- 25 Sep 07, 05:20 PM
Paris - “The girl you’re dancing with is a bloke”.
The memory of the whispered warning at the post-match party after England played Tonga for the first time is as sharp now as the lighting back in 1979 was dim.
Memories of the match are less clear; we won, one of their wings was the size of a small house, while the King of Tonga, to whom we were presented before the game, was the size of a large one.
I remember spending the pre-match warm-up clearing shards of razor-sharp coral from a pitch that seemed to have an equal number of bumps and potholes and considerably fewer blades of grass.
And I remember changing in what could have been the groundsman’s shed under the stand - no electricity, no showers, no light - if you opened the door to see what you were doing and to let the air in, the crowd came too.
I wish I could remember more of what turned out to be my last appearance in an England shirt. (Anoraks will know that England went on to win the Grand Slam in 1980 and I wasn’t in the team. I like to pretend the two facts are unrelated!).
And the history books are not much help.
The England media guide for this World Cup, for instance, doesn’t mention the match in Nuku’alofa at all.
One of the game’s main websites includes it in a list of previous encounters - actually, there’s only one other, a World Cup pool match in 1999 which England won 101-10.
Another ignores it, on the grounds that as the RFU didn’t deem a game against such opposition as worthy of a full cap in those days, then neither should they.
On a personal level, I’d love to have another three caps to my name (England also played Japan and Fiji on that tour).
On a professional level, I’d love to have across the board consistency when it comes to statistics.
That way we commentators could know for sure whether Jonny Wilkinson scored his 1,000th point in international rugby in Saturday’s win over Samoa, or is still 14 short.
It could have happened during my commentary spell during 5Live’s outside broadcast from Nantes, but after landing two conversions, a drop goal and three penalties, the outside half pushed a fourth one wide.
Ian Robertson duly celebrated the milestone when Wilkinson landed his next kick.
But did he? Before the game Wilkinson had scored 915 points for England and 47 points on Lions tours, but he’d also scored 20 points for the Lions against Argentina in Cardiff in 2005.
As the Lions are a touring team and theoretically can’t play home internationals, some statisticians ignored this.
But the IRB, who are after all the game’s rulers, does recognise it as an international on their website and does include it in their stats.
That’s good enough for me. But, just to be on the safe side, I’ll still be happy to salute his 14th point against Tonga. I’ll be even more happy if I can salute it during my first spell of commentary, which ends halfway through the first half.
Alastair Hignell is a former England rugby international who commentates on rugby union for Radio 5 Live. He is covering England at the World Cup. 5 Live's full broadcast schedule is here.