Sonny and Chur

The Black Caps’ West Indian tours has been somewhat challenging so far. Difficult country to tour. Upheaval in the coaching staff. Multiple injuries. A mixture of jaded old pros and inexperienced youngsters. If the guys aren’t careful, it has all the hallmarks of going full Cairns / Paroroe / Turner.

 
 The Black Caps arrive in the West Indies looking forward to playing some decent cricket.
 
 Ross Taylor receives the latest injury report from medical staff.
 Brendon McCallum answers the cry for back up.
 
 John Wright sits the boys down for a bit of a motivational talk.

As I write this, the Black Caps are putting together a decent bowling performance to win the third one-dayer. The West Indies are no one-man team, but Chris Gayle is the key. He can cheerfully take our attack to bits and make it look depressingly easy. We need to get him and get him early – on paper, there’s no reason why our patched-up team can’t beat the West Indies, even at home. Of course, things written on bits of paper are faily meaningless when you’re being carted to all parts of the ground, and have to share your sweltering hotel room with an overly-enthusiastic calypso band. Let’s hope our guys can push on from here.

Back home, there’s now two options for central Auckland test cricket venues. This new one is a stone’s throw from the old one, part of proposed development for the tank farm. There’s no doubt the concept photos are spectacular, and its right-beside-the-water-ness would give Auckland a central city sporting venue at last. It would be great if the Victoria Park and Waterfront groups can work together to make sure this happens in some fashion, and the test-cricket-in-Albany plan is sent to, well, Albany forever.

Last thing on cricket – Mark Boucher has been forced to retire from cricket due to a nasty, nasty injury. Great shame for him, and he’ll be missed by South Africa – but I’ll remember him mainly for this tremendous sledging effort against Zimbabwe.

Sonny
The sporting media loved the Sonny Bill story, as they got to report reports from those ‘in the know’ – New Zealand rugby’s number one ‘in the know’ sources are the guy who runs the mini doughnut stand outside Eden Park, and Murray Deaker’s postie. They had Sonny Bill going to Japan to play for a corporation renowned for having shitloads of cash and a shithouse rugby team – and they were right. Rugby’s worst kept secret since ‘Stu Wilson is a bit of a twat’ was revealed at a press conference that reached turning-up-to-work-naked levels of awkwardness.

Touchingly, Sonny Bill seemed genuinely sad to be leaving the Chiefs and the All Blacks. Less touchingly, he’s still going. Suddenly he’s all about handshakes and loyalty, when up til now, all appearances indicate he’s mostly interested in negotiating deals for heaps of wonga. It’s a bloody shame, he seems to have fitted in really well at the Chiefs – and things will change on both sides after a year away in Japan and Sydney. I’ve got no idea if we’ll see him back, we’ll see, and we’ll see if it seems to matter as much as it does now. If he really cared about the team and his team mates he says he does now, he might have put that first.

 Still best rugby stadium in NZ cc @chiefsrugby
I took sportreview jr to the rugger on Friday night at Waikato Stadium. Highly recommended, $12 for adults and $5 for kids, with a bouncy castle and little giveaways for the up and comers. Shame about the result, but.

In the tour, Bradley Wiggins is in yellow, and appears comfortable on the bike, and jumpy like a cat in a bag full of dogs off it, sweating at cameramen and anonymous losers on Twitter alike. Wiggins is cool-as-fuck, Paul Weller on a bike, all mod sideburns and Jimmy-from-Quadrophenia accent.

The Tour De France seems to be presenting no problem for Wiggins, but the mechanical doping rumours won’t go away.

He’s also the leader and beneficiary of the best managed, organised and funded cycling organisation in the world that, after winning Olympic medals galore decided to produce a Tour winner, and it looks like they may have one. I’m nervous for him, his broken collarbone exit from last year’s tour is fresh in my mind, and I think it’s preying on his too. Hang in there Wiggo.

NSFW language, unless your place of work is Team Sky at the Tour De France, in which case it’s fuckin’ game on.

The fans, they are a’crying

Taking joy in other fan’s pain (har! har!) is the sign of a shallow, shallow person, team, ESPECIALLY when your own team faces a very long week ahead.

That said, sportreview.net.nz is a keen student of the football fans crying genre, and when the two Manchester teams went head to head in full final-day-championship-dramageddon, there was bound to be some tasty crying action for the neutral.

 

0-0, 22 mins in. I wonder if this City ginger is this kid all growds up?

As an aside, there certainly seems to be a connection between gingers, with all their comedy awkwardness / unrequited longing for fulfilment / susceptibility to sunburn / appeal to bullies and Manchester City fans. At least this one isn’t prepared to take any shit.

 

1-0 City. All the hurt built up over the long glory-barren years being is released like a tennis ball can being opened in an explosion of beer-guts and dry humping in the stands at this stage.

 

1-2 QPR. Not going well. No-one waving an inflatable. Mass head clasping and looking around like a bus passenger trying to avoid eye contact is the form.

 

News of QPR’s goals filters through to Sunderland, sparking happy-head-clasping and hope against hope. Could this development mean an against-the-odds premiership win for Man U?

Spoiler alert: no.

 

And here we have the money shot – an honest to goodness crying fan, with bonus head-clasping. What is going through this mostly grown man’s mind as he sheds tears in public? The thought of facing his paper round mates on Monday without a championship trophy? The pain from his freshly-inked Man City Champions 2012 tattoo? The realisation that his cape won’t actually allow him to fly? Relief from years of hurt dangled within reach about to slip away in a hilarious-for-everyone-else scenario? I hope he went out and got very drunk, if he was able to sneak into a pub.

Still, for all the sniping by a barely-read, poorly written sports blog from New Zealand, at least City, even after spending all that money, sealed the deal and won a premiership, and avoiding adding the 2011/12 title challenge to the Man City pantheon of comedy gold. That is some pressure to cope with, fair play to them.

All screen captures from this BBC report – recommended viewing.

Blues clues

Pat Lam is out. According to the TV news, big John Kirwin has the job already, in an Andy Dalton / Gary Whetton / 1987 word cup winning team handshake-and-back-slap-fest that’s more old boys network than a ‘Went to Grammar? You get a fucking massive watch FREE with every Ferrari!’ sale at a Newmarket European car dealership.

Appointing rugby coaches to coach the Blues has been done before – they’ve had no joy with this rag tag bunch of talented players, who’ve promised much every pre-season and inevitably underperformed, apart from when they won it and that. But that was ages ago. JK hasn’t signed a contract for next year yet; sportreview.net.nz reckons NZ’s biggest city should explore all its options. Like these:

Option one: Some kind of southern man

 

sportreview.net.nz is envisaging a weather-beaten, grizzled old man with a beard and oilskin jacket sitting quietly in the Blues dressing room, watching as the players come in, listen to dub step on massive headphones, make plans for getting shitfaced in the Viaduct that night and mess around with their hair.

When everyone quiets down, the southern-man-coach would stand up, say nothing for 35 minutes, quietly mutter “soft Auckland wankers” and walk out, never to be seen again. The Blues players would think about what he said, realise the errors of their city-living ways and go on to win every game and the championship. Somehow.

Option two: Kim Dot Com

 
sportreview.net.nz was unaware of its obligation, like all NZ media or websites, to link the Megaupload supremo to every story or issue, ever, but is putting this right now.

Pros:
Offers a wide variety of transport options to games and that. Has international experience. Could probably record some kind of awesome rap track to get the public on side if results start to go against him.

Cons:
May be jail-based for the 2013 season. Mates with Banksy. Unable to use the internet (arguably a pro, considering how upset Pat Lam got about it).

Option three: Twitter

 

Watching any sporting event in New Zealand in modern times is an exercise in juggling your remote control, beer and smartphone and keeping up with the witty online repartee while managing your life partner / wife asking what the hell you’re doing on your phone all the time situation.

New Zealand’s ‘online’ ‘community’ is CHOCK A BLOCK with highly developed rugby expertise, that happens on the fly, in real time. The only reason these guys aren’t coaching the Blues or the All Blacks RIGHT NOW is simply a combination of having to do stupid day jobs and bad luck.

So – to harness this rugby hive mind, call plays and decide who gets subbed off, all we need to do is set up a hashtag and let the magic happen. Tweet #bluescoach to have your very own instructions carried out by a guy with a headpiece and an iPad, be it “smash him!” or “get that winger to pull his finger out of his arse!” or “give up, just walk off right now!”. Opposition players will be banned from tweeting instructions during matches.

Option four: A mime

 

Yes, the situation at the Blues is bad, and needs a serious overhaul, fast. I feel for Pat Lam, a capable coach that fronts when things are going wrong, but let’s call a spade a spade – the Blues’ 2012 season has been a delight for the neutral. With that hoary old myth that when Auckland rugby is strong, New Zealand rugby is strong out of the way, we’ve all felt pretty comfortable laughing at the Blues, and had a great time. The only I can think of to improve on this season’s comedy factor is to put a mime in charge. On the face of it, they couldn’t do much worse.

Flogging a dead 2011

2011 was the year you could say ‘it’s all happening’ and be right. Earthquakes. An election. A world cup. What didn’t happen? Here’s a quick round up.

Rugby World Cup
As a nation, New Zealand did the vacuuming, put the sausage rolls in the oven and hosted the rugby world simply and well, despite the haters and grandstanding, which became less and less important as we went. As for the rugby – well, we bloody won it, didn’t we? Two months on, you only have to show me Graham Henry’s post-final-win-eyebrow gymnastics or Richie McCaw being eye-gouged and I’m glowing like those folk in Cocoon.

Beating the Aussies
After a world cup (remember that) where we did our lose-in-the-semi thing, That First Win In Australia Since Ever was an epic of fingernails on the floor. It was hard to know what kind of NZ cricket team we had post-captaincy switch (alright, it’s ALWAYS hard to know what kind of team we have), but the Tasmanian fightback showed we had some real heart – and hope for the future. Bring on the South Africans.

Super Tottenham
I haven’t mentioned them much on the site, for fear of jinxing them. After missing out narrowly last time, Spurs are quietly having a brilliant season and look very much at home in the top four. Ask me more about how it’s going after we beat Chelsea this morning.

Le Tour
One of the best and worst I’ve seen – worst because of the first week crashes that took Wiggins et al out – best because of the slow burning drama and eventual, worthy winner. Cadel deserved his win for the way he rode, and the way he’s ridden over the last few years. He won’t do it again though, and I hope for a few more fireworks next year. It’s been a fantastic year for NZ’s cyclists also, the folding of Pure Black Racing aside – hoping for a big medal haul on the track in London next year too.

Man of the year
Well, who do you reckon? Stephen Donald is a bigger folk hero than Bob Dylan, his journey from whitebaiting to world cup winner was more beautiful than an unattended burger restaurant. The whole country got the Beaver fever and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Here he is resting on the beach or my little tribute.

 

sportreview.net.nz highlights
A new daughter, other family stuff and employment related madness meant I’ve not been able to give as much care and attention to the site as I’d like – but I’m still proud of how it’s gone this year. I’ve done some of my favourite rugby writing ever on the back of the world cup, with the brouhaha over the jerseys beforehand, and the nervousness against Argentina, beating Australia in the semi, the final the highlights for me. Drinking was a reoccurring theme over the year, with the All Black selectors getting drunk and this little number about alcohol abuse in the north of England.

Twitter, obviously, is where all the former sports bloggers are hanging out these days – and most of the athletes. It’s possible to go from abusing someone on the field to abusing them on the internet in no time nowadays. Two twitter related posts: for the cricket and for the rugby. I love Powerpoint (even thought it was a slow year for sportreview cartoons) and loved this.

Of course, most thanks go to you, mysterious readers. This site is obviously a little labour of love, I do it for no other reason than I enjoy it thoroughly. sportreview.net.nz is the kind of crappy NZ sports blog I would like to read if this one didn’t exit – it’s extremely heartening to know others enjoy it too. Thanks, appreciate it.

Other stuff:

My top five listened to songs, from last.fm:
1. Harry Nilsson – Lullaby In Ragtime
2. Robyn – Dancing On My Own
3. Robyn – Indestructible
4. Joni Mitchell – Car on a Hill
4. Harry Nilsson – Always

I’ve done bugger-all film watching or reading this year. Drive was the best (only?) (current) film I saw at the cinema, and I’m working my way through Peter Guralnick’s Elvis Bios. TV wise, I’ve really got into Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Community. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed the Discourse NZ podcast. All recommended.

Wishing you a happy and more settled 2012 – see you next year!

 Photos:

Just me and some guy

Me and Dan. I told him how gutted I was for him, but also how stoked I was for Stephen Donald.

Best rugby ground inNZ #rwc2011

Best rugby ground in NZ, still. Tremendous atmosphere for all three matches I went to there.

CameraZOOM-20111015210736

Eden Park felt like a proper international stadium during the RWC. Let’s hope they keep those temporary stands somewhere handy.

Future Tour de France champ.

It’s full of stars

The French, eh? The wine! The cheese! The shrugging! The ability to make you crap your pants in a rugby world cup context! All week our sporting media had been telling us the All Blacks just had to show up not too hungover on Sunday night, and the cup would be ours. Our sporting media were talking out their sausage rolls.

In fairness, we got a bit of nudge-nudge-wink-wink ‘never under-estimate the French’ thrown around during the week, but nothing that was going to actually wreck anyone’s post-Aussie-wasting buzz. That was left to the French team themselves, who showed up ready to play. Play they did, treating the All Blacks like a faulty keyboard, and hitting them just as hard. Tony Woodcock’s try calmed the nerves somewhat, but Woolly Valley’s Piri Weepu, who’d featured on more T-shirts than tomato sauce during the week, didn’t have his kicking boots on. Still, things were still roughly going to plan until Aaron Cruden started writhing about on the grass.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man,” said Grant Nisbett in a slightly horrified manner as Stephen Donald took his tracksuit off. sportreview.net.nz is on record as a fan of the Waiuku wonder (ahem), but even I was bricking it. The Bath-bound Waikato first five, whose style of play can best be described as ‘elbow-y’ was our only hope, our oval ball Obi-Wan. But god love him, there he was, charging on with a look of steely determination, just as most New Zealanders started thinking about hiding behind the couch.

Donald made a decent little break and run. He got his kick. Thank fuck. And he was part of a second half defense-orientated All Black performance that would have Chris ‘ocker shocker’ Rattue calling for Robbie Deans even more than he does now, but was precisely what was called for on the night. Looking at our performances from the quarters on, it seems we were doing our best England 2003 impression, relying on a battle-scarred forward pack to belt the opposition and play it tight, with heaps of kicking. It’s all pretty un-New Zealand, but I couldn’t care less. Finally we discovered we, too, can play finals-style rugby and in doing so, we put ourselves in position to win it.

Having said that, I doubt I’ve enjoyed a game of rugby less. I was thinking of my mate Mike, who was at Twickenham in 1999 and Cardiff in 2007 to see France dump us out – he was there on Sunday and I hope he screamed like I did when we got possession back four minutes from time. The French had battered us in prime drop goal or penalty territory for most of the second half, sending me into a mood darker than Grizz Wylie discovering a smashed bottle of scotch in the boot, but suddenly it was on – maybe that point would be enough. Stephen Donald, who missed finding touch in Hong Kong that time, played it comically safe booting it out. We won the line out, rumbled it up, then got the penalty. I saw stars.

Jeff Wilson spewing in Johannesburg, dwarf-sized Frenchmen dancing around the Twickenham turf, John Mitchell being surly at press conferences and Wayne fucking Barnes don’t matter any more. David Kirk has company.

I promise I will stop going on about it, but I am absolutely made up for Stephen Donald. He’s having a great week. To go out and kick the winning penalty (as it turned out) for his country after being most people’s idea of world cup poison took proper character, guts and steel. From the moment he rejoined the squad, he exuded professionalism and confidence and he must be quietly enjoying showing his critics what he’s really made of on the biggest stage of all. It says a lot about our remarkable depth that we can call up a bloke who was too busy whitebating to answer his phone to the national coach and throw him on the field to win us the world cup. Not many countries could do that, and not many men could do what Stephen Donald did. Fair play to you, Beav.

This week has been all parades and people treating the Webb Ellis cup with the respect it deserves. The thing I’m enjoying the most is the sense of restarting, of nothing mattering any more. If we’d lost, we’d be in the middle of recriminations, Steve Hansen versus Robbie Deans versus Warren Gatland and rugby-related moaning and wailing reaching unprecedented-ly stroppy levels. Fuck all that. We won, and there’s plenty of time to contemplate what happens next. Later. Let’s enjoy the fact that our big party ended the right way, with a party. I still can’t believe it.

Insert ‘semi’ joke here

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.

CameraZOOM-20111015210736

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.

World cup wave of emotion

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?

Dan!
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.

Troy

* Total lie

Rugby related round up

Cars with an infeasible number of flags on them. People having fun. Irish blokes at the petrol station. Murray McCully acting like a tool. Campbell Live using their caravan of whinge for something positive. After all the carping and moaning (which some people should get fuck over), we are finally well into this world cup, team.

We’re constantly told we’re a rugby mad nation, and now our real appetite for the egg shaped ball code is being put to the test, with rugby and rugby related material dominating all the channels, all the time. And it’s great. On Sunday of the opening world cup weekend, the conversation at our place went like this:

“OK, so we’ve just watched Australia v Italy, Wales v South Africa is later on… do you want to watch Ireland v USA?”

“Um, yeah?”

“The real question is, do you want to watch six hours of rugby in a row?”

The Tron
I used two of the tickets in my ‘Hamilton’ ‘pack’ to attend live matches. The first was the third of the All Blacks not horrendously injured taking on Japan on Friday night – we had seats in the temporary stands and had an excellent view. The All Blacks played like they wanted to be in the team for next week, mostly. Poor old Colin Slade played like a guy in a Stephen Donald tribute band playing at the Donald’s home.It’s the old cliche, but Hamilton was going off – we had a big night out in a pub right in the middle of town, next to the fan zone, we had no trouble getting to. It was brilliant. Equally brilliant was Wales v Samoa. Where I was expecting our Taro-reared south pacific brothers to put Wales to the sword, smashed-him-bro-wise, Wales tackled the crap out of them – and won it. It was a tense match, with a great ‘atmosphere’, in no small part to two fantastic sets of supporters from opposite sides of the world bought together by the love of the rucking code and the big fucking tournament. Awwwww. My only quibbles were the stadium DJ, of course, who squashed any chance of a sing-song from supporters renowned for their singing ability. I heard the same happened at Eden Park with the Irish. The other quibble is the twats starting Mexican waves about ten minutes into the matches – get over it people, I hear Mexican waves are totally uncool even in Mexico these days.

Public enemy
When you see a battered station wagon with ‘Quade Sucks’ written in electrician’s tape on the door, you know NZ has a new public enemy #1. But I put this to the nation – is Quade Cooper the best we can do? A little chicken-legged bleeder from Tokoroa? For throwing a few handbags at Richie McCaw? Really? It all seems a bit forced to me. Surprisingly, Richie seemed up for it in Brisbane. He got involved where a Colin Meads, say, would have ignored Cooper on the field, before marching into the Aussie changing shed post-game, throwing Quade over his shoulder and taking him back to Te Kuiti to shear him in an unnecessarily rough fashion. Bitch slapping, or indeed shearing, should take place behind closed doors, team.

Other stuff
The star of the cup so far has been the madder-than-a-mad-woman’s-shit Queenstown bouncer, on youtube and outside the Queenstown court. Incredible. More unhinged than a DIY gate I’d have built. Fantastic performance, get him alongside Dobbo or Saviloy.

The rugby world cup Flickr stream is worth a look

If you want to talk opening night ‘debacles’ – Fundy Post is all you need

Haydn is giving away Adidas jerseys with rugby world cup stories – most of mine, unfortunately involve getting shitfaced

There’s a World Cup on

A giant rugby ball and flaccid snake have been plonked on the waterfront, Aucklanders are considering  using  public transport and the sun is shining. There must be a world cup on.

We are ready, despite making the basic error of angst-ing for months over what the poor, poor hoardes of flat-cap and scarf wearing northern hemisphere rugger fans will do in little old NZ, when they turn up looking to eat, drink, sing in large groups and ride trains and that. Our inauspicious build up has mostly centred on Waterfront stadiums, armchair commentary on corporate PR shenanigans, Party Central, a shadowy world cup minister, people waiting for up to THREE OR FOUR MINUTES EACH to walk onto a train after August’s Bledisloe test.

Fuck that shit – the world cup, the bloody world cup is here at last, and people are starting to get excited.  John Campbell being cheerfully molested by the Tongan fans at Auckland Airport is the image of the cup so far. RWC CEO Martin Sneddon, who must have been wistfully reminiscing about the carefree days of being carted for 105 from 12 overs v England, is actually starting to smile and look relaxed. People from all around the world are about to arrive in little ol’ here, and will want to have some fun.

Auckland has scrubbed up nicely, with a shiny new Wynard Quarter, tram and bridge installed in time for the cup. Suburbs are adopting teams – my cycle commute through Milford and Takapuna saw a few token French flags (there’ll be more once we waste them in pool play I bet) (ahem). My only slight concern is the special Fan Walk to Eden Park and back – it’s a long way to go! If I can offer advice, after my own experience of walking into town after the third Lions test in 2005 – you are advised to be very, very drunk.

THERE IS A GIANT EGG SHITTING ROAD CONES ON THE WATERFRONT! #rwc2011
Party Central – road cones for drinking out of and a rugby ball-shaped urinal

Of course the elephant in the room is our losing world cup record since last time it was here. An elephant that’s shat all over the floor, broken the couch with its trunk before charging through the wall and bolting. No tidied up waterfront will help our desperate, crushing expectation that FINALLY, Richie or his injury-appointed deputy will lift the cup at home. I just worry that Fear Of Fucking Up (or FOFU) will diminish Kiwis’ hosting enjoyment – that we won’t relax and get into this world cup until after it’s over. We are not good losers, or winners, and how we handle a world cup triumph or defeat at home will test our very nationhood, frankly. I hope it goes well.

So, can we win it? Of course we can. My personal All Blacks world cup theory is that once we win a world cup again (I really hope it’s this one), we’ll win four or five in a row, until people are sick of it and change the rules somehow. Can’t wait.

Panic in the streets of Auckland

OK, we can panic now. Our national rugby union team has lost two matches in a row, and more importantly, the Australian national rugby union team has a big fat jandal full of confidence, just before they cross the Pavlova Sea to claim the trophy that’s rightfully theirs and wave it in our tear-stained faces.

Many people are questioning our world cup selection, with two of the world’s best wingers in Gear and Sivivatu left to peruse overseas contracts for the rest of the winter, while taking Kahui and Toeava. sportreview.net.nz appreciates the need for versatility, but wonders whether we over think this stuff, and take utility players with meaningless matches against Canada in mind, rather than the semis or finals, when a top winger would arguably come in handy. We’ll see.

Anyway, the All Blacks looked tentative and nervous on Saturday night, to say the least, except in the second half, when they looked awesome. Australia suddenly look like a proper team and Dingo Deans rediscovered his steely look, while Quade Cooper, fed up with being labelled a poor man’s Carlos Spencer, now seems determined to become a chicken-legged Richard Loe.

All Blacks fans enjoying the pre-tournament anticipation.

The only bright spot of Saturday night’s depressing first half was that we now know the impending Big Fucking Tournament loss will be Zac Guilford’s (or Colin Slade’s) fault – every All Black fan knows Identifying The Scapegoat is a vital part of world cup preparation and that Zac n Colin will be enjoy reunion dinners with Leon McDonald, Wayne Barnes, John Hart and Suzy the waitress for years to come. Whatever happens, I’ll make the point I nicked off one of the Sunday columnists – we are the best team in the world, playing at home, where our track record is outstanding. We just need to hold our nerve. Gilbert Enoka, come on down.

Elsewhere, the greatest substitute centre we’ve ever managed to wave Adidas’ hard-earned cash in front of is dilly-dallying about re-signing with the NZRFU for another eight to nine months. Let’s be honest, Sonny Bill comes with a poor track record when it comes to sticking around and has management that’s shadier than Elvis’. Negotiations to sign him up in the first place involved nightclub toilets and plain paper bags of cash – those are warning signs, team. Getting into bed with Sonny Bill is like getting into bed with a Bull Shark – you might not have done it before, but you’d have a reasonable idea of how it’ll probably turn out. There’s no doubt he’s good, but he’s competing with the world’s best centre for a place in the side, and we look OK without him. A world cup distraction? Only for the sporting media – Sonny Bill himself doesn’t seem too bothered.

Finally, a handy tip – if you’re sick of being annoyed at the upcoming world cup, and want to be annoyed at something else, try following Luke Mcalister on the twitter. As all eyes in the rugby loving world focus on a tiny, naval gazing nation in the South Pacific, wasted-talent Luke floats through his life, going to training and asking Twitter “what’s up?” like a rugby’s version of Desperate Housewive jacked up on Pimms and Valium. Jesus wept. And unfollowed.