Chef hopes French gives Kiwis a grilling

GUESTS at Raymond Blanc’s posh country hotel Le Manoir could be woken by the TV chef’s rousing rendition of the French national anthem tomorrow.

Mr Blanc is gearing up to watch France play New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final, and the celebrity chef says an upset victory for his team would be ‘magnifique’ for French sport.

He will watch tomorrow’s match in Auckland with sons Olivier, 36, and Sebastien, 30, at his double Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Great Milton.

Taking a break from his busy filming schedule, he said: “I love all sport, including boules, tennis and rugby, and think it must be fantastic to represent your country at rugby.

“I’m really looking forward to watching the game and I’m a passionate man, so I’m sure I will be shouting at the players during the match. It’s a serious business the World Cup.

“New Zealand beat us in the first round but we have knocked them out of the World Cup in previous competitions, so we are their bogey team and I hope we remain so.”

He added: “We will prepare for the game with some very simple food – an interesting breakfast with lots of bacon, eggs, tomato and a very light pinot noir.

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“If the French team wins, there will be little party at Le Manoir... and the Champagne is already on ice.

“I was always too small to play rugby, but I really enjoy watching the game.”

The chef has posted comments on the French team’s performance to other fans on the social networking site Twitter during the tournament, and last weekend admitted he had woken everyone up by singing La Marseillaise at full volume, “my fist against my heart, standing up” ahead of the controversial semi-final against Wales.

But New Zealanders in Oxford are confident that the All Blacks’ brain and brawn can blow away French bluster at Eden Park.

Oxford University prop forward Jonathan Direen, who was born in the year New Zealand won the inaugural tournament, said: “Hopefully this is going to be 1987 all over again.

“I am away from home, but I am keeping up with the action. And the atmosphere in New Zealand is just ecstatic.

“I would love to be there.”

The 18 stone 7lb former New Zealand Under-21s player will be cheering on school pal Owen Franks and former team-mate and Victor Vito in the final.

The 24-year-old, who lives in Headington, said: “I will probably be watching it at home with my Kiwi housemate, and I might get some of the Oxford University players round too.

“I hope we win, but I don’t want to jinx it.

“The French have the attitude that it is them against the world, and although we have previously beaten them, the team can be very dangerous. It is going to be a hard battle.”

The new Dark Blue recruit, who arrived in Oxford last month to study sustainable urban development, added: “It will be a big thing for world rugby if we win.

“It will be one of those moments that is never going to be repeated.”

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