- Care, Farrell and Hartley discuss the special Parisian atmosphere
- “If the French get it emotionally right they can take it to another level” – Hartley
The steep-banked cauldron of the Stade de France holds fond memories for the England squad in Paris hoping to secure a second successive victory at the home of French rugby.
In comparison with many of their predecessors – Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree, for example, lost on every visit – the relative international inexperience of the majority of Stuart Lancaster’s side means their only recollections are the fabulous 24-22 victory in 2012 or the creditable 12-10 reverse as France secured the 2010 Grand Slam.
Only eight of the match day 23 for tomorrow’s latest edition of Le Crunch have represented England in Paris but speaking to some of those with experience of playing France in France, the respect for the nation and their rugby heritage flows like the noise that will be cascading down from the stands.
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Hooker Dylan Hartley, who played in the 2010 and 2012 matches, believes French public is what makes it a special place to go and play rugby.
“Whenever we go to France I always enjoy the national anthem, the French are so passionate in the way they sing it and almost create a cauldron atmosphere,” he said, ahead of winning his 51st Test cap on Saturday.
“With the French – I’ve seen it this year in the Heineken Cup – if they get it emotionally right they can take their team to another level. They seem to play with another couple of men in their side and the crowd certainly plays a part in that.”
Scrum half Danny Care, part of the side which could not prevent Marc Lièvremont’s side from claiming a clean sweep of victories four years ago despite Ben Foden’s “training ground move” opening try, concurs with Hartley.
He said: “It’s an amazing atmosphere at Stade de France, the French crowd go mad for it, make a lot of noise and make it a great spectacle. It’s an incredible experience when that first whistle goes off.”
Photo: Getty Images
Two years later, tries from Manu Tuilagi, Ben Foden and Tom Croft sent the travelling fans into raptures that balmy evening as England edged past the experienced hosts and Hartley remembers the victory as a milestone for the young side.
“We’d only just come together as a squad and it was only a couple of games after Stuart had taken over,” he added. “We had less than 100 caps on the field as a team and we hung in until the very end. I remember, at the last scrum, the ball being kicked out and everyone hugging each other on the bench. It was such a big result for us in terms of a young team playing against formidable, experienced opposition.”
Owen Farrell, who kicked nine points and executed a shuddering hit on hulking France No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy as the clock ticked down, remembers the game against a “great rugby nation” as “extremely tough” and said travelling support buoyed the team throughout.
“Any sort of noise is always going to create an atmosphere but when it’s for you in their own back garden it’s pretty special,” said the 22-year-old fly half. “You see the work that’s gone in for these people to come over and support England.”
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