Having spent the weekend in France, this update is dedicated to a weekend of great rugby, dubbed as having two miracles by some of my friends from France. I was quite lucky to attend both the England vs Australia game in Marseilles and the Argentina vs Scotland match in La Stade de France.
Saturday was truly an amazing day in my 20 + years of rugby. I have some great friends who were kind enough to take me down to Marseilles for the England/Australia game. We left in the morning via the high speed TGV train (200mph on the straights) to Avignon. Interesting side note is given the train can make the south of France in 2.5 hours, and many other locations outside of Paris in 1-2 hours there are essentially few to no flights to those areas, as the train is more convenient and comfortable. Also, it’s now convenient enough to go back and forth that there are many people choosing to live in the South of France and work in Paris. They commute to the city for a few days a week and then spend the long weekend in the South which has a much better quality of life. I met a great family living this lifestyle and heard of some folks even living in the South and working London, again using the train for the commute. So the act of installing a high speed train is changing the demographics of Paris….interestingJ
Marseilles is a great venue for a rugby match; the stadium is built low, and close to the pitch, and the town is a typical beach city with many outdoor cafés and bars. Coming from Seattle, enjoying a beer outside in the 75 degree weather and sunshine was a treat in itself with the match being an additional bonus. I went to the game with my friend from Paris and his friend and his son from Avignon all of whom have played and love rugby. We started with a few drinks in a local pub, a train ride to the stadium, and then some great seats in the try-zone. The stadium was mixed 50/50 with supporters from both sides and the atmosphere was amazing. As was the case in 2003 Wilkinson beat the Australians with the boot and great support from his forwards. We started the day saying that England beating Australia would be a miracle and by the end of the match that miracle had occurred. It was clearly a different team that showed up from England on Saturday, and the match was outstanding.
After one more beer in the sub we headed back to Avignon for a lovely home cooked meal in a 350 year old French home (yes their house is older than my country) and then settled in for miracle number two. Watching the French team beat NZ …or NZ choke, depending on your perspective… with some true French fans was another treat. Add in a Cuban cigar which is not illegal in France, a good hi-def signal and you’ve got another great backdrop for miracle number two. Overall having the opportunity to enjoy a full day of world class rugby in a world class setting is one of those highlights in travel experiences you always remember. Next week with England versus France should be a quite a treat for those going.
Sunday morning we took the TGV back to Paris for some rest in the early part of the day and then two more matches. For the SA/Fiji match I relaxed in front of the TV and watched that one on my own. It was another great match with Fiji scoring two quick tries in the middle that made it look like there was a chance for miracle number three. That said SA held on and in my view is headed towards the being the champion this year. In the evening one of my friends/colleagues from the French subsidiary took myself and another colleague to Le Stade de France for the Scotland/Argentina match. In support of my Scottish friends I had my (dark) blue and white on, but was in the minority as the stadium had a predominance of Argentinean (light) blue and white. I was told that there is a deep connection between the Argentinean team and France with many of the players from the world cup squad playing their professional rugby in Paris. So the stadium was rocking to the songs of the Argentinean supporters and the atmosphere was great. The game was good, though using the up and under as a strategy versus a tactic can get a bit dull, and Scotland, for the life of them, could not hold onto the ball in the loose. Scotland did start to actually play in the last 10 minutes but by then it was too late. Argentina had the passion, the fan support, and the will to win that worked in their favor. I was happy with the win as having a non –traditional team in the final 4 is really a boon for rugby as we try and grow the sport. Heck maybe the US in the final four next time J
On Monday it was back to work, but having the opportunity to take a few breaks like this from the real world is a true blessing and I thank my existing and new friends for taking me and my family for letting me go J
Here is a view from Marseilles, too good not to share, and for the real experts in rugby check out www.rucku.com