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Published: October 29th 2007
With Heather appearing a bit confused about who to support
The months of September and October saw the Rugby World Cup being hosted in France (with some help from Wales and Scotland - who co-bid with France to stop England getting the hosting gig). Of course, I had to get a piece of the action!
Way back in November last year I purchased tickets to the Australia v Wales game in Cardiff and quarter-finals for the winner of Australia's pool (a leap of faith at the time, because the Wallabies were not performing that well!!)
Finally, September 15 rolled around, and a group of 16 Aussie mates (among many, many other Aussies) headed to Cardiff. We came by car, bus, train and plane (three people came over from Sydney... ) all ultimately converging on a (very crowded) pub in town for a pre-game beverage.
We then headed to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Out of the tens of thousands of seats at the stadium, I ended up sitting right next to some of the people I knew (although otherwise surrounded by Welsh). Despite the lovely weather the roof of the stadium was closed, which seemed to make the grass pretty slippery for the players. While the play
Winning our line out
pity about our srummaging......
displayed by the Aussies was not great (lots of gaps left in the line) luckily some slow play the ball by the Welsh meant the Aussies managed to hold on and win with a respectable 32 - 20.
The Welsh are lovely in defeat, and the night of celebration after the game was great fun. Can't say I really saw much of Cardiff, although I did see the outside of the castle, but had a great time just the same! Was great to catch up with Hilly, Mike and Jo from Sydney too!
Watched lots of the other games in the pub. Was pretty happy with the improving form of the Aussies (and, just quietly, the poor form of the English - a 36 - 0 loss to South Africa seemed indicative). Really enjoyed some of the games, especially the tenacity of the Argentinians, Tongans and Samoans.
THEN there was Marseille.
Headed to that game with my brother and a couple of his mates to watch at Stade Velodrome.
Look, I would be exaggerating to say it was the worst night of my life (hmmmm 22 November 2003 anyone?), but was not happy with the
performance of the Aussies. We played without spirit, and the English (much as I hate to say it) deserved to win.
Luckily, even Aussies can be gracious in defeat, so headed where all disappointed Aussies go when they lose - to the Irish pub. I kept my Wallabies jersey on, and boy - was that a conversation starter!! I had groups of English blokes sing me my own rendition of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, and - more inventively - the theme song to ‘Home and Away’, followed immediately by ‘Sons and Daughters’ (impressive - I don’t even know the words to that!!!).
I spent the evening becoming resigned to supporting NZ for the rest of the comp.
That evening, joined the throngs in the main square where a big screen was set up to watch the NZ v France game. Then the unthinkable happened. Oops, sorry we ARE talking about NZ - they choked again and France ran away with the game! Was great to see the French crowd get louder and louder and louder with their cries of ‘Allez les Bleus’ as the game progressed. Of course - a big night of celebrations followed in Marseille.
What had happened to the great Southern Hemisphere rugby teams? The proper world order was upset (but, on the plus side, at least I did not have to support NZ for long!)
The next day, I tried to avoid the celebrating English before the long 7 hour TGV and Eurostar journey back to London (funny - did not seem as long on the way TO the game!) as I checked out a few of the sights in Aix en Provence ( a town near Marseille where we stayed as there was no accommo available in Marseille). It was lovely - heaps of markets. Oh, to live in France and buy your groceries from the local Saturday fruit and veg market.
Unfortunately, while Australia was out of the tournament, England was not. And they continued to win!!
I was forced to endure more ‘special’ versions of ‘Swing Low’ as saw the semi at a ‘Rugby’ themed birthday party, where we had to wear Rugby kit. (I’d be happy never to hear that song again.) Could not find any cheap French or Argentinean gear, so had to go Aussie (and you can imagine what a struggle that was).
Then, along came the final and the clearest sign yet that the world order was upset - I found myself actually wishing for a Sth Africa win. I never thought that would happen. It’s not that I begrudged England a win. I just could not stand the thought of a world for the next four years, every time the Aussies beat England in a sporting event (which will hopefully be frequently - loving a great sporting rivalry!), the English would be able to come back with ‘But who is the only country to win back-to-back RWC championship?’
Disaster averted. Thanks Sth Africa.
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