It’s Wednesday before the match and it feels like everyone I know is getting tickets and so on for the final. With each person that admits their guilt (that they are going without me) my jealousy pangs get worse.
Thursday evening and a text comes through from Louisa. It went along the lines of Paddy has decided that he can’t face the idea of heading over to the final and so if you want the train ticket, it’s yours. Cue a mass of hysterical screaming, tears, jumping up and down and “I’m going to Paris! I’m going to Paris!” The only thing that I lacked was a match ticket, of which I was hopeful I would be able to get near the stadium, but was reassured that the atmosphere in the rugby village would be just as good – I just didn’t care, I was going to Paris!!
I am not sure how I survived work on Friday or more like, how they coped with me! I had an inane smile on my face all day apparently, totally unable to construct any sentences that made any sense apart from – I’m going to Paris for the World Cup Final!
My heart was in my mouth queuing up to check in for Eurostar on the Saturday morning, the excitement was almost uncontrollable I kept pinching myself it was all real and actually happening to me! ‘What on earth are you going to be like later?’ my travelling companions kept asking. I hated to think!!
Once in Paris I was like a child in a sweetshop, so much to take in – so little time! My fellow travellers were veterans of the World Cup 2007 and were amused by my reaction to the decorations and such the like that were on display in the Gara De Nord. We headed straight to the stadium on a well over packed RER train to collect the tickets for the other two and buy programmes in advance so that we did not have to carry them later.
My best friend and her husband I knew were around the stadium and so after a phone call we realised that they were actually only 20 metres in front of us and walking towards us; photos taken and squeals of excitement shared we parted and we moved on round to collect the tickets for the other two. When watching the others collect theirs and the excitement that followed for them, a very very large knot formed in my stomach on top of the others that were already there. I knew I just had to get into the stadium and get a seat with almost sensible prices. I could feel the devastation creep over me and the realisation that, for me, just being in Paris wouldn’t ever actually just do. Holding it together and celebrating with my friends was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do.
The hotel turned out to be the literal 50m walk from the stadium that I was told and once inside the room we layered up for the night ahead. I was in two minds whether to stay in the room and in the warmth and watch it on tv or not. I don’t think I was coping with the ‘I still don’t have a ticket’ thing and was beginning to lose any shred of hope of getting a ticket by the second. I texted my best mate in case anyone in her corporate area did not turn up, highly unlikely however – but it was worth a try.
We headed down to the Rugby Village (San Denis) where the atmosphere was electric. The final may be SA v England but all nations were being represented in here in some of the most fabulous ways. This is what I LOVE about rugby though – the ability to throw all nations into a large open space surrounded by temporary bars, a lot of alcohol, some rugby balls, a beach ball several HUGE flags and thousands of people here for the ride, not a care in the world just wanting to be a good game of rugby and have a memorable weekend.
Whilst eating our supper of lasagna and white wine, I went very quiet and spent a lot of time just soaking up the atmosphere, taking in all of the sights – and there were a fair few of them!! Chebals, Knights, kilts, bowler hats, the Queen a mass of face paint and a continuous chorus of Swing Low. I was here, I had made it, I was IN Paris, it was the World Cup Final and I WAS HERE!! But I still had no ticket. Having met up with friends of friends (Falcons supporters driving back after the match and a drink to catch the home match against us – mad!) a decision was made to start walking towards the stadium along with the masses with all five of us keeping our ears to the ground for any reasonably priced tickets on sale.
My stomach turned and the shakes arrived from nerves. The place was heaving and I invested in a Ref link in the vain hope that I would get a ticket and also as a memento. We carried on through the masses. I’d lost them in the crowd 1 in front of me the rest vanished – aaaahhhh. Suddenly a hand appeared, my name being shouted in desperation with ‘We’ve got one! We’ve got one!’ That knot in my stomach flew up to my throat. I could be moments away from having a ticket I could feel the tears welling and the total inability to speak any sense come back. I felt as sick as a dog. Oh god oh god oh god was it real? Where was it? How much? Having already got official ones my ‘real’ ticket was closely inspected by the others and passed with a seal of approval. Where was it? North Stand 16 rows from the front behind the posts – superb!! The price, ahhhh! How much was I expecting to pay and more to the point how much was I prepared to pay?! Decisions had to be made instantaneously and the phrase ‘stuff it!’ came to mind. I paid E35 less than he was asking thanks to a translation error on price and I was off after hugging and kissing Nicolae – the seller.
I walked through the crowds staring at my ticket soaking in exactly what I had in my hand. I was like Charlie with the Golden friggin ticket. The emotion to follow, the exhaustion tomorrow from all the energy burned. The next worry was as to whether it was real or not. I was TOTALLY unprepared for the fact that I might not be able to get in still – it could be a very good fake. Or, stolen? I handed my ticket to the guard with one eye open and my shoulders hunched, I was ushered forward after the green light appeared. OH MY GOD! This was it, I was in, I as actually going to be there in the stadium. I waved at the others at the gate to let them know then . . . . . broke down. Now we are not talking a few tears here, we are talking Niagara fucking Falls from the eyes with short intakes of breath too – nearly hyperventilating. A lovely sight to see I am sure! But was I happy? You have no idea, trust me! No-one could have been more ecstatic more like. I was far too nervous to even walk to my seat straight away in fear of just totally losing it. I decided that there were 3 phone calls I had to make. I was in the perfect state to call the parents and admit that I was never planning on just watching on some big screen and that I had just paid what I had for a ticket that I had every intention of finding. (They though that the Rugby Village would do on the big screen – how little they really know me!!!) I phoned my friends under the Eiffel tower who were without hotel and had driven over to watch it there. I was sworn at badly and then hung up on – jealous?!! I then called a rugby playing friend who had been reassuring me since Thurs evening that I would find a ticket –how right he was. He seemed as emotional as I was that I had actually managed to get one – bless! I then texted several people (am dreading the phone bill) namely my season ticket neighbour, Rach who was up in Newcastle with the rest of the Supporters’ on a trip that I was meant to be on and had fully paid for. I calmed down – well, a little – and went to my seat. My superb last min Rugby World Cup Final seat. I was off again, this was turning into far too an emotional day to say the least and the match hadn’t even started!
Texts flew everywhere before and during the match. I was sat next to Nicolae and several other French who clearly thought that I was the funniest thing ever!! Female, on her own, at the Rugby World Cup Final screaming so loudly that she shouted herself horse well before the end of the first half. The match itself was tense to put it mildly but waiting for that Cueto ‘try’ result well, time stood still I was uncontrollable I wanted a drink, a fag, my Mum, Bunny to cover my eyes, another drink and someone I knew to grab hold of during the anxious moments. Instead I chewed a hole in the Bath bangers that I was creating a lot of noise with previously. So close, but not that disheartening as I initially thought. I think that I sat down saying oh well. It’s fair to say that several decisions did not go our way – but at the end of the day it’s a game and not a war. I cheered SO loudly when our SoS came on, at least one of ‘my boys’ would be playing. I still firmly believe that Borthers would have been a better choice for the line outs – I didn’t realise until later quite how many we had actually lost.
Coming back to our hotel after our venture into town on another seriously over packed train, I could still feel the smile on my face, still not quite believing that I was actually here. We had lost but put up a bloody good fight, a fantastic turnaround from 36 days previously. The boys did us proud to say the least. ‘Little Taitey’ this time last time round was watching it from his 6th form Common Room and there he was putting on a stunning performance and taking it all in his stride – you’ve just played a World Cup Final! I would have been a nervous wreck! We had a drink in a bar near the Gara de Nord and had chips and sang songs with the clientele in there at the top of our voices and then made a move for bed and some beauty sleep. We noticed on the way back how few SA’s there seemed to be around the place celebrating.
We arrived back in the hotel at about 2 in the morning and there were loads of people in the foyer. One of the friends that I was travelling with spotted someone who she had met previously and she was standing next to a man who I recognised and was racking my brains to try to work out where I knew him from. He was clearly looking at me and thinking the same thing. SUCH a small world, it turned out to be my mother’s first cousin. When I last saw him I had way shorter hair and he was sober and so I was fairly impressed that I did not have to remind him who I was. We blurted out each other’s name at the same time. It was quite funny really. Couldn’t wait to phone the parents the next morning to tell them!
Sunday morning 7am alarm – really?? Do I have to get up? Oh yes, yes you do – the taxi was coming to pick us up at 7:40am to take us to the team hotel where we were going to be on live TV – BBC1 Breakfast at the equivalent of 7:30am UK time – what a way to round it all off! Keeping coats on for as long as possible the presenter – Chris Hollins- told us very briefly what he would ask us and the next thing that we knew we were on air! LIVE TV for god’s sake LIVE TV!! It was over in a flash and I really can’t remember anything that I said or was asked but hoped that the en mass text had been received by all to watch it. I did have a phone call from mother who, amusingly, I was talking to whilst leaping over flower beds in front of the team hotel as Sky had hijacked us and we would be on air with them in about 2 mins. I shouted down the phone to Mum to turn over to Sky. The interview was MUCH longer but we were all far more relaxed, dab hands at this live TV interviewing now! We came inside for a coffee after it was all over and we had many giggles – again totally unable to recall what we had said or even had been asked. We warmed up and then tried to work out where we were going from here and BBC were clearly not going to pay for the taxi back but bless one of the Sky blokes, he sorted out our taxi back to the hotel. We did find it highly amusing that we had groupies when we came back into the hotel to get a coffee – evidently Sky had been playing in the hotel bar and we were kindly complimented on our interviewing skills!! So players spotted – 2, Simon Shaw, with no shoes, writing his column on the pc in the lobby for the Evening Standard and Andy Gomersall sounding VERY horse looking very much like he was just coming in from a very long night or after a very early breakfast! My vote is with the latter!! Live TV appearances -2 and personal groupies – 3!
We spent the afternoon sitting and eating and consuming Kir Royals before alighting the Eurostar back home to some sleep. We moved to our special compartment aptly known as the sin bin with complementary wine drunk out of Eurostar glasses while we played England Rugby Heroes Top Trumps and ate Malteasers surrounded by England flags hung up and used as a table-cloth, much to the amusement of the staff.
We even met yet another groupie – this was starting to become a habit! He and his wife had previously spotted us walking up the train and then actually came to find us to congratulate us on our media appearances, both of which they had seen this morning, live! He appeared in the door way of the little compartment a little out of breath exclaiming ‘found you at last!’ we all looked at each other as if to say do you know him before he explained why he had semi stalked us! Oh how we giggled!! Finally walking through arrivals of Eurostar at what ever time it was still adorned with flags England strip and the face tattoos (well just me!) we were papped like celebrities by a photographer from The Times. We were laughing so much as we walked out we were asked if we minded going back and looking a bit sort of somber. Well this had us going even more. I looked away from the camera & chewed my cheeks, Louisa was the most convincing & Adam – nope Adam couldn’t help laughing! But we made page 7 of The Times on the Monday morning!!
How can I sum up this weekend, concisely? Emotional I think is definitely the main word but I am so proud of the boys and the gut wrenching performance they put in. I was particularly sad to see Robinson limping off. I have now seen his final club and country appearance. Mainly though I am still wearing my shirt with pride. I am English. . .. . . . and proud.