Happy Friday and it's off to Headquarters tomorrow for the France match. I'm so excited I could scream like a little girl with her fingers trapped in a car door. Bit pathetic really for a middle aged man but there we have it. The recurring joy of three pints of Guinness before and after a game shared with 82,000 like minded souls is a joy to cherish and one that remains undimmed, unlike most other things in my life.
Of course the odd stick is thrown into the spokes but we never quite fall off. Twickenham itself doesn't help with its ridiculous DJ prompting, ersatz piped singing and fireworks before kick off which is all as banal as it is unnecessary. Just leave the crowd be and the rugby will take care of the atmosphere. The growing "Engurland," element in the crowd is contemptible and so far resisting all attempts at retraining but we'll get there. Other gripes include the £1 deposit for a beer glass which effectively has just increased the queues and people who hold up queues even more when they pay for a beer with cards, "no, go away unwashed student person.... we don't use cards for a beer," and the loud mouthed Welshman that I always seem to have sitting behind me, wherever I am in the stadium, giving me a running commentary.
I was going to add to this some negative comments about the "kicking" game which is in vogue this year. I find it as irritating now as I did when Jonathan Webb used to hoof the ball down the park in the late eighties / early nineties in a two man game of aerial ping pong. I was going to say these things come in cycles. Actually, having taken a cursory look at the stats, I would have been talking drivel which, is not at all unusual.
With thanks to rugbyworld.com, we discover that in the England game, Ireland kicked the ball 38 times. Since 2009, a sample of 99 matches, we also see that a total of 38 kicks is the 21st highest in that period and the same number that England recorded against Wales last year. While there has been more talk on the subject the actual number of kicks in the games is pretty consistent. You can read more about the geeky stats at rugby world, (games catching up with American Football in the statistician department). I wanted though, to make a very simple point. Much sports media attention, and after match pub chat has focused throughout the tournament on the use of kicks from both an attacking and defensive perspective. There is just one wee, incy, wincy flaw in this Northern Hemisphere introspection.
That would be the Southern Hemisphere currently licking their lips at the prospect of all these high balls raining down on them, gifting possession.
I also wanted to just mention the French who have been in a world of pain and confusion in recent years. Some of the best and most memorable rugby I've ever watched has been with Les Bleus as it has for us all, (France v NZ 1999 at Twickenham, best match I've ever witnessed). Obviously, England fans know all about pain and confusion so I wanted to tip my hat to Philippe Saint-Andre who, rightly or wrongly, is enduring the worst of it and his 1991 try against England, voted in England's centenary year, 2009, the best try ever scored against us at Twickenham.