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Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Ross Skeate Diary - Paris here we come

The Ross Skeate Diary - Paris here we come

We're pleased to announce that Toulon lock Ross Skeate will be the first of our regular columnists here on Rugbydump, adding another dimension to the site with his diary entries. He 'll give us a slightly alternative view on life in the Top 14, hopefully bringing the fans closer to the action as we go deep into the confines of one of the top clubs in French rugby. This week, we join Skeato as the team head to Paris to take on Racing Metro on Sunday.

Sitting on the train heading to Paris ahead of our game against Racing Metro and Francois Steyns big boot, Phillipe Saint-Andre didnt seem too impressed when I joked about playing on The Sabbath.

Kris Chesney tries to catch a few winks sitting opposite me and is twitching hilariously as he goes through his dream sequences, a young family is even too much for The White Lomu, so named after his first few years playing league found him on the wing. Although a few years down the line hes up with the Grinders like myself, showpony days behind him.

The Boys are laughing in the background further down the carriage, playing the usual round of poker. Sebastien Fauque loves a little poker on these long away trips, and I cannot begin to explain how funny it is to see Laurent Emmanuelli wearing one of those really awesome face masks you see so often donned by Japanese tourists on the news, filling airport lounges.

Tim Ryan, our young Irish tighthead, has recently come down with a case of Swine Flu and of course the medical staff is doing all it can to remedy the danger of an outbreak I dont know where your man got the bug. Rory Lamont would insist its another government invented illness crafted in labs with the sole purpose of controlling the wider public.

So through all that Laurent has found himself having to wear the best fashion item since MC Hammers parachute pants made their appearance on daytime television, as a result of a touch of Rhume - he makes it look good though.

I think thats perhaps the best way to describe this season so far, with so many new changes to the team and so many new teammates, everyone of them positive. The result: A much happier team and rugby public.

Which is a relief especially after the dark days of our relegation fears last season this time, dark days indeed. I actually arrived the week that the forwards coach was fired immediately following the teams home loss to Castres.

And arriving in the height of winter, although to be fair, winter in Toulon is more like a chilly summer with spats of rain, and into that time of many disappointments on the field and few successes, it was one of the trickiest times of my career.

Add to the mix a complete change of scenery and being thrust into a language and culture I had had little if any experience of previously - one word: fun.

I think Laurent just coughed my waybetter see the doc later.

So here I am in this place. On this train. Surrounded by new friends and teammates that I have grown closer to than many of the countless teams I have played in before. We seem to spend our days laughing and talking alot of bullshit, that is when were not scrumming for hours on end.

The French are sure fond of this facet of the game and to say that our current forwards coach (Aubin Heuber) is as well, would be a gross understatement. How many times have I cursed the backs after finishing their session with Tana Umaga after starting an hour before us ahemshow poniesahemsorry think Im already getting something.

Hows my French coming along?

Well I can order at the restaurant, swear quite fluently, but the finer pointsok ok the rest of the language is beyond me at the moment. I find myself asking our resident foreign French superstars like Joe El Abd and Jonny Wilkinson a fair amount of times for translations. But my go-to man has to be Philip Fitzy Fitzgerald, who is as fluent in French and simultaneously Scottish as you could imagine.

To call Joe and Jonny French nerds would again be an understatement. And after all, I prefer exaggerations as a rule. I mean they even read French books and carry French dictionaries around with them casually like I do the chip on my shoulder!

I chipped some bone a while back promise.

Ok I may be exaggerating a little about Joe and Jonny, well maybe just Jonny.

So we won a few games and stuff, they went well. We lost a few too, final minute gut-wrenching kind of stuff. And weve had many good times in between and we find ourselves in the Top 6 of the log at the moment which is er, cool?

We have had a few great wins, most notably against Clermont Ferrand, Toulouse and most recently against Stade Francais but so much is left to do.

Who said something about the French season being a marathon, unlike the sprint of a Super 14? Well its me now. And hitting the second-half (see what I did there?) of the marathon and hoping our knees hold for the final push is where were at.

Hold thumbs and Ill stay in touch.

Ross, who's played for the Stormers and the Barbarians, has a really interesting website that features plenty of behind the scenes photos, podcasts, and latest news on life with Toulon.

We'll hear back from him soon, but until then, check out .

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