When my husband asked me if I wanted to come to Marseille to see England versus Australia I thought two things. One, I’ll see Jonny Wilkinson in the flesh and two, it will be a fun day out, although we will lose.
I first became interested in rugby at university. I had a rugby-playing boyfriend called Otley. I once went with his family to watch him play. I stood on the edge of a frozen field trying to make intelligent conversation through chattering teeth. At one stage Otley’s rather austere Yorkshire born and bred father turned to me and said: “You know absolutely nothing about this game, don’t you?”
He had a point. Then my best friend started going out with Will Carling, just as he started to play for England. He became captain and we learnt (some of) the rules as we watched him, Rob Andrew and Jeremy Guscott with increased interest.
Yesterday though was my first live World Cup game. I didn’t really know what to expect. But what amazed me was how totally passionate I became as soon as I saw our boys on the field. I cannot speak today as I am hoarse from yelling and singing Sweet Chariot. Rupert says he has never known anyone get so enthusiastic about a game of rugby. I think what happened was that there was such passion and determination on the pitch that it rubbed off on me.
I loved every minute of it. Well, apart from the minutes I was thinking we would lose, because those minutes were pure torture. I don’t think I’ve been this stressed since my finals. In fact they were a doddle in comparison. I must have lost half a stone through anxiety. There are worse ways to lose weight.
The feeling of euphoria when we won was overwhelming. And although it was only a quarter final, it was better than when Jonny (and yes, he is EVEN more gorgeous in real life, sadly he failed to notice me despite my custom-made ‘Jonny you can tackle me anytime’ T-shirt) kicked the winning kick in the last World Cup final. There is nothing like being there.
Having said that, any voice I did have left was used to cheer on the French on TV when we got home. When they scored a try Rupert and I screamed so loudly Olivia came rushing downstairs and told us to “be quiet before you wake the whole village up”.
Well done France, a brilliant effort. I’m thrilled for them. But if my voice is back by Saturday I will of course be cheering for England, even if it’s only from my local bar.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007