FROM THE fox on the pitch before the game to the winning captain accepting the Calcutta Cup from the woman who will become his mother-in-law in just over four months time, Sunday’s England v Scotland clash was one of the more bizarre matches held at Twickenham! The rugby was often lacking in quality, as England triumphed without finding the slick, precise skills which characterised some of their recent wins, but there was never a dull moment.
The fox was spotted in the lower tier of the South Stand well before kick-off, when the seats were still empty, but the creature then brazenly reappeared on the pitch when the capacity crowd were ready and waiting for the teams to run out just before 3pm. Totally unconcerned by the 80,000-plus spectators, plus the band and everyone else who was on the pitch, the fox lolloped up and down while the anthems were being played, evading a few half-hearted attempts to direct it off the grass. It had a little lie down for a breather, then finally exited in the north-east corner just in time to let the game get started.
Another unusual event occured in the second half, when referee Romain Poite suffered a leg injury. Anyone listening to Ref Link heard him yell in pain, then he tried manfully to carry on, hobbling along in a vain attempt to keep up with play as Scotland were building up an attack in the England half, but soon he was forced to blow his whistle and halt proceedings so that assistant referee Jerome Garces could take over. Scotland coach Andy Robinson was practically exploding in frustration as his team were trailing 12-9 and had John Barclay in the sin-bin at the time, but they had England on the back foot when Poite was forced to stop. Full-back Chris Paterson saw the funny side, saying: “I didn’t know anything was wrong until he blew his whistle and then I thought ‘what’s that for?’. I have been around a long time and I have never seen that happen.”
The odd goings-on weren’t finished, as when Max Evans scored his try for Scotland, referee Garces wanted to check it with the Television Match Official, but he wasn’t wired up to hear the TMO’s decision. One of the BBC staff tried to speed up proceedings by running onto the pitch to tell Garces the try was good after seeing the replays, but Garces quite rightly insisted on waiting for one of his fellow officials to confirm it before awarding the points.
England won the game 22-16, which left skipper Mike Tindall – who had gone off with an ankle injury at half-time – with the task of hobbling up the steps to accept the Calcutta Cup from non other than Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, who is, of course, the mother of his fiancee Zara Phillips. Both seemed to find the situation quite funny – or maybe they were just laughing about the fox!
By Katie Field, Rugby World.