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Alastair Hignell (archive)

Alastair Hignell

South Africa to win (264)

You can’t predict with any certainty what will happen in sport. That’s why we play it. That’s why we watch it.

And if you could, you wouldn’t share it with the millions of readers who have visited this website in the last few weeks.

You’d remortgage your house, liquidize your assets and cart all your life-savings down to the nearest bookie.

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Alastair Hignell

Crying out for Argentina (109)

Agustin Pichot and his magnificent Pumas will return to Argentina next week to massed crowds, bands and prime-time TV.

Their achievement in becoming the first Argentina side, the first team from outside the IRB founder-nations, to reach the last four of a World Cup, will be rightly saluted.

And while Puma-mania grips Buenos Aires, elsewhere in the rugby world drums will be banged, tables will be thumped and the demand will bellow out, "Something Must Be Done".

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Alastair Hignell

The word is 'non' (80)

Paris - It is not true that the first word a French child learns to utter is “non”. It just feels like it.

The petty bureaucracy for which the Rugby World Cup host country is infamous has, it seems, become even more of an art form.

The stadium entrance you used yesterday, you can’t use today. You‘re not allowed to take this lift - even though it’s the only one that will take you to the press conference. You mustn’t go through that door - even if your accreditation allows you to be on the other side of it.

You can buy a soft drink in the media centre, but not a sandwich - even though the two are stacked next door to each other in the cooling cabinet.

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Alastair Hignell

Advance Australia unfair (103)

Thank God for John O'Neill.

If the chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union hadn’t put it so succinctly, we would never have known. "It doesn't matter whether it's cricket, rugby union, rugby league – we all hate England,"

As a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, it’s one of which Basil Fawlty would be proud.

In recent times Ronan O’Gara and Imanol Harinordoquy, among a whole host of others, have uttered similar sentiments.

Crowds at England’s last two matches, at Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes and the Parc des Princes in Paris, have backed up the theory put forward by head coach Brian Ashton that there won’t be any neutrals at England’s matches.

In fact, several supporters were seen at the Parc wearing T-shirts proclaiming their affiliation to the Gwent branch of the Tongan Supporters Club.

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Alastair Hignell

'Tonga's wing was the size of a small house' (23)

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.

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Alastair Hignell

England leave history behind (36)

Versailles - Based with the England team in Versailles, it’s difficult not to get historical, and far too tempting not to draw parallels.

The vast chateau complex started life as a modest little hunting lodge before Louis XIV decided to make it the envy of the world.

The absolute ruler was so full of himself that he encouraged his subjects to think of him as the Sun King, while coming up with such modest, self-deprecating little sound-bites as “L’Etat, c’est moi!”

Of course, England’s autocrat was only a knight and though Sir Clive is no longer in power he would surely approve of another Louis-like legacy on view in Versailles.

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Alastair Hignell

The luck of the English (38)

Paris - By rights, Brian Ashton should have been born on Friday the 13th, and spent his childhood treading on cracks pavement and playing hide and seek under ladders, before going on to strangle every black cat in the neighbourhood.

If any man could be the exception that proves the rule about sportsmen making their own luck, it is the England coach.

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Alastair Hignell

The Joy of Six (5)

Plus ca change- as the French would say.

In five World Cups since that first tentative venture in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, the All Blacks have always been expected to reach the final and BBC Radio has always been on hand to report the action.

So have I.

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Alastair Hignell

Saying it in style (6)

Versailles

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.

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Alastair Hignell

About Alastair Hignell (0)

I will be 52 during the opening week of Rugby World Cup 2007. This will be my sixth World Cup as a journalist, having acted as anchorman for BBC Radio in 1987, commentated in 1991 for ITV, for whom I anchored the 1995 coverage from South Africa, before returning to BBC Radio, and commentary, for the Rugby World Cups of 1999 and 1993.

As a sportsman in the 1970s, I played rugby for Bristol, Cambridge University( four Blues-1 as captain), Gloucestershire, the Barbarians and England (debut 1975 v Australia,14 caps 1975-79) and cricket for Cambridge University(4 Blues- two as captain) and Gloucestershire ( from 1974-83, capped 1977, century against the West Indies, 1000 runs in a season on 2 occasions).

After graduating with a History degree and a PGCE from Cambridge, I taught at Bristol Cathedral School and Sherborne before joining the BBC in 1985 as a junior sports trainee ( in the same batch, I am told, as John Inverdale, Mark Saggers and football commentator Ian Brown). I moved to HTV in Bristol in 1989 and worked on daily sports programmes as well as rugby documentaries until 1996, when I joined the fledgling Radio Five Live.

I have been married to Jeannie for 27 years and have 2 sons, Adam (25) and Daniel (24). I live in the West Country.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999, but with a lot of help from my friends- especially BBC rugby correspondent Ian Robertson- and a lot of support from my family and the wider sporting world, I have managed to keep working. My electric scooter is now a familiar sight at all the world’s big stadia.

I am patron of the MSRC- all contributions always welcome, please give generously- and I help raise funds for my local MS Therapy centre at Nailsea near Bristol, which I attend weekly for treatment.


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