Tuesday, 25 September 2007

A Clean Sheet

Forty points to nil. It looks like another awesome effort by the ABs in their less than challenging pool, but why is it that every person I talk to is still shaking their heads and doubting that the team is rising to a peak in time for the knockout stages? There were dropped balls galore and the backs even looked confused at times. I honestly think the two teams could not tell each other apart in tight play - the similarity of the strips, especially the upper body, was too strong. Bring Back Black!

Some ‘moves’ seem to be slowly appearing, and I love it when the All Blacks pull off good ones - though I thought the two cross kicks used very early on were both telegraphed, and its no wonder they didn’t quite come off. Will they pull a variation on these kicks later on? JC to Hayman?

I know the score does not matter in the big picture, and the Brains Trust has a plan, but we are going to need our A game for France in the Quarter because I can’t see Ireland beating the Pumas easily. Result after Cardiff = either the host nation or the favourite (us) will be out. If that happens, the bloody Wallabies will win again. Or South Africa. Or Argentina? Or England? Pull yourself together man.

It was a hilarious weekend again. Every Kiwi in the UK must have converged on Edinburgh, the town was swathed in black and it was an inescapable fact that the World Cup had hit town, even more so than in the two previous games at Marseille and Lyon. The Scots were also out in force, but as the big screen revealed the line-ups in Murrayfield the cheers of thousands greeting each All Black name made it clear that the Scots may not have the home ground easy ride they wanted.

Jonesy again found a celeb: this time he cornered pig hunter and part-time All Black Keith Robinson in a pub (he and Mils had pass-outs for a night). I think the big guy was there with friends or family for a quiet catch up, but he was kind enough to accept a five minute inquisition from us ... though the strange swing of topics that we were unleashing, from hunting, to training, to injuries, to where he and the boys can find the best pizza in Aix-en-Provence must have been daunting. I think we were pretty boozed by then. Robinson said he was itching for a run at Romania and things were looking good for that. Can’t wait to see him unleashed again and back in the sort of form that used to see him torment the English at HQ.

Other thoughts from the weekend:
  • Weren’t Tonga robbed of glory by a premature full time whistle?
  • England were loads better - could they upset the Wallabies?
  • I really, no really miss Tana nowadays
  • Why were there so many Basque flags up there?
  • Why does Edinburgh smell of Weetbix?
Off to Toulouse next, and can’t wait to spend a couple of days down in a real rugby heartland of France. I just hope we can truly click against Romania, a team who NZ used to play fairly regularly, and I think have been at every finals? Time to really pummel someone convincingly.

As I am typing Romania are seven points down to Portugal, a team that have been a revelation - maybe they should get a Divisional XV game out of NZ or something? They are the most professional amateurs in the Cup. If they play any better, the IRB might offer them hosting rights to ‘grow the game’.


Friday, 21 September 2007

Outrage in Lilliput!

My colleague Lisa has introduced me to Wee World, where you can create tiny versions of yourself and your friends.
(Here's ones of us above).

I was hugely excited to see that they have some of the rugby team's jerseys available and set abut creating the most superb collection of mini-All Blacks the world has ever seen.

However I'm outraged to find that only the 6 Nations tops are available! My teeny ABs had to be dressed in plain black - with no silver fern! I did consider leaving them naked in protest but this is a family blog after all, although strangely mini-DC happens to be sporting his well-promoted Jockeys. Am also upset to not be able to draw any Australians as there is a lovely Outback-style background.

I've drawn a few ABs anyway and a few of the more recognisable members of the other teams to show you the shirts, but I have somehow lost some enthusiasm.

Dan C; Rodders;

Big Jezza; O'Driscoll;

Chabal; Lamont;

Its all about the Brand

Tourism New Zealand is to build a giant Rugby Ball Venue in front of the Eiffel Tower during the final stages of the Rugby World Cup to showcase New Zealand tourism and trade to international audiences, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced the other day.
Rumours that the French government is planning to erect a 15m high Coq in Auckland during the 2011 World Cup have been denied by Sports Minister Trevor Mallard. And he should know ...
The total project cost for the venue is $4.6 million which is cheaper than a yacht race. If it was selling Golden Takeaways Fishburgers or had Emersons Bookbinder on tap, I’d be there in a flash, but we enjoyed the French food & wine during the Provence leg ... so make mine un Kebab Cheval & a jug of Rosé, Gaston!

Thought Japan showed a lot of spunk last night - and their first try was one for the World Cup’s highlight reel. Tremendous passing and support running. Wales expectedly beat them, but what does it mean? Nothing but a romp. And really, those new tops of theirs are downright silly. “Upmarket foppery” as Xavier Rush’s Dad would say. Next time they tour Australia they may have to travel through the Outback, standing on the roof of their bus.

Big game tonight between Ireland and France. Could decide our route further in ... or not. probably pick France to do it with form and home advantage. Or will the Irish team finally kick-off? I’ll be glued to ITV1 - but with Radio 5 Live on ... can’t bear the TV commentators.


Thursday, 20 September 2007

A Slow News Week

UK media madness continues with stories about anything but actual games. And I don't think The Current Bun even knows the bloody World Cup is on.

The Times’ Grievin’ Bones says England need Henry as coach! And yesterday’s Metro here in London carried a little item of how the Premiership’s newest league convert Leslie 'The Volcano' Vainikolo, has thoughts of UK residency that could allow him to play for England. What a beat up! Can we cry “poachers” now? Nah, its a tired old line, as my chum Ferdy says, and we should not sink to the level of the UK media drones ... BUT if any Rose-wearing knob says we steal Samoans, just point out to them that in 1914 the NZ Expeditionary Force captured Samoa from Germany in The Great War, and pillaging colonies is a great BRITISH tradition!

Breathe, count to ten ...

Now, are the Irish Rugby team in crisis? Reports of Geordan Murphy being ready to quit for not being picked against Argentina are being denied ... but is he getting ready to do a Keano? Obviously, NZ would prefer a lacklustre Ireland in the Quarter Final, rather than a rebounding Les Bleus side on the rise after their banana peel opener vs the Pumas, and a frolic against Namibia. I think the prospect of either France or (gulp) us going out in the first knockout round would be bad for the tourney as a whole. France going out may kill it in the host nation.

But, are France the Dads Army of this RWC? There are some old heads and long campaigners there (Ibanez, Betsen, Pelous) ... do they have the stamina to match us, or even put us out in Cardiff? I think they have as much, if not slightly more depth than us ... especially at 4 through 8. Players like Betsen, Nyanga and the new 7 Thiery Dusautoir guarantee them quick ball, and Chabal is becoming one of this Cup’s crowd pleasers - check that run for his second try against Namibia.

But I think, with our fit, top XV (whatever that is), we just edge them in solidity, skill & speed.

Big Seb is also settling in at lock, a plan ‘Bernie the Door’ has had for some time apparently, and will play in the second row again, against Ireland. Yannick Jauzion is dropped, but is this cotton wool or the wooden spoon? We ate cracking paninis at a sandwich bar in La Ciotat called ‘Yannick’ with a oval ball logo ... is it Jauzion’s chain?

Chabal’s ultimate nemesis may well be Jerry Collins, who revealed his one weakness to the rugby media yesterday: a childhood fear of roosters. However, his methods of conquering that fear may well silence the crows of Le Coqs Rouge ... at breakneck speed.

Time to go - some pics here we took from our seats at the Italy game. Shows how close we were.

Seen the new England top? Thanks, Fi.

Interesting article here from Independent two weeks back, about rugby's rise under the Vichy regime in the 1940s, how it replaced ‘treize’ the 13 man game with not so subtle political moves.


Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Back on Deck

When is a blog not a blog? Despite our best efforts, our 10 day trip to the first two pool games in Marseille and Lyon, we were distracted by the fine food and wine Provence supplied, and by the confusing French keyboards when we did try to use a local web cafe ... I mean, who wants to read about the “Qll Blqcks”?

Trip was awesome, and I am pleased to say that the expensive seats in the purple zone are worth it - in fact at Lyon we were on half way, near the non-playing ABs, and about 2 rows in front of Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, though separated by more technology than the Apollo Space Program, and also by the largest bloody bouncer I have ever seen. Fingers like sausages.

The atmosphere for Portugal was great - their fans perked up a fairly one-sided affair and gave it a carnival feel. I know a lot has been said about reducing the number of teams to 16 for 2011 in an attempt to make it more even, but the significance of that game for the Portuguese was immense. Fans by us said they can never see their team on TV, so to come and see them play the All Blacks in a World Cup was special. The reaction to their first points (the drop goal) was amazing; the noise upon Joao Correia getting the try was beserk.

No doubt a special day for them. Just a pity they don’t get much in the way of souvenirs. That night we bumped into two of their forwards in town, speaking to Andre Silva and he said that they could not get the All Black jerseys at the end. It seems Henry’s All Blacks can only give out socks and shorts to opponents. Doesn’t quite look the same, framed on the club room’s wall does it?

The game: Well, 108 on the board doesn’t look bad, but the consensus at the pub afterwards seemed to be that we were sloppy and off the pace. Luckily a lot of other teams seem below par as well - I hope we improve, cut out the dropsies, and begin to tighten up. The coaches didn’t look that wrapt afterwards.

Also thought Sione Luaki should have showed more. He had a chance to carve it up against Portugal, but still looks like he is a bit off the pace. Too much Provençal nosh, mayhaps?

Game day was awesome though, and afterwards we discovered we were staying in the same hotel as the TV3 team - so it was beers with Hamish McKay, AJ Wetton, Grant Fox and their crew in the foyer, then again later for Junior when he joined them in town at the Maori Cafe in Lyon.

Other highlights:
  • All Black fans: dressed up, pumped up and proving popular in France (so far)
  • The French getting back behind Les Bleus after their thumping of Namibia
  • Byron Kelleher’s immaculate French. We saw him on French TV, signing autographs, endlessly repeating in French “Hi ... How are you ... it’s hot, eh?” ... though with a pretty good accent to be fair.
  • Provençal food and wine: not much for vegetarians or tea-totallers ... but we managed.
  • World Cup organisation: all good so far, volunteers very helpful and each city very geared up for it.
  • Rectangular grounds: Lyon & Marseille are shared with football clubs and the immediacy of not sitting on a cricket boundary makes for great spectatoring!
Gripe - well, non-alcoholic beer at grounds, and only one bar selling it at all in the surrounding area at Lyon. Did all those Kiwis really know they were paying 5 euros for a 0% pint? We did try one - it tasted like a day old shandy. It does make for a relaxed atmosphere, and maybe saves a few casualties in the heat, but if Heineken are a major sponsor why can’t you buy their product?

Better go and let the missus post at some stage. Will try and get some photos up today.


Monday, 10 September 2007

Italy Down : Six games to go

Made it. Just took me longer to work out this French keyboard than it did for the All Blacks to score against Italy.

Aix en Provence, where we are staying, is a gorgeous small town about 35 mins on a train from Marseille, but since UK Train Company Management Techniques must have spread to France, its suddenly a 60 min bus ride.

Marseille awoke yesterday to a swarm of Black clad drinkers; the Vieux Port was heaving with Kiwis, and AB fans from other countries ... French, Italian, even 3 Dutch guys Junior met who had driven through the night from Holland to get here.

The main roundabout in the centre of town was decked out in a double life size Wicker Man XV doing a haka. At this stage we are unsure whether they torched an Edward (Clive) Woodward effige in it, but nevertheless it was pounced upon by snap happy Kiwis in the thousands;


Pleased to say that our seats in the expensive package were worth the extra dosh: 10 metre line about 4 to 5 rows back. Fi was convinced she could see Dougies VPL when he was stretching. The crowd was at first pro NZ, but I think many French began to whistle us and felt sorry for the Azzuri ... just in sympathy, not anything bad. The reaction the Italian tries got was very loud.

All up, a good atmosphere, and a good game. Not tense or a classic because nothing was really at stake yet, but Richie, Howlett, Leon M and the Locks looked in top nick. And no one got hurt.

Play of the day: J Collins, chip and chase. Just the sort of thing that winds up the purists at The Times ... forwards playing like backs.

Worrying: Luke M and his Spencer tendencies. Give me Evans as the backup 10 please. And Toeava needs to be more confident, it looked like he was afraid to take that try off Howlett.

Atmosphere here is great. The French are warming up to this big time, even after their hiccup against the Pumas, they have to stay in this ... no host would be bad.

Five days of holiday now before the Lyon game. Not missing London at all. It is awesomely sunny here, and the food is incredible. And the wine is very, very cheap.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Mind the Gap

Its just over three days to go, and only now are The Papers here starting to even notice. The weekend just gone finally saw the likes of The Times and The Observer acknowledge the fact the World Cup was even on this week, but the supplements were poor when you consider the the scale of this sporting event. They were by the numbers, and had a few odd mistakes or items. For a start, The Times identified Matt Giteau as a Springbok player to watch (under a photo of him in the Canary Yellow of the Wallabies), and the Observer saw fit to designate nearly four pages of the ‘World Cup Special’ in their Sport Monthly to an irrelevant chat between two great English journeymen - Martin Corry and ... Matthew Hoggard! Last time I looked, even Henry
Paul had more English rugby caps than Hoggard. The cover story: Beckham. Sigh.

Conclusions that they seemed to draw across the board:
  • The gap between NZ and the rest of the World has closed - I say “Rope a dope”
  • Dan Carter is not the player he was in 2005 - I say “Correct, he’s now got two more years experience”
  • Get McCaw: nullify him by making him make tackles and ending up under rucks - I say “Brilliant ... that's his bloody job”
  • The weight of expectation is too much for the All Blacks - I say “Duh, its our National Sport. Its the same every Test Match, let alone a World Cup”
  • That Ireland will be our 2007 Banana Peel - I say “They have never beaten us. They won’t achieve that in a RWC knockout.”
Mind the Gap I reckon - it’ll open up again in the knockout stages.

With all of England as usual obsessed with the new Premiership season, and the upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Russia and Israel (yes, they’re in UEFA because the Palestinians won’t give their ball back since it went over the Aparthei ..., sorry, Peace Wall) I am glad we are going to France - a rugby country. See the welcome the ABs got in Marseilles? What a master stroke having Monsieur Fluffy McCaw greet the locals in French! Finally a PR success from the Thorndon Quay brains trust. Now even the French are on our side, that’s gotta be a good sign. Mind you, I think that's what Churchill thought ...


TV 3 and Sky (in their 60 second highlights bonanzas) will no doubt rely on Back in Black by AC/DC, or if they really stretch themselves, Men in Black by Will Smith. Yawn. Why not ‘get pumped’ with proper music, I found these tunes lurking on my iPod. Got any others to add?

All Black World Cup - Casiospittake
The Haka - Ka Mate
Men in Black - Frank Black
Black Magic - Jarvis Cocker
Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
Black & White - Asian Dub Foundation
Black Flowers - Yo La Tengo
Black Out - Pavement
Weight of the World - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Black Supreme - Ansell Collins & The Upsetters
Waltzin’ Black - The Stranglers
Black Wave - The Shins
Home Again - Shihad
Home, Land & Sea - Trinity Roots (my pick for new natty anthem)

And one last (possible) musical omen - I went to see Sonic Youth perform Daydream Nation in a Don’t Look Back concert at The Roundhouse on Saturday night; it was phenomenal. What’s it got to do with the rugby? Well, it was released in 1988 ... when NZ were World Rugby Champions. Sign of desperation?


Monday, 3 September 2007

Fashion in the Field

For fans of the fairer sex, it is important to invest in rugby couture that is functional and practical (must survive those beer-splashing jumping up and down shrieking moments) while still maintaining an air of sophistication and style.

We kiwis are lucky to have the world's most fashionable colour. Black is slimming, goes with everything (including more black) and durable. Black is sleek and intimidating. Black is timeless.

The latest addition to my WCW (World Cup Wardrobe) is the womens All Blacks T-shirt. It has a flattering V-neck, a subtle fern pattern along one side of the neckline, and a couple of small white logos. This means it's perfect for wearing just about anywhere. The official shop is also offering a number of great womens tops - thank goodness we don't have to wear yellow with green piping! The shop also offers a range of vital accessories such as the RWC pillow cover, duvet cover... and musical keyrings - intriguing.

Thanks to a good friend who held a dress-up murder mystery last night, my latest accessories to add to the WCW are a black bob wig and black pashmina. They should come in handy at some point!

Also important is your choice of shoe - it must be able to withstand climbing up and down stadium steps, tomato sauce, and venturing into public toilets. Anything open-toed is probably not a good option.

Until next time, fashionistas