posted on September 19, 2007 07:43
Your blogger's life is revolving around the rugby this week, so much so that we almost forgot about the return of the Champions League. The vast hordes of Irish who were in Bordeaux for the first two games (and let us never talk of them again) are arriving in the capital, as are those supporters flying in just for the two Paris games. By coincidence, the cold weather has arrived too.
So, France v. Ireland in the Rugby World Cup - your blogger is pessimistic to the point of depression. Being away from home makes a person depend all the more on their national team, and these days both the Irish football and rugby sides are making a show of themselves (only the Kerry team are lifting your blogger's spirits). And our record in Paris is terrible.
Even so, the French media and fans are being very sympathetic to the Irish team - if only because they need us to beat Argentina so that they can avoid their nightmare scenario of a quarter-final against the All-Blacks in Cardiff. 'At least you won both games', French fans say, without them having to experience the wierd horror of last-minute try-line defending against the mighty Georgia.
The Rugby World Cup really isn't capturing the general imagination in France. Down south is the game's heartland; places like Toulon and Toulouse and Biarritz where people talk rugby all day anyway.
In Paris and elsewhere, however, it's met by a typically Gallic shrug. There are desperate efforts by both TV and organisers to create a cult of Chabal, the long haired and bearded French forward. Apart from him, most French people only know their rugby players from the nude calendar that Stade Français bring out every year.
But should France get closer to the final, that will change. The 1998 football World Cup in France began with similar apathy, but as Zizou and friends edged towards the final the French public's strong sense of patriotism went wild.
From a Frenchman-on-the-street perspective, the Rugby World Cup only starts with the semi-final, the real business end of the tournament. Anything less will be a disaster - which is why the French team will make no mistakes against Ireland on Friday night.
This month's French Friday club night at Thomas House happens to coincide with the match (it being the third Friday of the month) - so you can watch the rugby on the big-screen before the music starts. Entry is free, the match kicks off at 8:00pm - and the victory dance will start soon after. Groan.More ...