Biarritz duo Lund and Balshaw show there is life after England

The Heineken Cup is now the stuff of obsession for Biarritz, just as it became the be-all and end-all for Munster after two falls at the final hurdle. "We have to dust ourselves down and go again," said Magnus Lund, the flanker so completely forgotten by England that he can barely remember the last time they showed an interest in him. "We still want this, and we want it badly. We're a small team as far as our supporter base is concerned, but we're a big team in heart and spirit. We have unfinished business here."

Lund was exhausted as he chewed the fat an hour or so after close of play, and well he might have been. In the thick of it from the very start and still setting about anyone in Toulouse colours at the last knockings, the former Sale back-rower's tackle count was in the stratosphere, just as it had been when he last played for his country, against the Springboks in the thin air of Pretoria almost three years ago. He had no reward then, either: England lost by 50 points in a game they knew they could not win. Saturday's defeat was not of the same magnitude, but as there was no inferiority complex about Biarritz and they came within a single score of glory, the frustration was doubly intense.

"At half-time we thought we were right in the game, but Toulouse turned the screw after that and the absence of decent possession from the scrums really told,"Lund admitted. "Even when they went to 14" – the Toulouse lock Patricio Albacete was sent to the cooler for tackling Benoît August while the Biarritz hooker was playing football rather than rugby – "it seemed like they were a man up on us rather than a man down. It's strange, because we've been strong in the second halves of matches this season. It seems we lacked confidence."

They also lacked match sharpness. Biarritz had not played since the end of the Top 14 regular season in the last week of April, while Toulouse, who qualified for the knockout phase of the tournament, were able to use their time more productively, taking on Castres and Perpignan in full-blooded contests. "That was a factor," Lund acknowledged. "All we had was a run-out against our second team."

Pressed on his future England chances, which do not appear great, given that he failed to make either the 44-man senior squad bound for the Antipodes or the 26-man party heading to the United States on Churchill Cup duty, he was not overly concerned. "Everyone wants to play for their country, of course, but I won't be losing any sleep over it," he said.

His fellow Englishman, the full-back Iain Balshaw, could be heard singing from a similar hymn sheet. "I'd never say no to England, but it's simply not something that's in the forefront of my mind," he remarked. Which rather begs a question. How many international-class players – and there is little doubt that on Saturday's evidence, neither Lund nor Balshaw would look out of place in Martin Johnson's latest gathering of the talents – will find solace for rejection in the cash-rich land of the Top 14?

It is nothing new, the notion of an England player crossing the Channel for a little harmless fun in and around the vineyards. Maurice Colclough and Rob Andrew did it years ago; Richard Pool-Jones, who never featured on the England radar while playing in England, was capped out of Stade Français. But they were the exceptions to the rule, not part of a migration. The lure of the euro, even a euro in freefall, is increasingly irresistible to those wanting to squeeze every last drop from the rugby experience.

Balshaw, in particular, seemed at one with the world, even in the throes of disappointment. "Look, the best side won – there's no hiding from it," he said. "When we scored that late try there was a glimmer for us, but Toulouse were better than us. We'd talked about playing for 80 minutes, but we didn't do it. We've been our own worst enemies all season, and we have to accept that fact.

"What will I do now? Go back to England and visit my mum for a while, then spend some time in Biarritz. I won't be going away on holiday. When you live where I live, you don't really need holidays." And to think he could be with England, getting kicked around Napier by the New Zealand Maori.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
News
Williams says: 'The reason I got jobs was because they would blow the budget on the big guys - but they only had to pay me the price of a cup of tea'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee