"An American in Paris"
Tara M. Flanagan (lock) is a retired Women’s Eagle who played in the 1991 and 1994 IRB Women's Rugby World Cup for the U.S.A., and a proud member of the Eagles’ inaugural Women's World Cup Championship team in 1991.
Retired after the 1994 Women's Rugby World Cup to start her legal career, she became a lawyer, is now a state court Judge, and will be sharing insights and perspectives from week two of the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup in Paris.
At the Eagles Captain's Run yesterday, and today before the U.S. v. New Zealand kickoff, I am awestruck again by the rugby venue for the final top-six matches.
The prestigious Stade Jean Bouin was built in 1925 and named in the honor of Jean Bouin, a French distance runner who competed in the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. He became famous for his narrow defeat to a Finnish runner (he lost by .1 seconds, over a 5,000 meter race - by handheld timing as used in that era...) in the 5,000-meter race at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics Bouin became a symbol of French pride and determination.
He was later killed in action in World War I.
Arriving early for the 9:00 a.m. Eagles "Captain's Run" on Friday, the media attaché asked me: "would I like to see the playing field?" Why, yes, I would. Thank you media credential! I had the privilege of walking the stadium and pitch alone, but for a grounds maintenance fellow working here and there. Beautiful, plush grass; a fine tribute to that French Olympian and war hero.
At the Captain's Run (called a 'walk-thru' in my day. A "captains run" was when the captain said, "Run!" and we did!) the Eagles walked and ran the field. You could see they were getting the lay of the land, taking it all in. Perhaps discussing where they might score on Sunday?! They looked good and relaxed to me. The hour quickly passed and they were off - another team was due to have their "run" soon.
Off the Eagles went, back to their hotel to rest and relax in anticipation of Sunday's match.....
Game Day, August 17, 2014:
Sunday Morning near the stadium, picking up pre-match lunch, we noticed some All-Black (or 'Black Ferns', the name I guess the women New Zealanders go by now...) supporters behind us in line. Couldn't miss them - they were head-to-toe in all-black New Zealand kit!
In rugby fandom, it's sporting and collegial to visit and chat with opposing fans. Perhaps give them a bit of good-natured stick, but ultimately wish them well.
We started chatting with these two women, and one began looking awfully familiar as the conversation went on. Did she ever play rugby, I asked? Yes, for New Zealand was the answer.
In the World Cup? Yes, 1991, she said. Suddenly we recognized her - Chris Roddy of Christchurch, NZ, and a lock for the 1991 All Blacks. Oh, yes, we remembered!!
And so did she. She's obviously forgiven us for the forwards pushover try that crushed the All Blacks in that 1991 semifinal game, sending them to the Plate Division and the USA to the Final. We had a nice catch-up and chat and wished each other good luck today.
An omen for today's match? We shall see...
Soon after lunch, we reached the stadium for the 2:00 p.m. kickoff. Around the stadium perimeter, fans are gathering and World Cup excitement is in the air. I spoke with French fans, Canadians, New Zealanders. Everyone happy and excited for their team's chances. Wishing each other good luck. "Bonne chance!" said a man wearing a French Rooster hat. Et vous! Same to you!
The weather is cool and crisp. A fall-like feel in the air. Rugby weather.
Stay tuned for a post-match report!