I realised about halfway through the New Zealand v Argentina quarter final that no matter what Tottenham, the Black Caps or the Chiefs did, NOTHING would make my heart beat faster than the All Blacks in a world cup knock out match. I mean, my heart was LITERALLY beating faster than Corey Jane banging on the door of a pub lock-in. The All Blacks and their sodding inability to win a world cup have ruined me for all other teams.
Like most New Zealanders, I spent the week before the semis talking myself out of it. Our world cup track record is not good, and the Wallabies are more cunning than Gerry Brownlee manoeuvring himself to a buffet across a crowded room. Immaturely, I greeted news of every Australian injury with a fist pump. I wished heavy contact upon the groin of David Pocock. Not good heavy contact.
But feck it – our team is pretty good too. Our captain only needs one leg, Brad Thorn has been flying into rucks like an angry photocopier all tournament, and our midfield is the best around. Piri and our back three are playing like Robert Palmer and a pack of rock chicks. Going into a semi final with Aaron Cruden instead of Dan Carter might seem as likely as John Mitchell subbing for Peter Garrett at a Midnight Oil concert, but he looked more at home than Piri Weepu on Endor. This tactic of having a guy on the sideline chopping piss for the most part of the tournament before being called into the squad may be a winner – I may have made a rugby player if it was around in my day.
On Sunday, Dagg’s running and Nonu’s early try calmed a few nerves, but I didn’t relax until about the 77th minute on Sunday night, despite Justin bloody Marshall saying it was in the bag from about the 26th minute. I’ve been hurt too many times by the Eales and Kefus of this world to feel comfortable about the Aussies not staging a Jason-from-Friday-13th style comeback. Our goalkicking, so pinpoint last week, started to look positively Welsh. I spent more time watching the clock and going to the lavatory in a nervous fashion than enjoying our performance in a tight, proper mature finals football semi final win against our great rivals. The All Blacks looked bloody stoked afterwards, and Australia were gracious in defeat, as you do when you come from a grown up country. They played their part as potential party-of-a-nation-cancellers well, and they deserve anything but playing a farcial match against Wales in a half-full Eden Park this week.
So now it’s world cup final week, and like last week, I just want the whole thing over. If we spend this week reading about how we’ll win it and watching the comedy stylings of our national team, then we lose, I will Not Be Able To Handle It. My dream result on Sunday would be a three try opening, leading to a 30 or 40 point thrashing, so we can just cheer the All Blacks the fuck on for 80 minutes, with men storming into the DJ booth and rip the fucking Black Eyed Peas off the decks, so the crowd can chant and sing songs of their own devising in a national rugby catharsis, putting the ‘NZ rugby crowds are quiet’ thing to bed once and for all. This world cup hoodoo has been hanging over us for a long time, team and there’s no doubt this is our best chance to win one since the last time it was here. I wish you well, All Blacks.
In other news, I went to see Wales play France at Eden Park on Saturday night. Everyone remarked how it feels like a proper stadium now, with its temporary stands and Allienz area style lighting on the South Stand. It’s got a proper cavernous-yet-intimate atmosphere and filled with Welsh and French fans, it was raucous and loud. Of course, we were robbed of a proper contest by the referee doing what he was told to, and the fallout seems to be continuing even now. On the night, I knew when the crowd started booing France they had it in the bag – there’s nothing those weasely French love more than being hated. I felt desperately sorry for Wales, and for some better goal kicking, they’d be at this party with us.