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Ben Dirs (archive)

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Now That's What I Call Tom and Ben (in photos) (19)

Hang out the bunting, strike up the band, Tom and Ben are home.

Not quite in a jet draped with flags, awaiting a press corps and tumult of fans, more in a campervan, on a ferry, still wearing those flip-flops. And that vest. Probably.

So here's a best of Fordyce & Dirs, in photos and links to remind you of the past seven weeks' adventure.

You can check out all of their photos on flickr.com.

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Ben Dirs

Best job in the world (45)

Paris, Sunday - My mother phoned me this morning and asked me what I want for dinner on Monday night.

Mrs Dirs is a quality cook, but that’s not what I wanted to hear the morning after England played in a World Cup final. This trip is over. Make mine a roast or I think I’ll start crying.

My initial reaction to England’s defeat was pretty childish: “bothered”. Like most of the England fans still partying at 6am on Sunday morning, I was just happy to be there.

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Ben Dirs

England v South Africa ratings (174)

Paris - Hello all. I watched the final alongside my colleague Mark Orlovac at the Stade de France and rated the South African players. "Orlo" was in charge of England. Here's how we scored them.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts.

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Ben Dirs

Better a Thinker than a Blessed... (24)

Paris – Friday - Different players find different ways of preparing for a big match.

Some smash their heads repeatedly against the changing room wall, some insist on grabbing team-mates by the collars and bawling in their faces. Some, usually the backs, prefer to sit quietly in the corner or go for a wander.

In my playing days, I was what you might call a 'Thinker', spending hours sat on the toilet, in the same pose as Rodin’s masterpiece, feeling sick and wondering how I managed to find myself so out of my depth.

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Ben Dirs

Why Wilkinson is the main man (188)

Thursday morning, Paris - Former Middlesex and Durham seamer Simon Hughes tells a great story about an ageing Ian Botham bowling to the touring Australians at Chester-le-Street.

Botham, Hughes maintains, wasn’t doing anything with the ball at all, simply padding up to the crease and sending it down at a gentle military medium.

But to the Australian players, who were huddled in the pavilion, glued to the action and talking in reverential tones, every delivery was a potential hand-grenade.

It’s what sports people often refer to as “presence”, a word that has been used repeatedly in connection with Jonny Wilkinson ahead of Saturday’s World Cup final...

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Ben Dirs

France, je t'aime (102)

Paris - “Capture the atmosphere in Paris,” cry the emails from the bosses back in Blighty.

Well, on the Wednesday before England play South Africa in the World Cup final, Paris is as Paris always is.

Lots of pretty women smoking and nibbling on croissants, lots of big-haired men looking magnificent in expensive sports jackets and shades. And not a Zulu-era Red Coat in sight.

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Ben Dirs

Ugly win a thing of beauty (372)

Paris - Big sporting occasions can mess with people's minds. On Saturday night, as my brains were being blown out by the Marseillaise, I found myself making the sign of the cross and I very nearly cried.

When I tell you that I’m not sure I believe in God and that I blub about once every 10 years, usually when watching The Champ, you get some idea of the mind-bending atmosphere that was swirling round the Stade de France as England beat the World Cup hosts.

The scenes after the final whistle will live long in the memory: French fans disappearing from the ground as quickly as bath water being sucked down a plughole; England fans roaring along to Oasis’ Wonderwall; the tears of Sebastien Chabal.

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Mark Orlovac

South Africa v Argentina player ratings (150)

Paris - It worked so well on Saturday we're continuing the Orlo/Dirsy blog partnership for the SA v Argentina ratings, but this time with added Fordyce!

Here are our player ratings for the Boks' semi-final win over the Pumas. I have rated South Africa and Ben and Tom are now so inseparable they have jointly rated Argentina.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts!

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Mark Orlovac

England v France player ratings (243)

Paris - A brand new partnership of me, Orlo, and him, Dirsy, together in one blog.

Here are our player ratings for England's semi-final against France. I have rated England and Dirsy's rated France.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts!

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Ben Dirs

Paris primed for English invasion (48)

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

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

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Ben Dirs

Your Paris checklist (60)

Fontainebleau – Hello you. Today, Tommy and I have come over all altruistic and decided to share some of our five-and-a-half weeks’ worth of Rugby World Cup experience with those making their way over for the England-France semi-final on Saturday.

Here are some of the key tips we’ve picked up during the course of our grand escapade. Agree or disagree, just don’t bang on about your licence fee.

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Ben Dirs

The journey to Paris begins... (52)

Aix-en-ProvenceTommy and I set sail from Marseille on Monday afternoon like a couple of battered sailors fleeing a storm and have now weighed anchor in the calmer waters of Aix.

Thousands of others will have done the same and will now be cowering under duvets all over the globe, still struggling to come to terms with the weekend they’ve just experienced.

There will never be another two days like it. Apart from next Saturday and Sunday, that is.

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Ben Dirs

England spark Marseille party (154)

Marseille - More bad news for those who have been complaining about us wasting their licence fee for the last five weeks: England are off to the semi-finals of the World Cup…and we’re going with them!

Not even as I weaved my way through the puddles of sick and empty beer glasses that littered Marseille’s Old Port at 6am on Saturday did I think Brian Ashton’s boys were going to beat Australia.

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BBC Sport Rugby

England v Australia player ratings (263)

Marseille - Tom and Ben here, together in one blog. Here are our player ratings for England's quarter-final against Australia. Tom's rated England and Ben, Australia.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts!


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Ben Dirs

A toast to William Webb Ellis (26)

Menton, Cote d'Azur - I have to be honest, I’m not really into visiting graves. As my nan used to say, you’re a long time toes-up - what’s the point in hanging about with dead people while you’re still alive?

But I made an exception for William Webb Ellis, the man often credited with inventing rugby union and without whom this magnificent trip of ours may never have happened.

The Webbler lies in the Cimetiere du Vieux Chateau in Menton, a resort nestled between Monaco and the Italian border.

The former pupil of Rugby School spent the last six months of his life trying to recover from TB in the dry Mediterranean air, although, given some of the gradients in this town, he might have been better off in Holland.

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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”.

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Ben Dirs

Northern exposure leaves Dirsy depressed (79)

To lose one Six Nations side before the quarter-finals of a World Cup is unfortunate. To lose three just goes to show how stagnant and outmoded northern hemisphere rugby has become.

Some claim this tournament has proved that rugby runs stronger and deeper than ever before, with Fiji’s stunning victory over Wales and Georgia’s near upset of Ireland cited as prime examples.

I don’t go for that. After all, the All Blacks and Australia have been gubbing the minnows at this World Cup just as they always have done.

I hesitate to pick on the Scots – at least they managed to scrape through their group - but it was our misfortune to witness their clash with Italy which was the rugby equivalent of a wet weekend in Prestatyn with only a stack of David Essex LPs for company.

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Ben Dirs

The glamour of the World Cup (52)

St Etienne - Those of you who have been complaining about us wasting your hard-earned cash for the last three weeks will be delighted to know that we awoke this morning in an industrial estate to the tune of hailstones ricocheting off the roof of The Bloggernaut.

And as we weaved our way through the breathtaking Rhone Valley on Wednesday, The Dubliners’ Seven Deadly Sins turned up to 11 on the wireless, comparisons with the west coast of Ireland became irresistible. Marseille this isn’t.

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Ben Dirs

Salty old madam puts on a show (26)

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

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

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

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

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Ben Dirs

Up close and personal with Namibia (16)

La Ciotat - Namibia may not be the most talented team at this World Cup but I’d wager they have one of the cosiest set-ups.

Situated in the town of La Ciotat, 20km from Marseille, their hotel has its toes dipped in the Med and is the sort of idyllic little place you’d plump for if you wanted to keep a mistress sweet.

Contrast this with Ireland’s HQ, a business hotel on the outskirts of Bordeaux and, if media reports are to be believed, the scene of some disquiet.

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Ben Dirs

French girls and heart Aix (57)

Aix-en-Provence - “Ben, France at this time of year is like a 35-year-old woman – blooming and ready for anything.”

An Englishman says that to you, and you laugh in his face. Manu, owner of the Web Bar in Saint-Emilion, says it to you and you want to grab him by the cheeks and plant a big kiss on his forehead.

Aaah, Saint-Emilion. Aaah, 35-year-old women. Add a couple of bottles of the local Grand Cru and an eggshell blue sky and you’ve pretty much got the ingredients for the perfect afternoon.

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Ben Dirs

From biscuits to foie gras (23)

Bordeaux - When you’re down and troubled, and you need some love and care, go out and have a few scoops with the Irish in Bordeaux. You’re likely to get absolutely rubbered and forget about all the bad things that have happened.

Not me of course. I was nursing a Guinness in The Connemara thinking up possibly the worst opening paragraph in the history of the written word.

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Ben Dirs

Cognac and raw pasta on the menu (21)

Condom, France - I swear on everything that is dear to me that we did not plan to end up in Condom last night.

The idea was to stop off in Agen on the way to Toulouse, but the lack of a campsite meant we had to push on a few extra miles and the next decent-sized town happened to be what the French might refer to as capote anglaise.

We resisted taking a hilarious picture of one of us sniggering under a Condom road sign, but it does mean we will have to put our snail eating contest on the backburner for a couple of weeks.

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Ben Dirs

Wales player ratings (85)

Nantes

Wales recovered from a half-time deficit to record a 42-17 win over a valiant Canada at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

I was at the stadium to see the match, and here's how I rated each individual player's performance. Let me know what you make of my marks and add your own thoughts.

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Ben Dirs

Look back in Angers (37)

Angers, Loire Valley - As far as I’m concerned, last night’s biggest revelation wasn’t that France have got no hope of winning the World Cup, but that French youths drink Pastis and rose rather than cans of Stella.

It’s depressing to think that even France’s chavs are more sophisticated than ours, and even more depressing to think that Argentina might have naused up the whole tournament with their brave, and deserved, win in Paris.

Although we had planned to be in Nantes by now, Tom and I watched the match in Angers, a pretty (are any French towns not pretty?) town in the Loire Valley.

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