Three of the best at Twickenham
Well that was the autumn rugby international season that was !!!
I could not believe my luck, able to witness three such games here at the home of English rugby. I am used to big, even great sporting occasions but these will live in my memory for many a long day.
The organisation and preparation that goes into hosting such events is immense. When you think of 74,000 people for three Saturdays running you have to admire just what the RFU achieve.
The heavy rain this month has certainly set out to test me and my staff, even before the first game on the 9th against New Zealand. My build up began in earnest on the Thursday prior to the game with the kickers coming in to practice. They must have been out there for over three hours. The level of skill and concentration is quite honestly amazing.
On the next day, Friday, both teams are allowed to train. England did a full session and more kicking. The All Blacks just had a walk about for half an hour with only the kickers doing anything physical.
The weather was awful; pouring down with rain and we found it was really to wet to go out on the field to do any work. It wasn't holding water any where , in fact it wasn't even to wet to roll but just one of those days where if you can keep off of it, you chose to.
We were in at 6am Saturday morning. With the forecast offering heavy showers, I decided that one cut with the mowers would be sufficient. We cut with the two Dennis mowers available at the stadium, the blades set at 40mm to give a clean cut and a lovely pattern. When we finished the marking out the sun came out !
The good luck messages that I received that morning was very, very touching. A lot of those were from my old colleagues at Manchester United. A few from my family and friends. But the two that touched me most were the two from my fellow Head Groundsmen , Bill Elwood up at Murrayfield and Tony Horne at the Millennium stadium.
They must have both been very busy themselves but found time to ring me. Gentlemen for that I will be eternally grateful !
The game was brilliant and I enjoyed it to the hilt. The pitch played very well and despite not always knowing what was going on, at least I could watch it and enjoy it all. Even the scrum's !!! An England victory was well deserved.
The next week followed the same pattern. Kickers on Thursday followed by both teams on Friday. The Australians did train and were very entertaining to watch. The weather was a lot better during this week and we did manage to get a cut both directions on Friday night. We worked until late, cutting and then marking out.
Saturday dawned with Twickenham shrouded in thick fog. Fortunately it cleared to give sunshine by kick off and we then had another truly magnificent game of rugby.
Once again the pitch had done well. It looked a little worn in places and the grass was taking its time in bouncing back but when you think that it has been used for 6 days in little over a week it is understandable. The weather being poor as well.
Now I know it is November but again it was pouring down for most of last week. In fact from the first Saturday until the third Saturday we had indeed had over 3 inches of rain.
The lads here at Twickenham are now calling me a jinx and saying that I have brought the Manchester weather with me !
Thefinal game of the three was against South Africa. The warm ups and practice was the same as above for the two teams but this time the "Springboks" trained for 2 hours! Without wishing to sound negative, the weather all week had once again been wet. Once again I decided the best option was to only cut the pitch in one direction on the Friday night.
As we finished mowing the heavens opened and it poured down for the rest of the night. We had to re-mark all our lines once again the following day.
Saturday was wet to start with. A fair few showers, some of them heavy, kept the pitch wet up until around lunchtime. The game was again very good but this time England ran out comfortable winners.
Many, many congratulations to Clive Woodward and his men for three fantastic performances on the trot. Well done everyone of you!
The pitch had performed well again. It did look like it had played three big games inside three weeks but it now has a chance of a rest before the Varsity game in December.
I gave it a liquid feed this week and applied an application of Ironite. I always found Ironite did a good job for me in Manchester and with the grass needing a boost to help its recovery the liquid feed and the Ironite will give me the desired effect.
We divotted the pitch straight away after each game. I always do if I can. Somehow it always seems to recover quicker, the sooner you replace divots. Only the scrum's had made a bit of a mess but they will soon recover.
So my baptism is over. I feel a sense of pride at being just a part of team England. I am so proud of my staff who worked so hard to ensure the whole schedule went without a problem.
The amount of training was a surprise to me, I knew they trained before a game but not to the extent I've witnessed. The kickers and coaches training were my biggest surprise.
I cannot relate to you how hard they train and how hard they concentrate, but when they score with such a high percentage of their kicks you really do appreciate the training involved.