I'm not really sure where the summer went - I think most of it was rained off, to be honest. But summer, and August particularly, is usually pretty slow for rugby. There's the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham (more of which anon), and towards the end of the month, clubs are to be found holding friendlies as pre-season fixtures. So it felt rather strange going to Twickenham last week for a test match - but that's what happens in Rugby World Cup years!
France Come Out Strong
Initially, I had high hopes for England's chances against the French - our pack seemed to be bossing things around nicely, despite veteran lock Fabien Pelous [right] managing to score in the corner within a few minutes of the opening whistle. The strength of their pack is always something to worry about with the likes of Pelous, Jerome Thion and Serge Betsen in their ranks - not to mention their front row.
England held their own for some time, with Olly Barkley slotting over four penalties with little trouble - some from quite long range. Jonny Wilkinson [left] sat out most of the match on the bench, for heaven's sake! I realised it was only the third time I'd actually photographed Jonny on the pitch - once playing for Newcastle (Dec. 2004), once for the Lions (May 2005) and lastly for 2 minutes at Twickenham! You can see more photos from the game at the usual place.
My heart sank yesterday, after watching England's display against France in Marseille on the telly. Their pack were definitely having their own way - so let's hope we can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps before the World Cup starts. Fingers crossed!
Back To Twickenham
It seems I'm beginning to live at the place - visiting two weekends running. This time it was for the aforementioned Middlesex Sevens tournament. What a contrast in the weather to a week ago! This time it was cold, drizzly and miserable, (the sun had been out in force the week before for the French visit). I really felt sorry for the players - thankfully my seat was well under cover in the West stand and I was still able to take a few photos of the matches.
After recent domination by the likes of Wasps and Gloucester, it was good to see the Final contested between Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Warriors - the Worcester boys were sporting a bright orange strip which added a bit of colour to the otherwise drab pictures. I wondered if they've just taken on new sponsorship from Lea & Perrins - the orange was exactly the same colour as the sauce label?!
[Newcastle's Ollie Phillips tries to catch Worcester's Marcel Garvey]
So, just a couple of weeks to go before World Cup Fever begins to grip the rugby-watching public - bring it on!