The Auld Alliance France v Scotland

There is a small bakery tucked away down a quiet side street just a stones throw from Stade de France, due to its discreet location it remains relatively uninhabited on international match days.

I discovered it in 2016 when France played Italy in the Six Nations, and it has remained my first port of call on arrival in Saint-Denis ever since.

That Six Nations fixture match in 2016 was the first major sporting event to be held in Paris following the terrorist attacks at the Bataclan, and indeed at the stadium itself.

That day my espresso was delivered to me at my table via a machine gun totting member of the French military, It was the strangest atmosphere I have ever encountered at a rugby international.

Happily eight years later the clientele at Boulangerie Patisserie Lagneb in Rue Jesse Owens were unarmed and looking much more relaxed, and indeed much more kilted.

There is something special about Paris in the winter, the moment you step off the train at Gare du Nord, the aroma of coffee engulfs your senses as you hit the dark misty gloom lit up by the neon lights of the cafes and bars in rue dunkerque. Paris does the cold dark miserable season like no other city, with its inimitable style and class.

Historically France and Scotland have a very special bond. In 1942 Charles DeGaulle described it as the oldest alliance in the world. “In every combat for five centuries when the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight by the side of the men of France, and what Frenchmen feel is that no people has ever been more generous with its friendship”.

The auld alliance with France was first agreed in 1295 built on France’ need to curtail English expansion. The canny Scots were given the pick of the best French wines as a result of this accord.

Sunday Guinness Six Nations fixtures can sometimes feel a little bit flat, but yesterday there was a real buzz of expectation and nervous anticipation in the air.

France after 14 successive wins were defeated in Dublin two weeks ago, the public of the republic were expecting a blue backlash and they got one but not quite the one they expected or indeed hoping for.

In fact it turned out to be a “white backlash” as the home team wearing white shirts to avoid a colour clash with the visitors, managed a bonus point win in a pulsating contest.

Both sides received red cards in the first 10 minutes, Gilchrist after just seven minutes and Haouas four minutes later.

Scotland trailed 19-0 after twenty minutes but scored three tries before to trail by only four points with less than a minute remaining.

However, Gael Fickou with 79.34 on the clock glided between Price and Bhatti to dive over and score the try that gave France a bonus point win.

At café du Nord there was a feeling of quiet satisfaction as over a glass of red and a plate of steak frites, the whispers returned about the possibility of World Cup glory in a few months time, a feat rarer than the piece of beef looking up at me from my plate, but this French team with their beauty and power are well and truly capable of grasping their oval Holy Grail.

Bon appetite


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