New Zealand v Romania, RWC2007, Toulouse, September 2007
Toulouse was a cracker. The annointed home of French rugby really put it on for this game, providing a full World Cup Village down on the banks of La Garonne, with numerous bars and big screens for all the fans to watch the games. Situated about halfway between the downtown and the Stade de Toulouse - which is on an island in the middle of the river - the village was the first real example we had seen so far of a host city really providing a focal point for visiting (and local) fans. Add to that, the table service at the outdoor bars, the large plasma screens and naturally the chance to wind down after the All Black game and watching some more amazing rugby, well it added up to a brilliant day. Afterwards we all agreed that the All Blacks should revisit Toulouse as soon as possible, at the expense of Marseille if need be. We all really enjoyed Toulouse - every bar we went to the locals were rugby pundits - Lyon and Marseille did not have that vibe. My favourite was the barman of a place down by the University that had so many old rugby jerseys and socks hanging on the wall that the place smelt like a changing room. He was convinced that his French team were true quality, but that Bernie La Porte is a nutter. The previous game against Scotland had let doubts into my mind; we just did not look convincing, but the game versus Romania restored some faith. We were sitting right on the touch line and the passing was relentless - our backs were hurling the ball at each other, simply willing the moves to continue, to their glorious conclusions. The crowd were “Ooohing“ and “Aaahing” at everything we pulled off, and though they also cheered Romania on as much as they could, the utterances of such Anglo-French words as “magnifique” were clearly aimed at the All Blacks. Our drinking buddy from Edinburgh Keith Robinson returned and Nick Evans was excellent. Add to that Aaron Mauger anchoring things and the adaptability of our squad in general, and it all looked much better for the quarter final. And so far, no injuries. Lets face it, when Mauger had a big game, the All Blacks won in convincing, though not necessarily flashy, style . It all made us feel that with loose units like Michalak and Pointrenaud in their team, the French had far more worries with handling pressure and preventing les explosions de brain than we did. Ah, the optimism of youth.