired of what you see 'this anti-French feeling', you may seek solace on the comment boards of L'Equipe - a sports newspaper which rarely has a detailed report, less still any detailed preview, of 6 Nations games which don't feature France - in contrast to any of a number of UK broadsheets when it comes to France matches. Nor does the BBC have any equivalent of France 2's 'Talent d'Or' - a man of the match award limited only to the French side. I'm not criticising, merely observing that none of us is blameless and if you go to another country's patch you must expect to be invited to see things through their eyes.

    By the way, I'm happy to re-write this in my fourth language if you prefer - how's your Turkish? Eh toc!

    (*'They missed a great opportunity to keep quiet')

  • Comment number 66.

    nasilsin

    The joys of being able to speak more than one language is to be able to converse with people from those places.
    May I just forward you a link to the l'equipe website and you tell me how many non-france rugby articles you see?

    http://www.lequipe.fr/Rugby/Tournoi-des-6-nations/

    Alternatively of course lets not forget that eurosport is woned by TF1, and better than just covering it has an entire website designated to the british public under eurosport.yahoo

  • Comment number 67.

    BleuBlancRouge - I can understand your point fully. I don't think any insult was intended against France at all by posters here. I remember jamesmatthew saying france didn't deserve to win. I suspect a bit of jingoism and over enthusiasm. I do think England have had the edge on France ever since the '90's when it was normal practice to wind the French up as much as possible courtesy of Brian Moore etc.

  • Comment number 68.

    How sad.
    This was quite enjoyable until it was dragged down into a petty slanging match as seems to happen all too often.
    Wish some of you would grow up a bit.

  • Comment number 69.

    I do think England have had the edge on France ever since the '90's when it was normal practice to wind the French up as much as possible courtesy of Brian Moore etc.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I have no issue with the fact that england's record against France is better than vice versa, its there for everyone to see. But to state a mental block is quiet simply ridiculous. If we lost those games, its because we lost to a better team in almost every case, some to close to call. Its not a mental block, its saying we are beaten by the better team. If it was a mental block I suspect we would have lost in the WC

  • Comment number 70.

    @69 BBR I suspect you are probably right. Let's hope your team give 100% on Saturday. It worries me that as there is "nothing to play for" (I disagree there is always something to play for - at least pride in the shirt) they won't be "up for it".

  • Comment number 71.

    yes, I see what you did there! Im indeed guilty of saying there isnt much to play for. I also hope this is obviously not the case. Maybe the last match of servat and bonnaire will give some players added motivation.

    @simonofsurrey

    Furthermore there is continuously very interesting articles/blogs/videos of reporting on just the individual nations rather than just a preview of the game. For instance, there is on l'equipe's website a very interesting piece on the three welsh players playing in france. Unfortunately i have as yet been able to find anything on the BBC on France alone, and not merely a preview of the game or the after game article which is the least required.

  • Comment number 72.

    BleuBlancRouge

    The point is that there were times when England beat France when they weren't the better team based on other results. On the day - yes. But there is a pyschological factor to that (perhapa style of play too). Bogey teams exist in Sport.
    forget 'mental block' - it seems to be the expression that's aggravating you...or your mental block, as it were
    A former Irish captain once said that Ireland used to lose matches once they stepped off the plane inParis

  • Comment number 73.

    @ channel4ball

    I do not need any reminding thank you!! For me beating England is as satisfying as it gets in rugby (plus the three SH. And as you say england seem to have 'our number'. But for me it is neither domination nore mental. England's style of play is just one we find it hard to get to grip with. We try to beat you as you play, but we cant. A domination against France in rugby? ARgentina, whenever they beat us, my word they dominate us in the whole game too.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm not going to go trudging through previous 6 nations results but I'll use 2007 as an example. France beat Ireland at home, Ireland beat England (conviningly) so you would expect France to beat England but they didn't. Rest assured this wasn't an one off either

  • Comment number 75.

    This guy has knackered this thread.

  • Comment number 76.

    BRB - I'm Irish. We would still buy V Clerc a pint of Guiness after all the hurt he has cause us ;)
    Northern Pub - it's a rugby thread...discussions follow their own course. I think this 'psychological factor' in sport is quite an interesting topic as many others clearly do. Yours is the 75th post...how much more can we say about singing anthems, retching in dressing roooms and pre-match soundtracks?

  • Comment number 77.

    @channel4ball,

    my apologies,
    ha, yes, and you know there has never been three players more admired in France in recent years than Carter, O'driscoll and wilkinson

  • Comment number 78.

    Brilliant Blog Tom. My feet are jangling like they used to in the changing room. Used to buzz off the clamourous sound of the studs on the tiles. No mention of sticking Vics up the nostrils I notice? Bit low tech for these boys I suppose!

  • Comment number 79.

    Good read, Tom. Stick to Rugby and give the cricket live comments a miss, eh?

  • Comment number 80.

    For my brother and I, it was always Didier Camberabero (always disgusted when he was dropped). Maybe not up there among the greats...perhaps even largely forgotten but what a brain! The 3 you mentioned you mentioned are undoubtedly class players. Have to throw in Sella and Horan there too

  • Comment number 81.

    james if you have a problem with land of my fathers you would have really loved the 70s as in those days it wasnt unheard of for god save the queen to be played for wales when they played in paris..or for the welsh anthem not to be played at all.....as happened when wales played at twickenham in 1974...though i suspect that maybe you wouldnt have been too happy in the 70s because wales...a team you appear to have a unhealthy obsessive dislike for..... were doing things like winning 3 grand slams in 8 seasons...hmm...that has a familiar ring to it...wonder why......

  • Comment number 82.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 83.

    Good & interesting blog but would have liked to have also known what the differences are in the dressing room with different pressures i.e. losing runs, press knocking them, RWC games etc
    England v Ireland looking to be a great match. I see Ireland really frustrating Eng by playing a great kicking game if we allow their pack to give them the ball on the front foot or we give away too many dumb penalties. Ireland's back row & full back are real class but I think their locks and centres will struggle - especially see Tuilagi v Earls as mis-match of the weekend (as was in Dublin pre RWC) and I think Eng will exploit this ..and win!

  • Comment number 84.

    England have tended to hold the upper hand over France since the late 1980s, although the head-to-head is reasonably close and each country tends to enjoy 4-5 year stretches of superiority before it changes hands again. France do indeed beat us, but almost never cut loose and destroy us the way they do against almost everyone else, up to and including New Zealand. It kind of goes without saying, but yes, rugby is a highly psychological game and psychology influences all of the rivalries in the international game to a significant degree IMO.

    I hope against hope that we can beat Ireland at the weekend. I am tired of losing to them, and what hurts is that the main difference between the teams in recent years seems to be that their players simply have a greater will to win. I don't find this acceptable. Watching the match in Dublin last season, the England players looked as if they would rather be anywhere than on the pitch, and the attitude seemed to be "if you really want it that badly, then you can have it."

    There's nothing deep-rooted about this. England have had many, many players with the warrior spirit over the years, but precious few over the last five. I don't ever recall a lack of intensity on England's part during the 1990s or the Woodward era when it came to facing our neighbours, but I certainly have done since then. It's as if nothing is ever learned from our encounters with them, as if everything is forgotten, and their determination to beat us comes as a complete surprise each time. Well it really shouldn't, and if Lancaster (whom I admire tremendously) can do one thing for the England team then I hope that it is to instil a sense that it's not enough to go out and play rugby - we have to FIGHT, and have a genuine desire to beat our opponent from first minute to last. I've had enough of apologetic-looking England teams shuffling around the pitch. Time to play like we really mean it.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    #73, I don't think the England actually do have the upper hand over France - over the last 15 years it has been even, with France winning as many of the big games as England. The only time England had a clear advantage was in the early 90s, when Moore et al seemed to have the ability to get under the skin of the French side.

    You could argue that England have probably won quite a few of those games against the odds, but then I can think of quite a few times where England went into Le Crunch as the form side and lost. Interesting thatas an England fan the France game is now the 6N fixture I want England to win above all the others. Scotland always used to be our fiercest rivals, but Scotland have not been as much of a force in recent years. Hopefully they will be back challenging for slams soon, as the NH needs a strong Scottish team.

  • Comment number 87.

    BleuBlancRouge

    Nobody ever beats France .... they just score more points! ;-)

  • Comment number 88.

    @81 Leighrichards yes 70's teams were great. And yes it does have a familiar ring but you haven't won it yet but I think you will and if so a terrific achievement. What is the real test for me is can this welsh team go on and start winning some games against SH teams. Despite many new dawns for welsh rugby their record against SH has been woefull. Does that have a familiar ring..........!

  • Comment number 89.

    On a 1970's note and slightly off-topic (vomiting, slanging etc) it's sad to hear of the death of Mervyn Davies. I remember him as a great player and one of the very best No.8s. I even recall the bizarre sight of him suffering a brain hemorrhage mid-game...simply collapsing while running at full speed. He was incredibly lucky to have medical personnel and equipment to hand.

    ...now back to the fun!

  • Comment number 90.

    I too thought the blog really insightful, and educational.

    One small point though for

    #58 18:09 15th Mar 2012, Northern_Pub_Tours who wrote:

    "Like France who were out-scored by 3 tries to 1 - and that one was only possible because the French referee wrongly gave the French put-in to a 5 yard scrum.

    More insight please buddy - you clearly know your stuff."

    For the record, in the 74th minute the ball was held up on the England line just after Dowson was injured in faling on the ball and getting a crack on the head from the French attacker. (I've just watched the replay on BBC iPlayer).

    Just so you are properly informed Northern_Pub_Tours, first the Mr Rolland is Irish (with French ancestors) and second, the laws say that if the ball is held up (ie, not grounded) in-goal, it's a scrum, attacking side ball.

    I guess you might say "More insight please, buddy, you clearly DON'T know YOUR stuff"

    Enjoy the matches tomorrow everyone!

  • Comment number 91.

    Ruref.....still three ties to one buddy. It would've been 3-0 if the French ref wasn't crap. Keep talking soldier.

  • Comment number 92.

    Northern_Pub_Tours

    The ref was Irish, and the French try came from a properly awarded scrum. I grant you on the day England made the most of their limited possession and territory, but there are so many games which have been won (and lost) in similar circumstances

    If you were at least mildly acquainted with the laws of the game, you'd appreciate that the referee was correct, whatever nationality he happened to be.

    Do you/have you ever played/refereed? And if you have at what sort of level?

    Ruref

  • Comment number 93.

    Help? Please advise where I can find out who are the match officials for today's 3 games? From recent experience this could be the biggest deciding factor!

  • Comment number 94.

    Ruref - I thought the ref (useless he was whatever nationality) blew up for safety reasons as he saw Dowson lying flat out. If a ref blows up for safety reasons what determines who gets the put in? I don't know. Please enlighten me if you are able. Much obliged.

  • Comment number 95.

    Interesting view of the team pre-match. A can of Red Bull though? The mind boggles - surely a john barnes lucozade isotonic and a pro plus tablet would do the job better?

    Hoping for more from England's wingers this game, although I have a feeling they'll have to go looking for the ball because I dont think it will find its way to them.

    The France game was good, particularly the first half when England were playing a more direct attacking game (admittedly helped by the French tactics) I think if they're to make an impact on the Irish they'll have to play a similarly attacking game - but they have to sort out the numbers and tactics at the breakdown or they will consistently lose ball and have the line broken.

    http://0verapint.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/trez-bon-and-green-for-go/

    Wales to lose to France by ten points and England to win against Ireland by four....

  • Comment number 96.

    The ireland hoo-doo is a bit odd but england did beat them prior to the world cup during the warm ups.
    did a bit of research and if my maths is right its only ireland and the kiwis that have beaten england more times than england have beaten the other teams .
    i wondered whether players ave some sort of ritual for each team they face

    as England have done well or beaten the Aussies quite a few times do they prepare differently against them than ireland for instance who they havent done so well against.
    As for the Caffiene energy drinks" user beware ,remember what happened to Will from the inbetweeners when he consumed too much before a big test !!!!

  • Comment number 97.

    record is recent results since 2000 that is .

 

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