I met a very wise man on Saturday night. He was a tallish man, all skin and bone with what can only be described as a traveler's beard. He took me and my friend to a bar and introduced these Englishmen to "Mad Dogs"*. As we downed more of these shots he told more and more stories. How the French had killed Occitane culture "50 years ago if I want to speak my language, they would, how you say, cut off my arms!" he said. How he had traveled to Edinburgh, to Cardiff and to Manchester. How he lived behind the train station in "how you say, a Car-a-van, it has the wheels, yes?". Then he told us about a saying he learned when he was traveling around Arabia. In English it was "same same but different" in arabic it was something like "Al rouge al magash". I'm sure the avid ultrasubmarines that speak arabic can correct that. Either way the meaning of this saying was that things can seem the same on the surface but actually be very different.
This brings us to the match. I'm sure you know the blow by blow account of how it happened. The close half hour then the dismal second half in weather that seemed to have followed us from last weekend in Manchester.
In many ways it was the same as last week. Tight first half then the better side upped the ante and pulled away with canny game management and a huge forward effort, whilst the opposition looked on impotently.
In many ways it was the same as last year. Away in Clermont we gambled with some penalties and a simple error just before half time, then a dropped high ball from Alesana Tuilagi now a knock on from Thomas Waldrom, allowed the French to open up a gap they never relinquished.
But it was different. We never looked like challenging their try line. Even when Flood was presented with the equivalent of an open goal, a clear run to line from 15 metres, he somehow managed to dilly dally and get tackled into touch. Up in Sale we turned the screw in the tight and really dominated them, Toulouse might have got back to square but never dominated us in the same manner.
Maybe that philosopher with his caravan, his beard and his Mad Dogs was right. Same Same but Different.
* A Mad Dog is a Vodka shot, topped up with Grenadine and finished with a couple dollops of Tabasco.