As an avid rugby fan I have naturally been following this year’s Rugby World Cup finals in New Zealand with more than a passing interest. Although unhappy to see my home nation capitulate to the French last weekend, I was glad to see les Bleus overthrow the Welsh on Saturday morning. Not because they deserved to win, but because it will keep the atmosphere alive here in France for another week.
Rumour has it that the Zenith, Strasbourg’s largest concert venue, will be opening it’s doors to fans early on Sunday morning to soak up the big show-down. The result of course is guaranteed – you can be fairly sure that, win or lose, there will be drunken Frenchmen a-plenty by midday.
Media buzz and talk of the giant-killing games of 2007, 1999 and 1994 when French flair overcame the odds to send the All Blacks out of the competition is already saturating the airwaves … partly in an effort to convince the public that anything is possible. Miracles even.
Four years ago, I put the winning edge down to a whisker – literally. It was my view then that the difference between the sides was often nothing more than a well-grown or groomed facial topiary. This time around it seems that hairy faces are once more an important deciding factor. Who can doubt that Marc Lièvremont’s decision to grow a moustache before the encounter with England did not have a significant impact on the result? When Dan Carter was ruled out – did the All Black’s panic? No. They knew that Piri Weepu’s beard would see them through; and it has … so far.
Of course some pundits would put France’s luck down to a dodgy decision by referee Alain Rolland who, quite rightly, red-carded Sam Warburton for almost breaking Vincent Clerc’s spine. (it’s almost as if some rugby commentators believe a red card should only be awarded when someone does break their spine?!) The French coach has been heard talking about a guardian angel, but alas he is as equally deluded, the fact is – they won by a whisker!
So who will win the final? Quite simply whomever has the best goatee ….