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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.

Continue reading "Now That's What I Call Tom and Ben (in photos)"


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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Mark Orlovac

The Bloggys (70)

Waterloo station/ a cross channel ferry, Monday - As a final parting World Cup gift, myself, Tom and Ben (remember them?) thought we'd dish out a few prizes from the last seven weeks. First prize goes to all of you, obviously, for reading and joining in and making the blog what it is.

But after you lot, there have been some outstanding, and not so clever, achievements. Here's just a few. Let's call them "The Bloggys". (See if you can spot who wrote which ones!)

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Mark Orlovac

Where do England go now? (107)

Paris – I doubt whether planning for the future of the England team was foremost in the minds of the bleary-eyed fans I saw wandering around the streets of Paris this morning.

After all the partying and heartbreak that accompanied Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa, simply getting home was as far ahead as these weary souls were prepared to look.

But as journalists gathered for player interviews in the bowels of the Stade de France late on Saturday night, some were already looking to next year’s Six Nations.

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Rob Hodgetts

Picking an England team (352)

London - England's World Cup final defeat brings to the end another era and there will be a new-look side when the team take on Wales in the Six Nations opener on 2 February.

Not wholesale changes, maybe, but Jason Robinson has already retired, while others could follow in the coming months. Brian Ashton - or whoever is the coach by then - will have free rein to start again with his selection.

We asked you earlier on Mark Orlovac's blog from Paris to send in your ideas of England's Six Nations starting XV.

From a very rough survey of about 20 replies, we've compiled the following composite England side.

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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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Mark Orlovac

Mind games, James Bond and Gordon Brown (35)

Paris - For a man supposedly not comfortable with the media spotlight, England coach Brian Ashton played a blinder on Friday.

In Friday's final news conference before England play South Africa in Saturday’s World Cup final, Ashton did not look like a man just 80 minutes of rugby away from writing his name in the history books.

He was calm, funny and relaxed, and dare I say it, could he have even been playing a few mind games ahead of the clash at the Stade de France?

Continue reading "Mind games, James Bond and Gordon Brown"


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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Mark Orlovac

Cueto gets the nod (47)

Paris – Luckily, I hadn’t finished my "England call on Hipkiss" feature for today.

The fact that I had even started thinking about writing it shows that for the umpteenth time over the last few weeks, I have been pretty presumptuous about this England team.

It was widely assumed that Dan Hipkiss, the strong-running Leicester outside centre, would be named in the side for Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa following the cruel injury to wing Josh Lewsey.

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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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Mark Orlovac

England locks ready for battle (61)

Paris – It has been quite a strange experience being around the England camp over the last couple of weeks.

You would have thought that as the World Cup has progressed through the knock-out rounds, the tension would have increased. Now they could just be good actors, but I haven't seen any evidence of it.

England, written off and dismissed, are on the verge of becoming the first side to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy but are not feeling the weight of expectation that maybe New Zealand and France did.

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John Beattie

Why all six nations should back England (419)

I know, I know, it might seem a crazy idea, but I’d like all Scots, Welsh, Irish, French and Italians to support England in the rugby World Cup final. What do you think?

Aaargh, stop throwing bricks at me and let me put forward my logic.

You see, when I was a wee boy growing up in Borneo, the UK seemed a long way away. But it also struck me that all of us in the Northern Hemisphere are quite like each other. For instance, you can’t say that someone a mile north of the Scottish border with England is markedly different from someone a mile south of it.

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Rob Hodgetts

Party or pooper? (394)

London - Has England’s emergence in the World Cup final caught you by surprise? No, of course not, you cry. I always had faith.

But did you back your convictions by leaving the diary empty for 2000BST on Saturday, 20 October 2007? (If you are South African, you may have done just that)

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Tom Fordyce

From Cape Town and Dover they came... (74)

The outskirts of Paris, Tuesday - “Confidence,” sang Elvis - “There's no job too immense when you've got confidence.”

While Elvis was a hero to most, he never meant squit to me. But, as I’ve strolled around the streets of Paris in the last few days, the words of the be’quiffed porker have rung in my ears time and time again.

If there’s a Springboks fan out there who isn’t completely and utterly 100% certain that his side will win the World Cup on Saturday night, I’ve yet to meet them.

Continue reading "From Cape Town and Dover they came..."


Mark Orlovac

England ponder Lewsey replacement (104)

Paris – To be honest it wasn't that much of a surprise.

England fans feared the worst when wing Josh Lewsey gingerly limped off the field at the half-time whistle of Saturday’s semi-final victory over France.

And earlier today it was confirmed that a hamstring strain has robbed the Wasps flyer of a chance of playing in his second consecutive World Cup final.

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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

England in the final mood (86)

Paris - The headlines said it all.

“Rageant” (infuriating) and “Une Frustration Infinie” (you can guess what that one means) screamed the press as France awoke after another draining evening with the realisation that for them, their World Cup dream is over.

The French inquest into the events that occurred at the Stade de France was already underway in earnest, with many supporters questioning why Lionel Beauxis was taken off so early in the second half.

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Tom Fordyce

England in dreamland (349)

Paris, early hours of Sunday morning - Words - you fail me. Legs - you can’t hold me. Liver - stand by me.

I’m dreaming. I must be. Except in dreams I’ve never thrown myself into the arms of a bug-eyed, bawling Benjamin Dirs while bellowing myself bandy and thumping myself on the legs like a banjaxed Keith Moon.

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Mark Orlovac

England calm before storm (20)

Paris – I’ll have to be honest here, I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach. It did not take me long to work out the reason why.

After all the hype and build-up, we are just over 24 hours away from Saturday’s massive clash between France and England in the World Cup semi-finals.

The anticipation is building.

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Tom Fordyce

Quelque chose pour le weekend? (92)

The outskirts of Paris, Friday - Just one day to go now until Le Grand Weekend.

Gulp.

Right now, Ben and I are incapable of doing almost anything except run round in ever-decreasing circles, squeaking in schoolgirl fashion before collapsing to the ground like a pair of over-dramatic old luvvies.

Continue reading "Quelque chose pour le weekend?"


Mark Orlovac

England stick with winning formula (40)

Paris – Make a note of the date. It has been quite a momentous day for those of a Red Rose persuasion.

For the first time in almost two years, an England head coach has been able to keep the same starting XV for successive games.

It is an incredible statistic and highlights how injuries and muddled thinking have disrupted the reigning World Cup champions over the last few years.

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Mark Orlovac

Grumpy England look for improvement (40)

Paris – “Don’t worry, be happy”, sang Bobby McFerrin in his 1988 number one hit of the same name.

Jut in case you are too young to know, McFerrin’s song was the most inanely cheery pop song I can remember and is still as infectious now as it was then.

But I would put my house on betting that this particular ditty will not be on any of the mp3 players used by the England pack out here in France. You see, they're not called the "Grumpy Old Men" for nothing.

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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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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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Tom Fordyce

Sweet and sour memories of Marseille (84)

Marseille, Monday morning - There’s no two ways about it – that was without doubt the greatest sporting weekend I’ve ever been involved in.

Marseille this weekend has been a city drenched in beer, tension, disbelief, sorrow, happiness and wild, wide-eyed celebration.

Even now, with the streets finally emptying of campervans, sleeping fans and plastic pint pots, you can still almost feel the excitement bouncing off the sticky pavements.

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