(estimated 4 minute read time)
Anytime the French come to Twickenham it’s a huge occasion. ‘Le Crunch’ has captured the imagination of fans both in England and across the channel and what was about to unfold on the historic ‘Cabbage Patch’ turf will live long in the memory of all the attended.
A bright day greeted us at Twickenham and hours before kick-off we knew the French were in town which strains of La Marseillaise says echoing around the streets close to the stadium.
As the doors of The Green Room opened, eager guests flocked in ready for a huge game of Six Nations rugby – could England possibly get a result against the world #2 ranked team or would this French juggernaut roll into Twickenham trampling Steve Borthwick’s hopes?
As the conversation throughout the room bubbled like the Champagne, a delicious three course menu was served which included a mouth-watering herb crusted lamb rump and a delectable Opalys caramel mille-feuille.
As our guests enjoyed the finest of fine dining, it was time for a selection of rugby legends to take to the stage. Pre-match, we heard from Rugby World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Tindall, Ben Kay, Will Greenwood, Phil Vickery and Sir Clive Woodward as well as Joe Marler, Austin Healey and former Leicester Tigers hooker Benjamin Kayser representing France.
As our legends regaled hilarious stories of yesteryear, the sense of anticipation in the room began to build ahead of the big game. Chatting to Joe Marler, he just wanted to see some “jouer” from England and a “performance for the fans to get excited about.” Mike Tindall predicted a “narrow England win” whilst Will Greenwood agreed with his former England centre partner, feeling that a resurgent England could perhaps get the better of a French team that had not won at Twickenham since 2005.
Benjamin Kayser of course predicted a tight victory for his French side and Phil Vickery, former England captain and Rugby World Cup winner in 2003 had a vision of a 45-15 victory for the men in blue. Were England about to get smashed at the hands of the French?
Apparently, it was only Phil Vickery that could have predicted what was about to happen. After 7 minutes the French had run in their first try and a few minutes later a second followed. Charles Ollivon, Gregory Aldritt and the French pack were imperious and with Jonathan Danty restored in the French centre, ‘Les Bleus’ were looking dangerous.
With his dummies, clever kicks over the defence, and powerful running, Antoine Dupont run the show at scrum half and is well on his way to perhaps becoming the greatest ‘petit general’ the French have ever had. England succumbed to wave after wave a French power. Absolutely helpless at the hands of such a dominant pack, England never established front-foot ball and aside from a Freddie Stewart try, were never able to get a complete foothold in the game.
Flament, Ollivon and Penaud each bagged a brace of tries as ‘Les Bleus’ inflicted England their largest ever home defeat. It was England’s third worst defeat in history and a truly awful day for the men in white. Of those England fans that sat through the miserable weather, they could not have been pleased with the result. It must be said however the French were sublime – très magnifique, Champagne rugby at its best, filled with balance, poise, and utter ferocity.
Upon returning to the green room post-game French fans were jubilant and England fans were shellshocked, quite unsure what they just witnessed. Surely things can only get better for England fans, Steve Borthwick and his young England team, however next week it won’t get much easier for England as they challenge world number one team Ireland at home in Dublin as they battle for a Grand Slam.
Despite the Gallic obliteration of England the mood in The Green Room remained jovial throughout the day as our legends did their best to console them! As ‘Allez Les Bleus’ rang around the bars and restaurants late into the night and our guests disappeared to continue the revelry, The Green Room said goodbye to Twickenham for another year and we’re already excited to be back for the 6 Nations 2024 when Wales and Ireland come to town…