Team effort;Dream picnics;Summer School

14th August 1998 at 01:00
It's a brisk, crisp Saturday in March, the sun is out and there's not a breath of wind in the air - the god of goal kicks is feeling kind.

I've joined a burly, beefy throng, clad, almost to a man, in waxed cotton jackets and much-mauled rugby shirts. I'm en route for Twickenham, clutching a priceless ticket for a Five Nations match and a custom-made international picnic.

The first course is always Irish and comes in a glass. Guinness this early in the day makes my ears hum, or maybe that's just the full-throated conviviality of 75,000 ardent rugby supporters. The Irish can often confound the most distinguished opposition. Alive, alive...Oh, no! A breakaway try.

Half-time, and I decant a Thermos from my rucksack. The leek and potato soup comes courtesy of my (Welsh) mother. The land of her fathers still has the pride and the passion although, sadly, not always the team to go with it. But their supporters can out-sing England's any day.

Bread of heaven - a baguette - larded with some suitably characterful fromage, a full-ripe Brie perhaps. Brie and brio - the French have style and speed in spades and are always difficult to beat.

The English fare is shamelessly fat-loaded - a huge, crusty, mouthwateringly-bad Melton Mowbray pork pie - perfect fodder for our front row. Chariots swing a lot lower after one of these, and someone will have to carry me home.

The final quarter and the Scots will be at their most dangerous - auld battles die hard. Scotland's flower to die for is not so much a flower as a grain. How else can you account for the divine contents of my final flask? The silver one full of malt with which to toast each England point. Oh, and theirs too. Only less often, of course.

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