Pay Attention, It’s Time For A French Lesson

The more – and almost certainly even the less – observant amongst you will have noticed that over the last few weeks there have been more than a few tenuous links made between rugby and motoring in this column. And as the biggest match in New Zealand rugby since 1987 is being played out in Auckland’s own theatre of dreams this weekend, it would be all too easy to find one more pretty loose tie-in between the unlikely bedfellows that are egg chasing and motoring.

And so, therefore, I will.

But rather than dwelling too heavily on the sport itself, my focus is rather more on one of the participants in Sunday night’s encounter – the French. As a previous inhabitant of the Northern shores of La Manche, I learned a long time ago that the only thing that could be expected from the French with any degree of certainty is the unexpected.

Ooh la la! Beauty........

Nowhere is this more certain than in the motoring world, where no-one could ever be sure if their next release was going to be a work of beauty, genius, madness or just plain badness. Sometimes, as was the case with the massively opinion polarising 2CV, they managed to do all four at once. Just for the sheer hell of it I suspect.
This is the nation that can give the Citroen DS with one hand – a vehicle of such unquestionable beauty that it makes you wonder why all cars cannot be styled in such a way – and then take it all back again with a monstrosity like the Renault Fuego with the other. But just to keep a sense of mystery, excitement and intrigue in the relationship, every so often they throw you a Peugeot 205 GTi. Followed rather quickly by a Renault Safrane.

Yet for all their little highs and lows, if you ever needed the ultimate proof that our garlic obsessed cousins are capable of crushing the world when it is least expected, look no further than the Bugatti Veyron. Yes, it sounds Italian and yes, a lot of the bits come from parent company VW, but hailing as it does from Molsheim in the Alsace, the Bugatti is every bit as French as impassive shrugging and baguettes. With its roots back in 2005, when the Gallic automotive output was typified by the blandest Peugeots in living memory, the Veyron was a stark reminder that when the Frenchies put their minds to it, they can not only take on the world, but simply blow it away with their effortless style.

.....and the beast. Be afraid.

This brings us rather neatly back to the rugby. Since early in the tournament, it was abundantly clear that the Civil Aviation Authority had deemed rugby flair fell into the same category as bottled water, which is why most teams in the tournament appear to have left it in their respective departure lounges. The possible only exception to this rule were the gallant Welsh, although the MAF confiscation squad seemingly caught up with them in time for the Bronze Final.

And that begs the question; did the erratic Marc Liévremont have enough optimism to put a container load of Gallic panache onto a slow boat before the tournament started? With around a 6-week sailing time from Marseilles to Auckland (assuming it didn’t end up on the Rena), Les Blues could be reunited with their abilities at entirely the wrong time, however unlikely it may seem.

But should the worst come to the worst, we should in some way rejoice that we were there to witness the greatest rugby spectacle of them all. For all its theatre a perfectly choreographed haka comes with every All Blacks game, but each French revolution is unique and for any true rugby fan it would be a privilege to witness what would be undoubtedly the greatest of them all.

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