Byline: OLIVER HOLT CHIEF SPORTS WRITER REPORTS FROM PARIS
MARK REGAN came up behind a journalist at the England team hotel yesterday, gripped him tightly by the arm and stared at him intently.
"Motormouth?" he said, querying the way he'd been described by the writer in an article earlier this week.
"Er, machine-gun mouth," the journalist said, anticipating England's fearsome hooker may be about to shake him warmly by the throat.
He told Regan it had been meant as a compliment. Regan seemed perplexed. He gripped tighter for a few seconds. Then he smiled and walked away.
Regan, also known as Ronnie, was a little subdued yesterday. By his own standards anyway. Usually, he likes to chat during a game. And chat. And chat. And chat.
"He's talked to me more in the last two games than my wife has in the past 10 years," South Africa captain John Smit said of him earlier this year.
Regan is the court jester of the England side that will try to make history at the Stade de France here tonight by successfully defending the World Cup they won in 2003.
He's the guy who's never short of a quip or a joke. He's bubbly and bouncy. And on the pitch, he's renowned as one of rugby's most persistent sledgers.
His reputation is such that before England's quarter-final with Australia three weeks ago, the Wallabies singled him out and asked officials to be vigilant about his behaviour.
They implied that he was capable of all manner of dirty tricks and the South Africans will be equally wary of being thrown off guard by his taunts tonight. Yesterday, though, Regan spoke as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
He was quiet to the point of being demure. Quiet to the point that people who know him well were thoroughly unnerved.
It was suggested to Regan that maybe the occasion was getting to him. That the enormity of the match in which he was about to play was beginning to dawn on him.
The Bristol hooker has, after all, come out of nowhere to claim his place in the heart of the front row of this team of unlikely World Cup finalists.
He retired from international rugby in disgust in 2004 when then England coach Andy Robinson ignored his form and picked 2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson ahead of him.
He only came back into the reckoning when Brian Ashton succeeded Robinson last December. …