Ben Dirs

Old Port, old rivals (28)

Marseille - Down at Australia HQ in Marseille’s Old Port, the Wallabies could only have looked more relaxed had they been receiving facials while fielding questions from the floor.

A slight murmur went up when I asked George Smith if he agreed with Australia Rugby Union chief executive John O’Neill’s comments that all of his countrymen “hate England”.

But George just smiled and flicked away my question as if it was nothing more troublesome than a clumsy, fat fly. Meanwhile, Matt Giteau and Al Baxter smirked like naughty schoolboys beside him.

Giteau, Australia’s impish centre, admitted Jonny Wilkinson’s presence in the England line-up for Saturday’s quarter-final would make a difference.

But asked whether he feared the England talisman, last seen against Australia dropping the goal that won the 2003 final, Giteau shrugged nonchalantly and curled his lip before shooting back: “No, not really.”

Loafing about the hotel lobby in shorts and flip-flops, the Wallabies looked more like a gang of lads from Warrington getting ready to rip up Tenerife than a crack rugby outfit contemplating one of the biggest games of their careers.

In light of O’Neill’s comments, I had half expected to have my head shoved down the dunny by an irate prop forward, but, let’s face it, I know enough Australians to realise they’re a pretty spot-on bunch, almost all of the time.

From the Old Port I dashed over to the Stade Velodrome to catch the end of England’s presser, losing about two stone in sweat en route.

Lawrence Dallaglio and Andrew Sheridan

Tommy tells me it was a pretty Boycottian affair, crammed with lots of ramrod-straight forward defensives from Lawrence Dallaglio and the odd nurdle here and there from the diffident Andrew Sheridan.

Loose-head Sheridan may look, as Tommy pointed out, like a hulking Morrissey, but, and unfortunately from a journalistic point of view, he has a similar attitude towards public utterances.

I’m not sure wheeling Dallaglio out for news conferences ahead of a game he’s unlikely to start sends out the most positive message from an England perspective.

Yes, he’s a World Cup winner and deserves the utmost respect, but where are the rest of the generals in Brian Ashton’s squad?

Marseille, as Tommy has already informed you, is rip-roaringly hot and ready to take light this weekend. If you haven’t already made plans to be here, start making them.

England may well get a damn good spanking on Saturday afternoon, but the Old Port looks at its beguiling best and I’m going to stick my neck out and say it even loves a loser.

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

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:12 PM on 02 Oct 2007,
  • anglophone wrote:

At last we're talking about a good spanking...this is entirely different. Reminds me of my times with the Old Warthogians XVb with all the fun and games before during and after the match. Nobody meant any harm and it made me the man I am today!

Looks like we're finally getting back into the real spirit of rugby. Any Easyjets to Marseille left over?

  • 2.
  • At 12:08 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Georgie wrote:

Ben, top blogging, we are in Marseille and wondered whether u fancied a pint/ right royal lash up and a few pastis! U can probably see our mail address or drop us a line, we will give you something to write about!

  • 3.
  • At 12:09 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Polemic wrote:

Yet again I put aside my pint of, 'Grandpa's Old Peculiar' and ponder the vitriol, mealy-mouthed garbage and hatred (bordering on racism in some cases) being posted on the WRC blog sites.
I suspect that most of the contributers have never played a decent game of Rugby in their lives. Few of them know much about the laws of the game or indeed, understand the tatics used.
Time was when rugby was a game amongst friends. Sure, we gave no quarter nor asked for quater, when playing. Sure, gamesmanship and playing the referee were part of the game...But throwing insults at each other? Rubbishing the players and the officials...Unheard of!
We left that sort of behaviour to those in the media who should know better.
Players wear their national shirts with pride. They do not go out of their way to play a lousy game just to annoy their fans. Most of you big-mouths are not even fit to touch their shirts let alone wear them. So if you have nothing positive to say (unless it be positive criticism)about the players, officials and other National sides then do me a favour...Shut it!

As for Mr. O'Neils comments about all Australians hate the English...One can only assume that at the time of going to press, he had imbibed too much of the amber liquid. At least my Australian friends have had the decency to apologize for his ill-judged remark.

Barman!...Another pint of 'Grandpa's Old peculiar', please.
Come on you England.

  • 4.
  • At 01:03 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

Man, you guys are obsessed with the comments of one man. You would have to be silly to believe that he represents the views of anyone but himself. I'm from the UK, Ive lived in Australia for twenty years and can tell you that it's all just harmless banter. Even Prince Charles, when he was boarding at Geelong Grammar was jokingly called a pommy so and so by his fellow students. From a nation who love baiting others we seem to have a very thin skin at times.

  • 5.
  • At 02:02 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I'm afraid Mr O'Neils comments betray the general view in Australia where Pom-bashing is still very much alive and kicking.

The TV channels lead the way with the racist 'jokes' about englishmen needing a bath and a particularly nasty ad for an Australian rum producer portraying England and the English in the lowest light possible.

Highlights of the opening ceremony showed all previous winning captains, however, Martin Johnson was completely edited out.

This brand of racism is ingrained and whilst accepted with a schoolboy snigger will continue to be the nasty side of Australia and Australians.

I've lived amonst this for nearly a decade and I have to say that its all wearing a bit thin.

Cue racist shouts of "Go home Pom"?

  • 6.
  • At 02:52 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

I think Chris's comments of Pommy bashing relate to Australia in the 1970's.
The notion of Pommy bashing in Australia is infantile and tiresome. I was born in the UK but have lived in Australia for 38 years. Believe me in Melbourne the Rugby world cup attracts nothing more than passing interest, they are much more interested in Aussie rules football...
No one I mix with even uses the term Pommy anymore, maybe you've watched too many Bazza McKenzie movies...:)
I think this is silly motivator designed to excite moronic British tabloids.

  • 7.
  • At 04:58 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Hutch wrote:

Jeez some of youse Poms have thin skins !!
Lighten up Chris (Post #5) it's all part of the banter. As a "redneck" Queenslander - albeit born & bred in West Cumbria - there's nothing better than having a jibe at "Mother England" unless of course it's having a go at the "Serth Efrikens" -or Jaapies to give them the colloquial term.
Mind you Chris, Jaapies call you Poms "Souties" !!

  • 8.
  • At 05:27 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Jake111 wrote:

I am Australia and have lived in England for a couple years before returning to the penal colony.

Aussies do not hate the English. Its just the usual mind over matter psych out via the media that Aus sport teams do a lot, but John O'Neal crossed a line, hate is too strong a word and I am embarrassed. Every country I have been too has small minded d_ck heads, for some reason our media has some embarrassing ones at times.
Plus the word "Pom" is not an insult but a nickname ala Kiwi, Saffa etc. And the word "Convict" is not an insult, Aussies like the antihero culture and in a weird way proud about coming from Convicts. I think that we Aussies forget that we are not always the underdogs in sport anymore trying to prove ourselves against an older brother per se for attention. Anyway heres for revenge to my Pom mates in Leeds! Bring on the Game!

  • 9.
  • At 06:18 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Coops_downunder wrote:

Ahaha i think O'neills comments have been taken completely out of proportion. I live in Brisbane and have done so for the last couple of years and can honestly say that 'pom bashing' is non existent. What exists is a light hearted and competitive edge between England and Australia that adds to any sporting competition. I was at day 1 of the ashes test here in Brisbane and the spirit was fantastic between everyone. I took my little sister without any fear of racial or offensive comments and this was perfectly justified.

I remember vividly the day before i left England was the day of the world cup final in 03, and there was a sole Australian in the pub I was in. Throughout the whole game he had to endure taunts from the majority of the pub...some bordering on being ridiculously offensive. I remember thinking to myself then that i was going to a better place...

Ill be at a pub on saturday morning and I know regardless of what happens the result will be taken in good spirit and it will be a great crowd to watch a great game with

  • 10.
  • At 08:18 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Graham / Coops_downunder:
I currently live in Brisbane and my comments relate to the period 1998 to now.

It must be a question of bad luck then; as O'Neils comment summed the attitude up in a nutshell.

Example: Someone asked me directions recently which I was happy to give. Far from thanking me his only comment as he walked off was "If I'd known you were a bloody Pom I'd never have (expletive) asked."

Like I said perhaps It's just a question of luck.

  • 11.
  • At 08:34 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Alex Trickett wrote:

Ben/Tom - am wondering if there is any particular logic to you spending much of your time in "rip-roaringly" hot Marseille?

Yours in "dish-cloth" damp London.

  • 12.
  • At 08:37 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • nickc wrote:

I would have hoped everyone would have realised this but O'Neill was only winding you up and generating some media interest in the game. Oh, and it is not "racist". The Aussies and the English are generally from the same race. I love winding up my Aussie/South African/Kiwi/Welsh etc etc mates and vice versa. Get a sense of humour people.

  • 13.
  • At 08:48 AM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • I.M.Fedupwivit wrote:

I watched 03 final in my local pub in England with a large crowd + 1 Aussie. He took loads of stick then came out on the town with us for the rest of the day and took some more. They are merely trying (successfully it seems) to out psyche us poms. I think there is a popular view which I share that our team will be full of fairly soft public school boys and they can be got at. Anyway it was our turn for victory in 03, but not this time. So next week they will hate NZ or France, yes the French could cause an upset, if they bother to turn up. Then they will probably hate SA or Arg. Fair play if it gets you any form of advantage then take it, As for England, well we will send Dallaglio to the press conference that'll scare 'em !

  • 14.
  • At 12:30 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • chris1 wrote:

im a ticketless fan that will be in marseille, anybody know my chances of getting a ticket for the game??
great blogs tom and ben

come on england!!!!

  • 15.
  • At 12:30 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • mike hart wrote:

England 20 - 17 Australia

Bring it on Aussies!!!!

  • 16.
  • At 01:21 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • The Ruler wrote:

Who cares if Australians bash poms? For the most part from my experiance, it's nothing more than friendly banter.

Alot of countries share similar relationships and joke on each other all the time. Us English should know this, i mean the Scottish - Welsh - English - Irish relationship is hardly peaches and cream ;)

Anyway, i remember a while back their was a poll from the British public on who they thought were the biggest losers in the world, shortly after the last WC, and Australia was voted as the biggest loser in the world.

It's nothing more than having a laugh... And even if it was more than that, so? That's the cost of being the figurehead of one of the most tyrant-esque empires to ever exist. Most the world dislike us, learn to live with it people.

  • 17.
  • At 01:24 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Chris Chapman wrote:

Who the hell cares what the australians think of the English.
Going to marseilles for the weekend to watch both games and enjoy the town.
So if your dull and Australian please dont speak to me.(I think thats all of them!



  • 18.
  • At 01:28 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Chris Chapman wrote:

Who the hell cares what the australians think of the English.
Going to marseilles for the weekend to watch both games and enjoy the town.
So if your dull and Australian please dont speak to me.(I think thats all of them!



Loving the blog but wondering why you're one-way Twittering? By not following any of your followers you can't have any conversations.

I mention this now because I really want to know what the inside track is on George Chuter making way for Regan. . . seems a strange choice. Now if you were following me on Twitter, this could have been an instant and truly reactive discussion!

  • 20.
  • At 02:00 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Rich W wrote:

There has always been sledging between these two teams - and the Aussies do love to dish it out. It is a shame that John O'Neill could not have taken some advice from Merv Hughes or Shane Warne, both expert sledgers, who might have come up with something more amusing. An opportunity wasted. Here's to Sheridan giving Dunning a bit of trouble and Farrell showing everyone why he was picked - and Johnny doing a drop goal in the last minute (when we're already two tries up).....

Guys, love the blog but why are you one-way Twittering?

Wanted to ask you what the inside track on George Chuter making way for Mark Regan was but you're not following any of your followers so it's a one way conversation! Got to talk with people, not at them!

  • 22.
  • At 02:30 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Rich W wrote:

There has alsways been sledging between these two teams - and the Aussies do love to dish it out. It is a shame that John O'Neill could not have taken some advice from Merv Hughes or Shane Warne who might have come up with something more amusing. An opportunity wasted. Here's to Sheridan giving Dunning a bit of trouble and Farrell showing everyone why he was picked - and Johnny doing a drop goal in the last minute (when we're already two tries up).....

  • 23.
  • At 02:58 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Alex wrote:


I've got a spare going if you are interested.

  • 24.
  • At 03:30 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Shazza wrote:

Hutch (no7) is right there has always been banter between the Aussies and English. Just think of those poor souls like myself who have dual citizenship - we get it from both sides! I've been asked so many times during this world cup why I am supporting England when I have an Australian accent. Then again there is an upside in that I'm on a win-win situation on Saturday!

Chris1 (no 14), going by other matches I would say your chances are pretty good - avoid the touts, ask around in the bars before the game, wear a sign on your head (it pays to advertise!) and if no luck head to the ground. The supporters with spare tickets will be near the gates holding them aloft for the 'real fans'.

  • 25.
  • At 12:47 PM on 04 Oct 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

It's banter folks...

Good article on an Australian website about the same.

As an Australian I can happily say that 2 of my favourite days watching sport in the UK were trawling the bars around Twickers after Australian losses.

We shout at you, you shout at us but we have a beer and a laugh about it once the whistle has blown. There is no hatred, never was and never will be.

That what will always differentiate Rugby fans from the Football equivalent.

I've never heard of a rugby hooligan or having to empty a rugby stadium via different exits or at different times.

PS Chris Chapham (#18)..have a chat and mix with the Aussies. Who knows you might broaden your views a bit!

  • 26.
  • At 03:23 PM on 04 Oct 2007,
  • Ollie wrote:

This "hating all English" is utterly reprehensible and has absolutely no place in sport whatsoever...

Now, had he said "Krauts", "Frogs" or "Argies" that's a different matter altogether, I'm sure we can agree.

  • 27.
  • At 07:44 PM on 04 Oct 2007,
  • Benny wrote:

Chaps, where will you be drinking on Fri and Sat nights? And whats the best place in Marseille to catch the NZ v France game on a big screen? A plus tard

  • 28.
  • At 09:00 AM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Julia Wilson wrote:


Post #5 and #10. You're not alone. In my experience, Australians do dislike the English and I'm getting pretty fed up of jibes in the media. Before anyone says I should go home, I'm trying to!!


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites