Six Nations: Fans in good spirits despite clouds over Paris

Weather and security fail to dampen supporters’ mood ahead of tie with France

Fergal Duffy from Navan, Co Meath with his father Jim Duffy, Rathfarnham, Dublin, at the Arc de Triomphe ahead of Ireland’s clash with France. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fergal Duffy from Navan, Co Meath with his father Jim Duffy, Rathfarnham, Dublin, at the Arc de Triomphe ahead of Ireland’s clash with France. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

It’s springtime in Paris and St Valentine’s weekend to boot. But there wasn’t much evidence of either on a wintry Friday in the city of lovers, as Irish rugby fans gathered ahead of today’s Six Nations game with France.

The weather has been anything but romantic so far, with grey skies, drizzle, and ardour-cooling temperatures of 4 degrees. The forecast for the actual game is rain. Then there’s the shadow of November’s terrorist attacks, which continues to hang over the city.

Ryanair passengers arriving in Beauvais were greeted by gun-toting soldiers in the baggage hall: a reminder of the ongoing state of emergency. Some hotels, meanwhile, especially near Stade de France, have airport-style security checks.

Soberingly, Irish fans were advised to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs before leaving, and to apply for European Health Insurance cards, just in case.

But as they’re finding, in most of Paris, life goes on. The Friday rush-hour Metros were packed like sardine cans, as usual, with no visible security presence. On the surface at least, it was as if November hadn’t happened.

Most Irish supporters appear unworried too, if you believe them. A group in Corcoran’s Bar, on Boulevard de Clichy, had the excuse of being from Antrim, and of having worked in Belfast during the Troubles. One of them – Bob Miller, here with his wife Lesley – joked: “You’d be in more danger in Dublin these days.”

But they had at least expected to see heavy policing in the touristy parts of Paris. And so far, they hadn’t noticed any, either at Charles de Gaulle airport or at Gare du Nord, where they and another couple, the McWilliamses, are staying.

Another group of Northerners, from various parts of Down, booked the Paris trip a year ago, having been at the last four or five games here, including the one that didn’t happen in 2012, because of a frozen pitch.

But there was no question of them changing plans, post November. Again, one of the group – Laurence Devlin, from Warrenpoint – found indirect comfort in Dublin: “I hear you’re be at more risk there installing water meters.”

As for the match, Irish optimism appears to be as general, so far, as the rain-clouds. None of the nine-strong Down contingent would admit to being worried about the result, while the Antrim contingent went for Irish victories by three, six and 11 points, respectively.

Only Cormac McWilliams sounded cautious, saying he’d take a win by anything. The bookmakers tend to agree with him that it might be close. Paddy Power offers evens on both teams, and only 16/1 against Ireland being involved in another draw.

One thing supporters are assured not to expect is to turn up late at the stadium and think they’ll get in as normal. With advance checkpoints on the approach routes and filtering at the Stade de France long queues are predicted.

People are asked to arrive early. And since, as a note with the Irish tickets puts it, as “the slightest relaxation of checks may give an opportunity to a potential author of wrong-doing, no allowance will be given to late-comers”.

Fans are also urged to attend without bags. As for any live French cockerels making it onto the pitch during the game, the chances must be lower than usual.

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