7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
A group of them had turned up at their hotel at 11.00 in the morning but the rooms weren't ready so they weren't able to check in, so they went on a sight-seeing tour; of the pubs in Toulouse. Apparently they'd had a great sing-song in Place Capital, where they'd also played rugby with a miniature ball.
The squad had assembled that morning to take a coach to the hotel, returning to le Stade at 3.45 for our captain's run, then back to the hotel for dinner at 6.00. Most of the squad stayed in the team room to watch the Bourgoin-Glasgow game but I slipped out with Aiden McCullen and Yannick Nyanga across the road to a little English bar which had Sky Sports and was showing the Sale-Munster game. Yannick speaks very good English and had more interest in that game. A good judge.
It was a typical gutsy, physical effort by Munster which deserved a little better but a few handling errors let them down. But in saying that, Sebastien Chabal, the Caveman, was on great form and unstoppable going forward along with Andrew Sheridan, the prop.
On match day I had a lie-on before Alfie turned up. He had gone home to get a good night's sleep. He's done this for all the home games this season. He gets his wife Gemma to pick him up after dinner and she drops him back on the morning of the match, the reason being that when I get going it's like a train pulling out of Heuston Station.
I was telling Alfie that I was a bit offended, and asking him if it was really that bad. "Trevor, no offence mate, but I compare it to the new Airbus 380 taking off from Toulouse airport." Well, he wouldn't be the first rugby player over the years who'd had a sleepless night because of the Horsebox's snoring.
The previous evening I'd noticed Freddie Michalak wearing one of his latest sponsorship t-shirts; a red, rugbytec shirt with number eight and the Munster crest, along with M-U-N-S-T-E-R emblazoned on it in big letters. I didn't say anything then but the following day when we had a light run-out while everyone else was in Nike gear, Fred still had his Munster t-shirt on.
So I made a comment about it. "Oui, Trevor, chez toi, chez toi." So I smiled back and said: "Oui, Freddie, chez moi." Wonder what the Munster boys would think of that?
We got off to a good winning start against Llanelli, but it had its moments. We were down 6-0 after 15 or 20 minutes. Then Simon Easterby went off and they lost two of their props so we had uncontested scrums. Don't know whether that was a disadvantage or an advantage for us.
Some of the rugby we played was brilliant, although typically French, we tended to take out foot off the gas. But, one impressive feature was that whenever we conceded a score we went back downfield immediately and scored once or twice ourselves. There's still plenty of work to be done on our defence and our penalty count. We can't afford those lapses against Wasps.
Frustratingly, I didn't get on, which is only the third Heineken Cup match I haven't played in out of 28 since I came to Toulouse. I've had a stupid calf injury since last Tuesday, nothing major. But it feels a bit like an Achilles tendon strain whenever you try to sprint. So the coach felt there was no need to risk putting me on as we were winning well and we've enough injuries.
I'd be hopeful of getting a start in the second row this week. I actually haven't started one game in the backrow yet this season, but I need to be training every day this week and I'm still not sure about this stupid calf injury.
I'd like to think Toulouse travel better in this competition than most French sides but the performances of Stade Francais and Biarritz showed that this old French failing is still there. Castres could be dangerous in Thomond Park. Kees Meeuws and Carl Hoeft are playing well and they've a very powerful pack, while Yann Delaigue is hitting a bit of form, but I've no doubt Munster can win although I'm so sorry to hear about Alan Quinlan's injury. I didn't see the Leinster game on Saturday. I believe they were very unlucky but Glasgow will be no pushover and it's win-or-bust for them now.
And what became of the 47 family and friends? About 90% made it to the game, but two of them ended up in Lourdes and five or six of them got lost in town _ doing some more sight-seeing _ and missed the bus to the match. Half of them headed back on Sunday and the other half on Monday.
My good friend Chris Gallagher rang me on Monday morning to say thankyou for a good weekend and told me a very funny story. He said that himself and a few friends had ended up in a night club at about 6.00 on Saturday night/Sunday morning. He was one of those leaving on Sunday morning, when they were being picked up at their hotel at 8.30.
All he can remember is waking up in the middle of the night sitting on the toilet with a fag stuck in the corner of his mouth having done the business. So he pulled up his boxers and went into the bedroom. Pulling back the bed sheets he noticed some-one in it. He started to tell this fella, who looked the spit of Jean-Claude Van Damme, to get out of his bed, but this French fella wasn't budging.
So he shouted across to his roommate, Johnny McGivern, to ask his help in getting this fella out of his bed. But the lump that pulled the bed clothes back in the other bed and sat up wasn't Johnny. He looked like Jean-Claude too.
"This is room 405, get out of my room," he shouted at the pair of them. The two lads, in broken English, explained to Chris that he was in room 409 and not 405, one of them going to the door, opening it and showing it to him, before wishing him a good night. Chris struggled back to his room down the corridor.
In his own room he found all his clothes on the bed. He must have gone back, got undressed, gone to bed, woken up, and somehow gone out the door, bounced off the wall a few times, walked into their room and gone to the toilet. It was one of those hotels that if you didn't lock the doors from the inside they could be opened without a key. Chris reckons he's lucky the two Jean-Claude Van Dammes didn't beat him up. I haven't laughed so much in a long time.
On Sunday myself, Paula, the two kids and Paddy the father-in-law went to the grand rond where we discovered a six-piece jazz band playing on a covered bandstand. It was a lovely sunny day and here was this 80-year-old man telling me that this was his favourite music from the 30s and 40s, that he never thought he'd here anything like it again, and it made his trip more memorable than any rugby match or anything else he'd seen in Toulouse.
Next Sunday we play Wasps in London. It's going to be a tough game, made even tougher by them losing to Edinburgh. It's also a repeat of the final two years ago, when Alain Rolland was also the referee. Déjà vu. The final of two years ago is not something that's been mentioned, but it will be in the back of everyone's heads, and certain players may feel they'll have a point to prove.
My good friend William Servat went in for an operation on his neck yesterday, two hernia discs in his neck I believe, and it looks like he'll miss the rest of the season. The club are now looking to sign a hooker who's played with the Auckland Blues.
The French squad for the autumn tests was announced yesterday too, which created a stir around the club. But Guy Noves reminded everybody that the players' most important consideration this week was the Toulouse game against Wasps. The club came before France. He finished up by reminding the internationals that when they went off "on holidays" next week in camp with the international squad, the rest of us will be working hard, training five days a week. No rest for us then