France v Tonga, RWC2011, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, October 2011
France had lost convincingly to the All Blacks in the previous game, so who knew what was going to happen today. The weather was glorious for this early match, in the sun it was a party atmosphere and the fans all dressed for the occasion. It was the most colourful match in town for teh pools as the French tricoleur came up against the floral red & white army of Tongan fans… the same fans who set the World Cup alight a few weeks earlier whn they stopped traffic in Auckland by turning out en masse for their team’s arrival in the country. Tonga are a force in rugby. They hardly play together outside World Cups, and their players ply their trade in France and the UK - here we tend to focus on Samoa a bit more, but really Tonga have a better record I think. In the face of such staunch local support for the Tongans (and because we still had such great memories of RWC2007 in France), Fi and I dressed for Les Bleus: berets, Stade Toulouse tops, anything red, white & blue… and large fake moustaches. We also hedge our bets a little with large floral lays. Maybe we were backing French Polynesia? The crowd were awesome. Noisy for the whole 80 minutes, and it was a very tight, very scrappy game… very even. Only one try was scored by each team, but Tonga tackled and battled all day, finally edging the French out with 15 minutes or so to go. Their fans went mental. The 15th ranked team in the world had just beaten number 5… and inflicted France’s second loss in the Pool matches. However, teh battle for second spot in the pool to progress was messy, and with Canada beating Tonga, and Japan drawing with Canada, somehow this French team made it through. Bizarre. Daytime international rugby – glorious. We do not get enough of it here.