I Can Feel It Coming In The Air Tonight – French Style


When I had dreams of being an England player aged 20 I went to France for my degree year, supposedly to teach but ended up working for the Forestry Commission in the Pyrenees. I trained at the local rugby club and it was there they taught me how to pass French style and to run into space. When I started to cut up defences the following year in England and Wales, I didn’t have the heart to say why. The French simply played a different game in those days under the influence of the great Pierre Villepreux and a summer of learning the hard way changed my outlook.

Can you sense what is coming down on the breeze now? A French effort into the 2023 World Cup which will recall the brilliance of a bygone era, and how we mourn the passing of Christophe Dominici who summed up the ‘style francaise’. Or in my time the likes of Mesnel, LaFond, St André and the peerless Sella and Blanco. In a match of crushing conservatism on Sunday, the slashing break of Jalibert and the weaving brilliance of Dulin in attack and defence are in fact the abiding memories.

Of course I felt the drama and loved the return of adrenaline to a rugby occasion. England found the way somehow and barely deserved it but there is no indication they are worried by that. Time to question the coach on tactics? I would and did often. The world class ability of Watson remains unfulfilled and he probably wished he had been substituted earlier. The best contribution from the outrageous talent of Slade was for the 79th minute pushover. Another issue is that the mind and body forgets after a while. When England moved wide they found Daly on a lateral run at half pace and lobbing the ball in Watson’s general direction.

Ford found a beautiful kick in minute 79 for the last line out and we rubbed eyes in disbelief. The rest is silence. However the decision is made and Eddie is clear about it – England keep winning and who complains other than the opposition and the media, who knows (or cares) about the crowd. Meantime the ball is a ‘ ticking time bomb’ according to our current stand off. My humble opinion is that the real underlying problem is at 12 because the talent out wide is undeniable.

The smiles on our face did get wider at the weekend as promised but it was Fiji who supplied the script as they provided a belated reminder at sodden Murrayfield that man for man they could be the best side on the planet. Even the Welsh provided some cheer with the back row running amok with the ball in hand. Oh and the Jalibert/Dulin show. Will they even play in the 6 Nations?

The only issue with making favourites of the French or the English is they seem not to relish the tag – ever. Whether they like it or not, they are currently two of the best sides in the world. Meantime an incredibly well rested Springbok squad will bide their time, although rather undercooked as the Lions start to prowl and come into view.

Thanks for reading,

Hallers