I am looking forward to this weekend at Twickenham more than I have in a while. The whole day will be building up to the final game of the Six Nations by which time England will know precisely what they have to do the win the competition. The two previous games will be shown on the giant screen in the West Car Park at Twickenham and I’m sure there will be plenty of people arriving early to watch the games at the ground.
But there are other reasons for my looking forward to tomorrow. Firstly, the England mascot on the day will be Jack Blackham, a young player from Wymondham RFC in Norfolk who won a competition to lead the team out on the Twickenham turf. It will be a very proud moment for him and I will make sure I get some photos to send back to his club.
Secondly, my guest for the day will be Erika Roe who many of you will remember as someone firmly embedded in Twickenham folklore (those of you too young to have heard about Erika or are still mystified as to what she is famous for, please Google her). I first met Erika in the Autumn when I was approached by her cousin Nina Roe who plays for Southwold Swallows and was one of the organisers of the very successful Southwold Beach Sevens. After many years of comparative anonymity, Erika launched a calendar in aid of ABC (Against Breast Cancer) and wanted to meet Bill Beaumont as part of an awareness campaign.
The significance of meeting Bill was that he was England captain when Erika infamously invaded the pitch during half time when they were playing Australia in 1982. The story goes that Bill was giving an impassioned half time team talk when hooker Peter Wheeler interrupted by saying, “ There’s some bird on the pitch with your arse on her chest”. Bill had never actually met Erika so when Nina contacted me to ask if I could help I of course said that I would.
So before England played Australia in November 2014 the two met for the first time although the RFU did impose some conditions: She could not mention the calendar and she would be allowed only 15 minutes; after that she had to leave. To make up for it I invited Erika to be my guest at tomorrow’s game and at the preceding lunch and I couldn’t have picked a better day in terms of the drama of the final game.
Thirdly, I am looking forward to seeing my favourite referee, Nigel Owens, take the whistle for this game. In my view, and those of many others, he is the best referee in the world at the moment and he is the only referee for whom I buy a Ref Link to hear what he is saying. His rapport and banter with the players is second to none and it is a pleasure to watch him at work.
So the scene is set as I set off for South West London this afternoon. Will England win? I certainly hope so although the French at their unpredictable best can easily upset Stuart Lancaster’s plans. England created so many chances last week and failed to convert all but three, but they still gave the Scots their heaviest defeat of the campaign so far. Scotland are more than capable of giving Ireland a hard time at Murrayfield and the Italians are no pushover when playing at the Stadio Olimpico.
However it pans out, Saturday will be a great day. Enjoy the rugby wherever you are watching it tomorrow.