Alastair Hignell

Saying it in style (6)


It is not every day that England hold media briefings in council offices.

Mind you, not every council office can compare with those in Versailles. Beneath three massive chandeliers, in a vast room decorated with huge paintings, lashings of gilt and ornate furniture, England head coach Brian Ashton produced some exquisite Lancastrian Franglais in response to a florid welcome by local dignitaries, before handing down his team for the first World Cup game against the United States this Saturday.

If the backdrop was bizarre, so was the attendance. It appeared that all council workers above a certain rank had been invited to the press conference- there were certainly more suits and stilettos than the fourth estate get to see in a month of Sundays- and the grub wasn't bad either.

Champagne, canapes and petit fours were proffered by white jacketed waiters. Sandwiches - crust is cut off, of course - were delicately arranged on silver platters on damask tablecloths. All in all, it was very civilised - and very French.

Or so I was told. I was tucked away behind a screen in the main room-makeshift sound proofing, don't you know - and getting the lowdown on the injury that laid our Jonny low. By the time I had finished interviewing Brian Ashton, Phil Vickery, Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Catt, Josh Lewsey, Jamie Noon, and Matt Tait for BBC Radio 5live, all the champagne had been quaffed, the canapes cleared away and the tables stacked.

All that was left to eat was a leftover RFU baguette. England were taking no chances with the hors d’oeuvres and had provided a packed lunch for the players. As always, we journalists were just happy with the crumbs from the table.

Still, the sun was shining as I made back my way back to our considerably less opulent hotel. And I couldn't help noticing, amongst all the window displays promoting the Rugby World Cup in this most affluent of suburbs, an advert in a chocolatiers window offering a box of handcrafted commemorative chocolates for a mere 20 quid. Perhaps we can have a whip round!

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.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:27 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Dafydd Edos wrote:

Any chance of the other home nations' press-conferences (team announcements, essentially) attracting so much flowery, over the top, coverage?

  • 2.
  • At 04:32 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Garhenh wrote:

Oh Dafydd, it was just a bit of fun. Loosen up and enjoy the sport!

  • 3.
  • At 08:30 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Jim Slip wrote:

OK.It is now time for all comentators and fans alike to make their definitive predictions,before the action starts for RWC 2007.
Logic tells us that France and S.Africa will come close,Argentina will,suprise, maybe,England will bomb out, Ireland will choke and the All Blacks will coast to victory.
Well,England will reach the semis,Wales will suprise,maybe,S.Africa will be sin binned out of the tournament,Australia will come close, France will disappoint and Ireland will lift the Webb Ellis.
Illogical?Yes probabally,but put your mortgage on it!!

  • 4.
  • At 09:19 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Fiona wrote:


I know you are a decent bloke as you are the more famous of Sports Journalists!!

Have you read what them "2 young ens" (Ben and Tom) are doing in their camper van?

They are writing a book of their experiences in France during the Rugby World Cup 2007 amd going to make a fortune from it? Are you doing the same?

I think they are calling it "Tom and Ben, Sports Journalists for the BBC, Tour France during the Rugby World Cup 2007"

Is this allowed?? They have admitted it on "Up with les oiseaux"

England won. It may not have been the best performance...but it didn't need to be. WE win the world cup by WINNING...we won...would it help if we had won by 100 points...NO...possibly more injuries and worn out players. The ITV commentary team were so negative it made me want to turn the sound off.


  • 6.
  • At 10:17 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • pat ward wrote:

if england were not the current world cup holders, struggling to a win might be fair enough but on this performance do you seriosly think they can go all the way ? wishful thinking does not make things happen. the only consolation, if it can be considered so, is that they will have all the other home nations for company (and im an ireland supporter, god help me !)

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