Rugby’s coming home, and potentially leaving again quite quickly

RWC15 is a mass of contradictions so far – we passed a law allowing the nation to chop piss in front of the rugby, then everyone went to the pub to drink flat whites. Man Of Few Words Steve Hansen is suddenly lighting up a press conferences with more one-liners than a night out with Stevie Nicks in the ’70s. The hosts have rolled out the welcome mat, then rolled over.

Everyone can enjoy this.
Everyone can enjoy this.

The early weeks of a world cup are like a Monkees album. There’s some classics all right, but plenty of filler too. Before it gets better, here’s what’s happened in the first fortnight:

Best game I
Wales v England. This was a six nations epic that had blood, guts, seventeen half backs on the field, and it will actually affect the outcome of the tournament. The hosts are as tentative as an Englishman trying to get a French waiters’ attention and have been about as successful. Wales had Gaelic fire and brimstone up their backsides and got the lollies – they will do well to repeat the trick with all their injuries, but having taken down their nemesis, they probably won’t care.

Hazza regretting bringing a security camera on a double date.
Hazza regretting bringing a security camera on a double date.

Best game II
Japan v South Africa, obviously. Eddie Jones is as popular in South Africa as Braai made of toejam, and his team’s late winner is one of the world cup’s greatest moments ever, obviously. The cherry blossoms performed a pretty credible Brumbies-circa-2004 impression to get home while South Africa, who looked as organised as Alan Donald running a quick single. They need to de-shambles themselves and fast.

Japan are proof that the top tier isn’t impregnable, and any country with massive corporations willing to chuck shedloads of wonga at a coach, foreign player dominated professional league and a world cup hosting gig coming up can play with the big boys. Those Pacific islands should get into that.

'Just promise me Eddie you won't come back and beat us with Japan one day.' 'Sure.'
‘Promise me Eddie you won’t come back and beat us with Japan one day.’ ‘Sure.’

Pool of Death update

England have a distinct whiff of dead meat about them, but I would keep an eye on Australia. They come into their big games looking as competent as Kevin Rudd, but have the chance to knock England out this weekend, promoting all those entertaining ‘who do you least like’ debates up and down NZ. Here’s a quick guide:

England – would be pretty funny if the hosts went out, their fans are unbearable, they’re tough at home so could hurt the All Blacks chances later in the tournament

Australia – they’re Australian

Wales are top, but Warren Gatland’s squad is so bare he’s is sizing up getting out the ear tape and running on himself, if he ever gets over his voice back after his post-England karaoke bender. With all the Big Clashes to come, there’s more late drama than an Earthquake Recovery minister trying to make a flight and a bigger fall out to come, team.

All Black panic level
Ooooooookay. So far. Beating Argentina comfortably in a tight-ish, physical world cup opener was a great result, but measured against our propensity to PANIC whenever we don’t WASTE TEAMS BY FIFTY POINTS, it was an utter failure.

When you play against minnows Namibia with a team with 13 changes in it, you shouldn’t read too much into it. So of course we all read too much into it. With  talk of injuries in the camp, the nation is lovingly running their finger all around the panic button, but hasn’t *quite* pushed it. Yet.

The Official Panic Button of the All Blacks.
The Official Panic Button of the All Blacks.

There’s some bright points – Sonny Bill is all of a sudden our form back, and Waisake Naholo is down to play Georgia, and could provide some much-needed X factor, among a back three that’s worryingly quiet. Even that’s OK, as long as they can start catching high balls at knockout time.

Richie and Dan, who we’ve put a lot of chips on, look the goods so far and our strength in depth looks, erm, deeper than most as long as everyone gets and stays fit. Playing this weird group with Argentina and not a lot else makes it harder to gauge where we’re at than plugging in a phone charger in the dark.

Can we win it, though? Shit yes. Even if NZ isn’t relaxed, the All Blacks seem to be. We should learn from those guys.

Share Button

Cupping the cup – RWC 15 preview

We’re almost there – rugby fans who’ve not put a boot through the 40″ in frustration at a build up more dreary than a family holiday to Stationery Warehouse will have actual rugby to digest in less that 24 hours time.

Fans of ‘stats’ and ‘facts’ have had plenty of chances to scratch that itch elsewhere. presents a RWC 15 guide to the All Blacks’ opposition, and a pointer to the potential pain the nation’s about to experience together.


It's the World in Union - everyone enjoys Australian defeat.
It’s the World in Union – everyone enjoys Australian defeat.

World cup history
Twice winners, but the last time was ’99 and it’s been more barren than a post-Matt Dunning Koru lounge buffet since. The golden generation of Eales, Gregan, Larkham, Horan etc are long since retired, the recent coaching change circus and playing roster rabble are having a hard time measuring up.

Can they win it?
Technically yes, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Cheika era is flattering to deceive. He’s developed a big old forward pack and some fair backline talent, but their ability to actually win when it counts seems as likely as a Tony Abbott comeback.

How bad would they be to lose to?
Four more years bad. They’ll be tough all right, but on current form and depth, we should smash them like a kebab on the way home from the pub. stat attack

Four Gregans.

Four Gregans.



England fans. What a pack of dorks.

World cup history
Winners in 2003 with a forward pack carved from granite, the complicated Johnny Wilkinson and not a lot else. Bit of a mixed bag apart from that, best known for providing comedy opposition to Jonah Lomu’s early start to the ‘get the Union Jack off our flag’ movement in 1995.

Can they win it? 
Bloody probably. Twickers with its hooray Henrys and indomitable bloody roar is their Eden Park, and they get to play all their tough matches there. Everyone’s openly hoping they don’t make it out of the Group Of Death, but that seems unlikely.

How bad would they be to lose to?
Awful. With fans and sponsors starting the usual / irritating ‘bantz’ about the Haka early doors, by the time we actually get to play them in a knock out match in about nine weeks time the tension will be unbearable. Every All Blacks fan takes each loss to England during their life time as an extremely personal insult. To do so in the world cup would basically End Of Days. stat attack


Two youthful Clive Woodwards.


French rugby fans all look like this and are extremely annoying.
French rugby fans all look like this and are extremely annoying.

World cup history
Thrice finalists, never won it. All Blacks fans who’ve sucessfully repressed the memories will be interested to learn the French knocked us out of the tournament gloriously in ’99, and in treacherous fashion in ’07.

Can they win it? 
They’re as crazy as a crocodile locked in your desk drawer, and you wouldn’t want to open it to find out. Look, people around the country will spend the next month telling each other that the French are unpredictable, so is unlikely to figure it out here and now.

How bad would they be to lose to?
The absolute worst. Mike Hosking long form interview on bad. stat attack


Six Bernard Laportes.

South Africa

South Africa - famous the world over for its rugby passion.
South Africa – famous the world over for its rugby passion.

World cup history
Twice winners, they’re always tough and more than happy to run through brick walls to get through. Then again, they’ve had their fair share of quarter final exits and look best when they stick to grinding it out and relying on a deadly kicker to get the lollies.

Can they win it? 
Yes. But it seems unlikely. They’ll be at the business end like a japanese executive ignoring the last drinks call in a karaoke bar, but it seems there’s more likely options elsewhere this time around.

How bad would they be to lose to?
They’re arguably our greatest rivals and encounters tend more fiery than Gareth Morgan versus a cat. It could be worse, much worse. stat attack


One Os du Rant.

Everyone else

An old codger talks to his pint and his imaginary dragon. Bless.
An old codger talks to his pint and his imaginary dragon.

World cup history
 Some of the most memorable games involve those outside the big teams above, like Samoa’s defeats of Wales and Ireland taking down Australia at Eden Park last time, but there’s been some match ups more one sided than hamburger v tofu along the way.

Can they win it?
No. Wales and Ireland seem the most likely to spring surprises and will be tough quarter finals opponents, but most teams outside the ones above will be very happy to get out of the group. Rugby, which is run by old boys clubs, is a game where the old boys clubs are most likely to achieve, unsurprisingly.

How bad would they be to lose to?
A small part of every New Zealander would not begrudge Wales a world cup win. Same goes for Ireland, but seeing as we’ve never lost to them and this is the world bloody cup, it would be bad. Really bad. If the All Blacks are eliminated by anyone else, expect our national sport to be Lacrosse when 2019 rolls around. stat attack


Five Alesana Tuilagis.

Share Button

Top five rejected All Black RWC arrival promos

Screen shot 2015-09-14 at 9.59.54 PM

The road to Twickenham is paved with sponsor enforced fan engagement sessions, pop-up promotional pain and selfie / signing session sleepiness, and AIG’s ABs have done nothing but since getting off the plane.

A back of the envelope calculation (researched off the news on the telly) has the All Blacks attending at least eight official functions or sponsors events in the two days since touching down, including an official welcome ceremony, a weird Q+A with JK at a pub, something to do with luxury goods outfit Bvulgari  and a haka™ thing launch.

Yes, it’s all part of the deal nowadays – commercial partners who write the cheques have compulsary-fun-athlete-time written into contracts, while World Rugby have a tournament to promote, what, using their top All Black talent. We can only hope the team will be largely left alone to play rugby after getting this carry on over with at the start of the trip. Pray we won’t be blaming this ‘welcome’ for the unthinkable in six week’s time.

Still, it could have been worse. A dossier of rejected sponsors’ proposals for still more promos has been implausibly slipped under’s hotel room door. They’ve thankfully been left on the drawing board. For now.

  1. Dan and Richie and Ant and Dec – two of our greatest ever take on their toughest opponent in Simon Cowell. Can they bag an ambitious X Factor / World Cup double, or will Simon’s tight tees and uncompromising feedback make him England’s 16th man?
  2. Leadership and Loving with Steve Hansen – the All Black head coach brings you a dawn Bikram Yoga session and motivational team talk in Hyde Park, followed by gluten-free breakfast and natural healing with Waisake Naholo. Brought to you by Sanitarium, except for the non-Christian bits.
  3. Bro, You’ve Been Punked – Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam dress as Dickensian urchins and pick-pocket tourists in Charing Cross for a Mastercard viral. Anyone who gives chase and succeeds in catching the two professional athlete-scallywags get to keep their valuables.
  4. Heineken Highway To Hell – Competition winners pit their drinking game against a panel of angry ex-All Blacks in an aggressive and uncompromising all day pub crawl. Participants *must* chop their piss for the duration and comply with all of Richard Loe’s instructions or face 1970s-style back of the bus hazing. Kiwi rules on the pool table.
  5. Selfie Stick Survivor – the ultimate in fan engagement. Competition winner and All Black of their choice have 24 hours to commit a Clockwork Orange-style crime spree without being caught on CCTV. It’s a money can’t buy experience, and forever more, that fan and All Black will ‘have something on each other’.
Share Button

Links on Friday

Make sure you get all over The Spinoff’s steroided-up sports section – it’s the internet equivalent of a Barcelona-style team goal with 30 stroked passes leading to a stonking finish, with Scotty Stevenson in the editor’s seat and friend-of-sportreview Calum Henderson contributing. Hopefully Spinoff supremo Duncan Grieve will find time among running the most impressive actual-writing site in NZ to write some sport, ‘cos he’s ace at it. Well played.

Anyone who says football is faster now obviously hasn’t seen Marco Tardelli take down Gianni Rivera two seconds after kick off. Yellow card.

Inside the mind of a striker:

A major part of my job is to lie (sorry, Mom). I have to use deception to manipulate two, sometimes three, defenders guarding me. It’s a 90-minute game of chess. If I know we don’t have the ball in a threatening spot, I’ll often sacrifice my positioning for a little while so I can soften up the defenders for later.

Could you win a Madden NFL Superbowl with an average dude at quarterback? The challenge is to add a player to a video game with roughly the same stats and skills as yer average couch / beer / chips athlete. I don’t think he’s going to go well.

Share Button

Links on Friday

Yorkshire Postman gets very very angry about a bicycle race road closure, takes matters into his own hands, and uses impressively bad language if you listen carefully.

“I’m star-struck when I see Paul Scholes, because you never see him. On the pitch you can’t catch him. Off the pitch he disappears.”Luis Figo agrees, so here’s an essay about Scholes and Patrick Viera, two totems of the Premier League when it was arguably at its peak.

Speaking of Woolich, in a lazy but effective troll, A Genius inserts a photocopied pic of Van Persie celebrating scoring for Man U v Arsenal instead of the promised Arsenal DVD in online trade. Approved.

Golfing athletic wear may seem like an elaborate attempt to attract a mate, but here are the top ten encounters with actual animals on the PGA Tour, featuring alligators, turtles and bees.

Share Button

That’s a wrap

In now-old news (so potentially not even news), I left my role at New Zealand Cricket back in May.

You can read a wrap up over on


2013-10-07 13.26.06

Share Button

Taranaki man’s RWC blame list nears completion

NEWS: New  Plymouth resident Mike Neckwrench feels his Rugby World Cup 2015 blame list is in ‘a really good place’, with most names penciled in six weeks out from the tournament.


Mike Neckwrench of Taranaki spends much of his leisure time compiling rugby world cup blame lists and lives alone.

Neckwrench, who has prepared blame lists for every Rugby World Cup since 1995 when Laurie Mains topped the pile, began preparing his 2015 edition immediately after the final whistle at Eden Park in 2011. “Winning’s not an excuse to stand still. If you’re not reading the tea leaves, Ben Smith’s suddenly playing centre in the quarterfinal while you’re still distracted by leaving Andy Ellis at home. If I’m not prepared for every scenario, I’m not doing my job.”

Coaches, players, officials and Twickenham ground staff are in the mix – the final line-up will be inked in as the tournament kicks off, with the proviso that names can be added on an ad hoc basis to allow for injuries, loss of form or unforeseeable fuckwits.


Neckwrench identified Wayne Barnes as a Potential dick early in 2006.

When it comes to IDing blame list potential, Neckwrench is content to play the long game, evidenced by adding Wayne Barnes to his 2007 list eighteen months before the tournament. “He’s a shit ref, and I could see the IRB lining him up to fuck us over some distance out.”

The lists themselves are kept on Excel spreadsheets in a computer folder simply labelled ‘Rugby Blame.’ “Sure, my 2011 list wasn’t needed, but importantly, it was set to go. Plus, I could just cut and paste Sonny Bill from 2011 to 2015, saving seconds,” said Neckwrench, who has ‘I told you so’ tattooed on both arms.

Share Button

Links on Friday

Couple of Tottenham links to get Our Year underway – here’s Harry Kane with a casual run and edge of the box screamer in first pre-season run. reaction – “Woof,” and “that’s great but please can we have another striker to go with him? Thanks.”

From the Guardian’s tremendous Golden Goal series – a big read on Glen Hoddle’s Watford Chip:

We can just watch, jaws gently agape, and recall the words of Mike in Swingers: “That was so fucking money. That was like the Jedi mind shit.”

And here it is:

Karim Benzema posts an Instagram of himself on an aeroplane, and the grim corner of the internet that is Arsenal fans gets all excited over nothing.

Umbrellas blowing down a beach – not sport as such but can’t take its eyes off it.

Share Button

Links on Friday

Tour de France winner and stirrer Greg LeMonde says the most important thing when public speaking is staying relaxed.

Great read from the very, very smart Aaron Timms on Shane Watson, anointing him the most awkward of Australia’s long line of ‘non-blokey’ cricketers.

When I was eight, and still dreaming of a career in the baggy green, I would burst into tears whenever I got out. Fortunately, I outgrow the habit by the age of 10. Watto, even at the age of 34, greets every dismissal as if still in the throes of that impending juvenile trauma. He bristles with purpose, but it’s a purpose with no team solidarity; his sporting will is entirely self-centred.

Not only is Cristiano Ronaldo a pale imitation of the proper Ronaldo, it turns out he’s happy to hawk any old shit in Japan to make cash.

ScreenHunter_56 Jul. 17 16.03


GIF / Dad of the week:
qVfhQWh - Imgur

Share Button

Links on Friday

Pirlo long ball to Baggio, who finishes exquisitely. This is basically pornography for football nerds.

BIG DATA! Picking a winner in a golf tournament is more difficult than combing an annoyed cat., however, have figured out that Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal has apparently increased Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth’s chances by 3% in the British Open – go deep and go figure.

The Cricket Monthly on the Greatest Ball. Great piece, Wasim and Waqar feature.

Paneka penalties are a favourite, and to attempt one that only dribbles accross the line to win the Copa America, even if you are a gooner, is pretty classy.

Share Button