Every rugby enthusiast, once in his lifetime, should enter in an empty Twickenham. The silence is so unreal that you can hear the 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' echo, just like the empty seats are singing it.
I've been into the stadium with a half-dozen of persons, just watching the empty terraces, the grey sky of London which peeped out from the stand covers, the green and glorious field which has been trodden down by a relevant number of champions since 1907. We were waiting for the All Blacks Captain's Run, the very last training session before the match. The best team ever in the best stadium ever, that's what some guys were saying on the bus on my way home, commenting on the Evening Standard's article about England vs New Zealand. Only the All Blacks kickers have attended the Captain's Run, they are the ones who mostly have a feeling for the ground, the wind and the grass. They tried drop goals, penalty kicks and some tactical kicking, as expected. Among the soft idle chatter of the little crowd very next to them, the thumps of the impact between the feet and the balls exploded smashing the air.
I met Dan Carter, the best No 10 in the world, then I met Aaron Cruden, the best rugby player in the world. I have already written about him (sorry, the article is in Italian only), and I would talk about him over and over again, because a guy who defeats cancer and becomes an All Black is a real champion and an inspiration for all of us, who sometimes forget how precious is life and how incredible is human being's willpower. Aaron is not a strapping man comparing to his fellows, but you just need to look into his lively eyes to realise how 'big' and great he is, actually. Talking with him has been really inspiring for me. In Italy we use to say that Cruden is a charismatic guy, and you can deduce it not only by his smile.
And then it comes Twickenham on Saturday morning, when the street becomes a red and white stream of people and the houses on the streets change into hot dog, donuts and beer kiosks. They said I would have got lost into Twickenham's maze, but they were wrong. I found the press room (the texts of the article linked are in Italian, but the videos are in English) and the stand at once as well as a delicious carrot and coriander soup just to keep me warm. There were 2°C after all.
The temple of rugby has a soul which goes far beyond the supporters' root for their team: you can feel it when they sing 'God Save The Queen' with one voice, or when the referee whistles for the end of the match, stating the fall on Earth of the rugby gods. A magnificent England defeated New Zealand after a tough match. And it should not seem strange that the gods have felt into a temple, because Twickenham - more than other stages - is really the sixteenth player on the English side.
The stream of people outside Twickenham hass become a stream of happiness and joy. On the train, young and old men keep singing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot', and my coach turned into an auditorium. A gentleman asks everybody to state a thought about the match, including the ones who are there but didn't watch the game. When my turn came, I just said that I was supporting the All Blacks. Everybody laughed, but I was not joking.
When you enter at Twickenham for the first time, you feel like you have never known rugby before. As you get out from Twickenham, you begin thinking about your next visit here. Because you look forward to it.
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