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French Rugby Column February 15 || By: Howard Johnson

April 24, 2020 2 min read

Sport isn’t the great driver of bar culture here in France that it is in the
UK. Whenever there’s an important sporting event in Britain it serves
as the best of excuses for people to get down to their local and enjoy a
shared experience of shouting at the telly. Here in France it doesn’t
seem to be a reflex to head down to the bar whenever France are
playing.

Of course this is something of a pain in the arse for our local
bar owner Piou, especially since I did him what he probably sees as a
disservice by taking him to England to witness first hand the kind of
pub bun fight that goes on when the big match is on the big screen. “If
I had this many people whenever France played I’d be laughing,” he
told me somewhat ruefully.

Still, Piou made a good effort to drag some of the villagers out of their
apathy on Saturday evening as France took on Ireland at the Stade de
France by offering his own version of tapas both during and after the
match. This being France, we enjoyed paté and gherkins on cocktail
sticks, together with some more authentic-looking Spanish affairs that
featured cured ham and boiled egg amongst other treats. The tapas
certainly did the trick for those who did turn up to enjoy the match
and the atmosphere ‘Chez Piou’ was warm, friendly and confident that
‘Les Bleus’ could do the business.

That confidence, as you’ll no doubt know, wasn’t misplaced as Marc
Lievremont’s men turned on the style to blow away last year’s Grand
Slam champions with relative ease. Playing with a panache that makes
this rugby-mad nation puff up their collective chests with pride, France
served up a treat while serving notice that they’ll be the team to beat
in the race for this season’s Six Nations title. If Martin Johnson’s
England can see off the challenge of the Irish at Twickenham in their
next game on February 27 then we could/should be all set for a titanic
final game at the Stade de France on March 20. And if that’s the case,
then I’m sure that even Piou’s bar will be full to the rafters for that
one, if for no other reason than to give me the traditional rugby
ribbing!

Despite the fact that the French have clearly been the best team in the
competition so far I still feel quietly confident that England can come
over here and do a job. Why? Well in many ways we’re France’s bogey
team, able more often than not to turn them over even when all logic
dictates that we have no chance. Just take a look at the last three
years in the Six Nations, not to mention the semi-final of the 2007

Rugby World Cup. It seems that whenever English rigour comes up
against French flair the men in white tend to come out on top. But
whatever the result, a grand night will doubtless be delivered ‘Chez
Piou’. Here’s hoping he gets a full house. Maybe I should suggest he
puts on a fish and chip supper!