This edition of ‘Ending a Nation’s World Cup Heartbreak’ is starting to read like some kind of sick Hollywood script. Carter OUT! McCaw INJURED! Plucky would-be redemption-guy Slade OUT! Arguably-should-have-been-there-in-the-first-place-guy Gear IN! Old pro Mils CRYING! Jane ON THE PISS! Donald WHITEBAITING! It’s a huge change from the ‘sleep walk through pool games / lose / everyone argue a lot’ scripts we normally get, but it is no good for the nation’s nerves or sense of proportion, team.
The most impressive thing for me about Cruden, Donald and Gear coming into the squad is that they’re fit and ready to go. Faced with sporting rejection and with many, many high class rugby matches to watch, sportreview.net.nz is sure sportreview.net.nz would have spent the last few weeks on the couch, enjoying a diet of pistachio nuts, beer and crying.
The hero of this particular script is, of course, Piri Weepu, the pint size and width Hurricanes half back that does it all – goal kicking, backup first-fiving, beard leadership and dragging boozing team mates out of north shore boozers. He’s an unlikely candidate for world cup saviour in fairness, having suffered a horrific leg injury this time last year, refuelled a lot over the off season and been one of the absolutely positively stroppy Hurriances. The All Blacks haven’t tried the folk hero approach since ’95 with Jonah Lomu – it’s going well so far, but as all Warriors fans know, banking on a wave of emotion to get you there is a risky strategy at times.
Even so, despite going into a semi final with the dastardly Australians with the country’s 43rd pick first five on the bench, I feel strangely calm, in a ‘really quite drunk, but unconcerned’ fashion. Fact remains that even with Slade Cruden, not Carter, we still have backline the envy of any team – even sportreview.net.nz could play between Weepu and Nonu and appear competent*. I am also heartened by the clichés being rolled out about the All Blacks being stronger as a group for having our star player in the stands and our captain on one leg. If we win this world cup, it will be as a group that’s been tested and triumphed – not as arrogant favourites that fucked it up. It’s worth a try, hey?
The thing I love most about Dan Carter is he always looks half asleep. Running straight through a Wallaby defence. Goal kicking. Hanging out on someone’s wall. Farting about wearing only a pair of jocks. Tormenting the Lions. He always seems so relaxed, he’s kind of like your brother’s dodgy mate you suspect smoked a joint before showing up at the 21st. In a country where most males use Marc Ellis as template for manhood, Dan from Southbridge is pretty comfortable being himself, a shit hot rugby player, an obviously loved and respected member of the All Blacks, or an underwear model. Whatever. And so last Tuesday, he did a remarkable job of addressing a hysterical media pack who’d made his groin front page and lead-the-bulletin news. Suddenly he was guidance councillor to a nation, telling us to get over, um, him. It’s debatable whether signing Dan up for a further four years is good for NZ rugby long term, but there’s no doubt the man himself is all class. Heal well, fella.
Of course, in all the semi final excitement, let’s not forget the tournament’s minnows – I would like to pay tribute by publishing one of Haydn’s photos of Troy from Tampa, who didn’t let a little detail like a BROKEN NOSE he got playing rugby stop him coming to New Zealand, wearing an appalling hat and getting farkin’ wasted. Here’s to you, minnows, you have showed us how to enjoy rugby again. Let’s hope we remember that over the next couple of weeks.
* Total lie