On not watching Toulon
This weekend I was meant to watch Toulon play at Sale. Live. But, family comes first, so I changed my plans.
It was the second time I have nearly watched Toulon play. The first time was in France.
In 2014 I was working in Toulon. One of the reasons I was there was to write about the Rugby League World Cup, which was being part-hosted by France. The other reason was to research my children’s book, Surface to Air.
Surface to Air is about a fictional schools’ European rugby union tournament. Borderlands School had won the UK schools’ tournament in the previous book, Combat Zone, and had qualified for the Europeans. The tournament takes place in Toulon’s Stade Mayol. Where better to set a book about European rugby than at the home of the three-time European champions, as Toulon were around then?
And I was lucky. So lucky. I contacted Andrew Sheridan who was playing for Toulon at the time. I asked if he would help me to arrange to watch the Toulon team training. Very kindly, he said yes.
I had a fantastic morning. I got to see the team training in their famous stadium. I saw the treatment rooms. I talked to Andrew, one of the coaches and even got to watch Jonny Wilkinson doing his kicking practice.
This was such valuable research. As was taking a boat across Toulon Bay to see the French Navy’s aircraft carrier up close. And climbing the mountain behind the city. I made the most of my trip to Toulon, but there’s one thing I will always regret.
At the end of the tour, Andrew Sheridan offered me tickets for me and my family to watch Toulon’s home game the next evening. He said it was an amazing experience to take in a game at Stade Mayol. A chance in a lifetime! But I had to say no. I was being paid to report on France v New Zealand in Avignon for the Rugby League World Cup. And that was what I had to do. (I shouldn’t complain: that was a pretty amazing night as well.)
If you fancy reading the first chapter of Surface to Air then check it out here: https://tompalmer.co.uk/surface-to-air.
Next week I WILL be going to a game: Yorkshire Carnegie v Jersey. You can read about both teams in this month’s BeRugby Championship feature.