Rugby Union, Twickenham, Writing

All things English…

On 4th February, I was among 82,000 other rugby fans excitedly making their way into Twickenham stadium for England’s first RBS Six Nations game of 2017 versus France. Up until last September I had only watched a handful of rugby games on TV, not really understanding what was going on and constantly asking “what’s happening?” – extremely annoying I’m sure if you know what it is going on and just want to enjoy the game! Since then I have seen the best player in the world (Dan Carter) and went to my first international game in October; Australia v Argentina, a game I found exciting, action packed and high-scoring.

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‘Le Crunch’ – England v France. The national flags.

However, I wanted to experience Twickenham when it was at capacity, with 80,000+ people belting out the national anthem and being in a place where so many people are united for 80 minutes, there for the same reason, all with the same agenda. Something quite romantic about that. As we entered the stadium I felt as excited a kid on Christmas morning. I was just very aware of how lucky I was to have a ticket to see England play in a Six Nations game at Twickenham – as far as I can gather, tickets are like gold dust! It was also exciting to watch an English side, who had up until this game, won 14 games on the bounce – an English record.

I remember watching the 2015 world cup with my boyfriend and hating every second because England were so poor and didn’t even get out of the group. After the appointment of Eddie Jones and Dylan Hartley as captain, a resurged England side went on to win the Grand-slam and dismantled an Australian side down-under. Again, I’m no expert, but as a sports fan even I recognise what an achievement and accomplishment it is to beat the Aussies in their own backyard and to have those bragging rights until the next time they meet. Well it’s because of these successes that made me even more excited to watch England. English cricket is very up and down – one Ashes series could result in a whitewash (England will always be on the receiving end of this particular hiding), or England will completely blow Australia away and the whole country will be interested in cricket for a couple of months. As for English football, well, less said about that the better really. The rugby players always show immense pride and passion when pulling on the shirt; for me they sort of restore my faith in sportsman – not playing for the money, but because they are in love with their sport and want to give something back to the faithful crowds that watch them through the good and bad, shit weather and more importantly, for themselves.

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Anyway, when the players walked out of the tunnel and hearing the crowds sing the national anthem, I had goosebumps on my body and have never felt so patriotic. I thought to myself, this is what England is good at – getting behind a team and such an adoration for sport. As for the game, it wasn’t much to write home about. Mainly because the referee gave France a lot of penalties and scrums and I didn’t understand why, but I am trying to learn and to watch other games – not just international ones. Between 60 and 65 minutes I felt genuine fear that we were going to lose (England were 16-12 down at the time) and I just thought “bloody typical, the time I come to watch England on a winning run they lose!”. Luckily, Jones made some good substitutions and these paid off as they gave the other players an extra surge in energy and the belief that they could come from behind and snatch an undeserved win. Up until the 71st minute there was a feeling of apprehension and frustration among the English supporters – but when Ben Te’o came on and scored the try the stadium exploded more with relief than anything else. As Farrell scored the conversion, I was surprised at the jubilation I felt. I didn’t realise how desperately I wanted England to win and the deep level of frustration I felt. In a weird way I enjoyed it – purely because of the liberation of stealing the game from under ‘Les Bleus’ noses and just being able to experience (at this moment) another historic moment in England’s rugby history.

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