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Posts Tagged ‘jonny wilkinson’

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Early yesterday morning, 7am, and I’m heading to the market in Castres.

We have six coming for lunch, then three others for dinner. On the menu: blackened salmon for lunch and slow cooked lamb shoulder with courgettes for dinner.

It’s going to be a busy day!

As I approach a roundabout on the outskirts of town a large white coach crosses in front of me and for a moment I wonder what day it is. School buses don’t run on Saturdays.

Then I remember.

The coach is full–but these are rugby fans, not school children–at the start of a seven hour journey to Paris.

Last night at le Stade de France in the capital, Castres Olympique replayed last year’s Rugby cup Finale against Toulon.

It was a surprise that Castres CO were in the Finale again–having had a less than spectacular year.

Toulon, however, were in their pomp–having won the Coupe D’Europe the week before and with the legendary Jonny Wilkinson playing his last game before retirement. They were clear favorites.

But they were favorites last year too–and Castres had triumphed against the odds in a nail- biter. So the mood in Castres yesterday morning was excited. On ne sait jamais! [You never know!]

I sent my photographer along to record the feverish atmosphere.

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But it wasn’t to be. This time Goliath was not to be denied!

Toulon won 18 points to 10.

As  Jonny left the field for the last time, “God Save the Queen” played out through the loudspeakers–an extravagant tribute!

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Castres players watching a Wilkinson kick for goal–and their hopes fade.

The big white coach rolled back through the night to Castres, its tired and disappointed CO supporters reflecting on what might have been.

From chatting with local rugby fans, I doubt anyone on board would begrudge Jonny his final triumph. They are a fair-minded lot and they’d be happy just to have been there to see “the Great Boot” laid to rest!

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The great Jonny Wilkinson’s toothy grin as he holds up the trophy

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Seven this morning and I’m on my way to the market in Castres.

I pass through the next small hamlet which has white and blue balloons hanging from the front doors and windows.

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I’m reminded that this evening there is a match in Paris at the Stade de France and that Castres Olympique, whose colours are white and blue, are one of the two teams involved.

It’s the final game of the French rugby season–which decides the top team of 2013.

I continue on my way but am held up by a large white coach gallumphing through the narrow country lanes. I get close enough to see it’s full of people.

Seven o’clock on a Saturday morning! Never seen such a sight.

Ah!–must be on their way to Paris for the match.

I pass several small groups of bleary eyed people gathered round single cars all wearing tell-tale blue and white scarves and hats–must be on their way to Paris for the match!

I later learn from the fish-stall in the market that 39 coaches are doing the seven hour trip up the motorway.

A number that has increased at each stall I shop at!

Ten thousand people are on their way, I’m told.

No wonder the market seems empty–not just because the weather is dismal, making it difficult to grow things–everyone’s on their way to Paris for the MATCH!

And why not? This could be an historic day. Castres Olympique last won the cup in 1993. Twenty years is a long time to wait for another chance.

But it is going to be tough.

Toulon, the opposing team, are favourites by some way and they have the advantage of English rugby-man Jonny Wilkinson’s right foot–a dangerous limb. He makes a habit of kicking teams to victory. He won the last-but-one World Cup for England on the last kick of the game.

Castres maybe sparsely populated this morning but it’s awash with blue and white–and those left in the market are buzzing with anticipation.

Dominique–from whom we buy our cheese–has two short stripes–white and blue of course–painted across each cheek.

Tribal signs are everywhere. Balloons in shop windows, pendants hanging from lampposts and car aerials–no-one dare not display their allegiance today.

I meet our neighbour Maïte–always early to the Saturday market and we talk–about which channel to watch the game on. She recommends Channel 2.

I say everyone is so excited and happy.

Ouishe says doubtfully–but there could be tears before bedtime.

(Could have been my mother speaking!)

Well yes, but as the French also often say so wisely:

On ne sait jamais! [You never know!]

Kickoff at 8.30pm!

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