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Alastair Eykyn (archive)

Alastair Eykyn

Pedal power saves the day (48)

Jon Snow does it. Boris Johnson does it. And now we are doing it too.

Strike day on the Metro forced us onto two wheels across Paris today, and what a liberating experience it was.

A thwarted attempt to board the only line alleged to be running dictated a breathless half hour time-trial along the River Seine, to hear from the Springboks for the last time before the big kick-off.

For the princely sum of a single Euro each, we hired the kind of bicycle on which postmen used to wobble through leafy English villages, in days gone by.

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Alastair Eykyn

Desolation and delight at the Stade de France (109)

Last night was an education. An illustration of the power of the united collective. A masterclass in ice-cool concentration from England’s sharp-shooter Jonny Wilkinson. And the perfect example of the twin imposters at work.

Immediately after the match, I was in the bowels of the Stade de France, in the flash interview area next to the tunnel, waiting to speak to the men of the moment.

Minutes after Wilkinson’s boot had put an end to the French dream, the players from each side streamed past the door that I was leaning on. The players’ emotions in these moments are always extreme, but having spent many an hour loitering in tunnels and outside changing rooms post-match, microphone in hand, I can safely say I have never witnessed anything quite like it.

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Alastair Eykyn

Carter the unstoppable points machine (59)

Cardiff - We were left in no doubt as to the identity of the World Cup’s biggest star today. The peace and tranquillity of the Vale of Glamorgan country club was shattered by the sound of journalists on the hoof.

A sound not too dissimilar to the migration of the wildebeest across the plains of East Africa. A thunderous stomping from one end of the designated interview room to the other.

The reason? One spiky-haired, fresh-faced, mild-mannered, extravagantly talented fly-half. There’s only one Dan Carter.

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Alastair Eykyn

Ireland's shot at redemption (126)

Paris - It’s time to go now. The Irish squad did not shed too many tears as they headed north-east from Bordeaux to Paris today. For them it marked a place of unhappiness, of isolation, of rumour and counter-rumour, and most of all, of lousy rugby. Yes, the train to the French capital will be seen as a release of sorts, even if what awaits them there on Sunday is fraught with pitfalls.

So after three weeks of under-achievement, of negativity, and navel-gazing, here’s some optimism. Misplaced optimism maybe, but optimism nevertheless. Feel free to add to the list. Here’s why Ireland can qualify for the quarter-finals:

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Alastair Eykyn

Where are you, Brian O'Driscoll? (174)

Paris - What hope an Irish miracle? The faces of the players as they wandered through the interview area in the bowels of the Stade de France on Friday told a story.

For them, the French match was THE one. Defeat has all but condemned them to an early exit, and don’t they know it.

A pall of gloom hangs over the squad, despite the defiant mutterings of the captain and coach. Barring an astonishing turn of events next Sunday, the golden generation have missed the boat.

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Alastair Eykyn

Irish eyes look like crying (140)

Bordeaux - One of these next two paragraphs is a rational assessment of the Irish World Cup campaign.

Georgia are a world class team. Namibia were the fortunate beneficiaries of a surfeit of turnover ball. Training is going well. It’s been tough, because northern hemisphere teams peak in January, not September. Ireland are not far away from putting it all together. Ireland will be better against the French because they know their game. Ireland are playing high risk rugby which will bring dividends against major nations, but which is fraught with danger against others.

Or...

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Alastair Eykyn

To axe or not to axe... (15)

Bordeaux - It’s a funny one, loyalty. Rugby coaches battle with it every week. Which is the preferred policy - the stick or the carrot?

The best in the business can administer both at different times, and with different people. An even-handed approach usually generates respect between the players and management. It also generally provides more consistent results. But what a tough balance it is to find.

When does loyalty cross over into blind faith?

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Alastair Eykyn

Singing Namibia's praises (51)

Bordeaux Someone give these guys a game. Namibia used the biggest stage of all to highlight the problems facing rugby’s so-called "minnows".

Their commitment, passion and unquestionable talent was there for all to see in Bordeaux on Sunday, as they threw an industrial-sized spanner in the Irish works. But how on earth do they progress from here?

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Alastair Eykyn

Cheers to the Irish (51)

Bordeaux - There are plenty of people in France who've written off the Irish World Cup challenge already - and Eddie O'Sullivan's men have yet to take the field.

I was lucky enough to witness that extraordinary opening win for Argentina that broke French hearts.

Now the optimists are all waiting for "Le Backlash".

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Alastair Eykyn

About Alastair Eykyn (0)

I spend the bulk of my working year reporting and commentating on rugby and tennis for Radio 5Live. I'm 32, English and joined the BBC in 2002.

My first proper job in journalism was with Independent Radio News. After 18 months of news reporting, I jumped ship to the sports desk where I spent four happy years covering rugby and cricket, taking in some tasty England tours to South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, along with the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Since moving to 5Live I have continued to cover the rugby, spending an entertaining month travelling with the ill-fated Scottish team to the World Cup in Australia in 2003. I now also commentate on the four tennis Grand Slams for the BBC, and have covered the hockey at the Athens Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

I am still coming to terms with the fact that I have missed the boat to hit a Test century at Lord's, lift the Wimbledon trophy or score a hat-trick of tries at Twickenham. I have to be content with some agricultural batting on the village green, a regular workout on a tennis court, and a hope that my two little boys achieve their own dreams of sporting glory.


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