Allez les Bleus, and Allez Milton Keynes

French fans at stadium:mk
French fans at stadium:mk
1
Have your say

As Frederic Michalak swung his boot to kick off an otherwise routine Rugby World Cup 2015 pool game between France and Canada at 8:02pm on Thursday night, it marked a new moment in the ever-growing sporting history of Milton Keynes.

Up there with Greg Rutherford’s Olympic gold medal and Dons’ crushing 4-0 win over Manchester United, France’s 41-18 win was a showcase for MK, once again proving the town can boast more than roundabouts and Concrete Cows in the list of things we’re proud of.

Canadian fans

Canadian fans

A record-breaking 28,145 filed into the ground with ease, including royalty in the form of Prince Harry, to sit in the brightly adorned stadium:mk, no longer resembling a Championship football ground but rather a venue in keeping with the third biggest sporting tournament in the world.

‘O Canada’ and ‘La Marseillaise’ were belted out at the top of the lungs by the travelling fans, who had to wait just three minutes for the first points as Wesley Fofana signalled the French intent by battering through the Canadian line to score - the fastest try of the tournament so far.

But it mattered relatively little to the crowd, who backed the minnows for 80 minutes, even if they were somewhat drowned out by chants of ‘Allez les Bleus’ from those the other side of the Channel.

Despite the French opening up a 17 point lead, the biggest cheer of all though came when DTH Van Der Merwe crossed the whitewash for Canada. The typical British support of the underdog adding to the thunderous roar on the half hour mark to bring the Maple Leaves... well, until Aaron Carpenter scored barely two minutes later to reduce the gap even more.

Rugby World Cup PNL-150110-223615002

Rugby World Cup PNL-150110-223615002

Rabah Slimani’s score just before half time though was met with more a disappointed murmur than a cheer from even the French fans who perhaps fancied a bit of a challenge rather than the one-sided affair most predicted.

The scoreline was ultimately a foregone conclusion in the second half though as France ran out comfortable 41-18 winners, breaking Canadian resolve in consummate fashion, penning them firmly in their own half for the majority of the 40 minute period as the masterful Michalak controlled the circus with both hands and feet.

The score wasn’t what was important as the occasion itself for Milton Keynes though. In years to come, France will barely remember their pool match with Canada as a game of importance, but it was still an occasion of sizeable significance for MK. Eyes from all over the world were focussed squarely on the pristine surface of stadium:mk, and the show didn’t disappoint as the cosmopolitan crowd adorned in flags, face paint and novelty wigs beamed with every pass.

Whether fans came from further afield or from their abodes inside the MK postcode, they all made up what was another historical occasion to be held in these parts.

Canada vs France

Canada vs France

And they’ll do it all over again on Saturday when Japan take on Samoa.

Canada vs France

Canada vs France

Canada vs France

Canada vs France