As the excitement builds ahead of England v France, Stuart Peel looks forward to the wedding he’ll be attending instead of watching the game.
We have only recently met but you seem like a good egg and may I say how delighted I am that you are to be wedded to a dear friend of mine and a terrific event it will be too. However, I must take serious issue with you on one very significant matter.
At approximately the time we will be taking our seats for what I am sure will be a delicious meal, the band will be striking up the Marseillaise on the hallowed turf of Twickenham. The starter will arrive as the first whistle sounds and at some stage Chris Ashton will swallow dive triumphantly between the posts and I will be none the wiser as I stare wistfully at my pork cutlet. For this is no ordinary game, Steve, you must be aware of that. This is Le Crunch. The big one. The potential decider. It’s Agincourt Steve. Agin-bloody-court. And we won’t be there. None of us. What were you thinking?
You may think it strange that I am writing to you. As I say, we barely know each other. But the fairer sex, as is their prerogative, tend to get a little wrapped up in planning their nuptials and can lose sight of the important things in life. A chap’s role, Steve, is to be supportive and make sure she doesn’t do anything too silly or selfish. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that you have failed spectacularly in this.
If a chap really has to get married during the rugby season, he owes it to other chaps to have a good consultation of the fixture list before committing to a date. I would suggest the following, Steve, as a rule of thumb. International weekends, Heineken Cup knockouts (and probably the final rounds of Group games), and the Premiership final are all no gos. That gives plenty of leeway. If you find it easier, remember that weddings are what LV Cup weekends are for.
Disappointed does not really begin to cover it, Steve. Perhaps you were busy on that afternoon in 1991 when Serge Blanco launched a counter attack from under the posts which ended with Saint-Andre scoring at the other end, or when Rory Underwood skated round the outside and England won the Grand Slam. Or Micky Skinner’s dump tackle. Or Thomas Castaignede’s drop goal, Wilkinson’s hit on Ntamack, Jason Robinson cutting the French to shreds or countless other moments. Perhaps you have a tradition of arranging big events on days like these. Perhaps you think it’s funny. You are wrong, Steve. Very wrong.
Or maybe you were unaware of the magnitude of this game. How were you to know several months ago that this would be such a big game, that it would see the meeting of the only two unbeaten sides? But it would not have taken a huge leap of imagination to predict that this would have been so. And besides that, better not to take the risk in the first place, Steve. You risk making yourself very unpopular.
You may think me selfish in my protestations Steve. This is after all the most important day of your life. But England v France for the Championship is definitely in my top 20 and I know that many others would rank it similarly. You have to take these things into consideration when you’re planning things, Steve. You can’t just go making demands of people willy nilly. If you learn nothing else from this whole sorry episode, let it be that.
So when you are up and making your speech, paying tribute to your wonderful new wife and the prospect of your new life together, and you look up and see that many of the chaps in the room are going through the full gamut of emotions as you speak, just know that, far from living every moment with you, each of them will have an earphone up their sleeve and will be hanging on every dramatic, gravelly-toned word of the great Ian Robertson. They will be paying you no attention whatsoever. And when we leap to our feet, don’t think for a moment that you have landed a killer joke, just know that Toby Flood has slotted a nailbiter from wide out on the right to put England a score clear. For there are more important things in the world, Steve, and this is the key point, than your wedding.
It goes without saying that for the sake of my friend I wish you a long and happy marriage. But for that to happen you are going to have to display better judgement over its course than you have at its inception. Far better, Steve, far better.
Yours with the deepest disgruntlement,