Notes from a Small Country

With one half of Whiff of Cordite manfully running the show from home, the other was on a crucial research trip in Cardiff, Bristol and (ooooooooooohhh!) Bath this weekend. The following memo details our findings:

1. The Millenium Stadium is unmatched in Europe. The palindrome has the best location, Stade de France the most appealing design, Twickenham has front-lawn barbeques en route to the ground, but The Millenium tops the lot. Ear-shreddingly loud, right in the centre of town, and so steep-sided that there is not a bad seat in the house – this was one ground we’ll never forget.
2. Jonny will be the Lions test out half in 2013. How much can be attributed to his half-time speech we can never be sure, but one thing’s for sure: Jonny was wired. He had the look of a man who wasn’t going to accept defeat. It was reminiscent of a certain fly half from Cork…
3. It was the greatest Heineken Cup Final ever. Leicester v Stade and Wasps v Toulouse are generally held up as the classics, but this surely topped the lot. It was one of those exceptional occasions where sport takes on the realm of theatre, with the players’ emotions writ large on their faces. Let it not be forgotten that Northampton played a huge part.
4. The Heineken Cup final is the party of the year. Northampton and Leinster fans travelled en masse, of course, but they weren’t the only colours represented. Whether it was La Marseillaise booming out of an Irish pub, or Les Toulousaines passing people over their heads on the train, this was a party with a very international flavour.
5. It was sweeter than 2009. If most Leinster fans are honest, the semi-final victory over Munster felt more significant than winning the Cup that year. Leinster’s form in that competition was patchy to say the least; but this year, they were the best team in the tournament from the first moment to the last. Even their only defeat, away to Clermont, was a great performance.
6. We heart Bath. Whiff of Cordite has always been bemused by the venorated treatment of Bath Rugby, but having visited yesterday, we are card-carrying fanclub members of this magnificent town, which deserves a team to match it. Amazing Roman ruins, beautiful limestone buildings, natural hot springs and one of the great old Englsih rugby grounds. We can see ourselves quite happy there, in fact: Saturday afternoons at the Rec with Barnesy, stretching out in the Thermae Bath Spa steam rooms with Barnesy, Sunday lunch in the Pump Room with Barnesy…
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