New Zealand v Italy, RWC2007, Marseilles, September 2007
I am ditching gigs for a few days because we have reached Rugby World Cup 2007. Category A package booked, and we headed off to the South of France with some mates for the first two pool games - Marseilles and Lyon - and the week in between touring the region. Aix en Provence, where we were staying, is a gorgeous small town about 35 mins on a train from Marseille, but since UK Train Company Management Techniques must have spread to France, its suddenly a 60 min bus ride. Marseille awoke on match day to a swarm of Black clad drinkers; the Vieux Port was heaving with Kiwis, and AB fans from other countries ... French, Italian, even 3 Dutch guys Jonesy met who had driven through the night from Holland to get here. The main roundabout in the centre of town was decked out in a double life size Wicker Man XV doing a haka. At that stage we were unsure whether they torched an Edward (Clive) Woodward effigy in it later, but nevertheless it was pounced upon by snap happy Kiwis in the thousands. Pleased to say that our seats in the expensive package were worth the extra dosh: 10 metre line about 4 to 5 rows back. Fi was convinced she could see Dougie Howlett’s VPL when he was stretching. The crowd was at first pro NZ, but I think many French began to whistle us and felt sorry for the Azzuri ... just in sympathy, not anything bad. The reaction the Italian tries got was very loud. All up, a good atmosphere, and a good game. Not tense or a classic because nothing was really at stake yet, but Richie, Howlett, Leon M and the Locks looked in top nick. And no one got hurt. In teh end we scored 11 tries, and won 76-14. Play of the day was Jerry Collins’ chip and chase. Just the sort of thing that winds up the purists at The Times ... forwards playing like backs. The atmosphere there was great. The French were warming up to this big time, even after their scare against the Pumas, they had to stay in this ... no host would be bad. Next was 5 days of holiday before the Lyon game. Never missed London at all. It was awesomely sunny, and the food is incredible. Oh, and the wine is very, very cheap. “Jonesy, you must try this rosé.” Loving the pool games… as a weak tie-in here’s ‘Sweet Water Pools’ by The Screaming Blue Messiahs.