Links on Friday

George Gregan’s ‘Four more years’ call – we’ll miss this little guy alright
It’s all about the bike – forget blood transfusion – the Tour De France is all about beautiful machines. Check out this gallery of the prologue time trial bikes
Bacon Vodka – I’m as happy as the time I found a bacon peanut butter sandwich in London one time. Now that’s respecting both the pig and the peanut
The Darjeeling Limited trailer– Wes Anderson’s new movie. Good to see Owen Wilson back with Wes

Tri Nations – calm(ish) before a very, very big storm

This Tri Nations was kind of like sitting through, say, Jordan Luck supporting the Rolling Stones – something much bigger and better is just around the corner, so now’s a good time to go buy a hot dog and tee shirt. What can we learn from this extended warm up?

We can do it when it counts. South Africa away and the Tri Nations / Bledisloe decider were the two matches that really mattered this year – we won both with solid performances.

We’re distracted. Let’s not beat around the bush – 2007 (not to mention 2006, 2005 etc) is all about the World Cup. When the whistle blew last night, McCaw asked straightaway for our support in France. Nothing else matter to us, the baying, flaming torch waving NZ rugby public, and it’s no different for the team. Forget defeat in Melbourne, or a scratchy outing in Christchurch – the team’s minds are in France.

We might just be sandbagging in the backs. Remember 2003 when we took everyone to bits with those majestic, sweeping moves from Carlos and the back three in the Tri Nations, only for Stirling Mortlock put us out in the semi final? There’s been a distinct lack of sparkle from the backs this year, not helped by the constant switching and changing. While the forwards have been quietly building up experience and understanding as a pack (locking crisis apart), the backs are still a work in progress. It’s pointless giving White, Laporte et al footage to study on their laptops when they’re not playing minesweeper for the next six weeks. Expect big things in France.

The Aussies and Saffas are scared. There was more worried bleating in the Tri Nations press conferences than in the film “Enter The Agrodome”, the sordid story of a touring Welsh social rugby team visiting the famous Rotorua tourist attraction after a few pints. Hopefully World Cup referees will be wise to this whinging about McCaw.

South Africa are tough. The question is, have they got their reconditioning right? It seems a strange, kneejerk move to leave all those players at home for the touring matches. Now White has to reintegrate his squad and find a number one XV, since his last best XV was beaten at home by the ABs. All that good feeling created by the all-South Africa Super 14 final suddenly seems a long time ago.

Australia are tough and smart. They beat us in Melbourne in their must-win game of the season, and were a handful in Auckland. Gregan is still the best ref around – his ‘not actually feeding the scrum’ scrum-feeding technique has masterfully minimised psychological damage to their fragile front row. Last night’s ref wasn’t fooled, and if it’s the same in France, they could really struggle.

The TV commentary will get worse. Much, much worse. You all that bitch about Tony Johnson and Mex, get ready for the pain. TV3 will cover the World Cup, meaning their ‘Rugby’ ‘Editor’ Hamish MacKay has the mic. With MacKay, every game is a MASSIVE, MUST WIN ENCOUNTER, every tackle is a HUGE, TEETH RATTLING HIT. When he scratches his arse, IT’S A SUPER HUMAN EFFORT. Most annoying, though, is his rehearsed lines for try scorers – utter bollocks like “Aye, Aye, Captain!” as McCaw crashes over, “the Ice Man cometh” for Toeava, or “But soft, what light over yonder try line breaks? ‘Tis Anton, and the ball is the sun” for Anton Oliver*. I bet he’s got heaps prepared in an exercise book in writing that doesn’t join up. He’ll have guys like Frank Bunce and Allan Whetton alongside him (plus, worryingly, KFC spokesman / Destiny Church advocate Mark ‘Bull’ Allen) – let’s hope they can get a word in edgeways.

Now we just have to wait six weeks until the big show starts. (SIX WEEKS? WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOUR YEARS!). Despite our media and public’s demands for flawless 50 point thumpings every time we play, we saw enough in Durban and Auckland to suggest Henry and Co. are timing their run for France, as they should be. 2007’s real crunch matches are yet to come – remember how well they played in the last really big series? That would be the Lions tests, and if we can hit that form again, we’ll justify our tag as huge favorites, and it will take something very, very special indeed to stop us. Can we get excited yet?

* I made that one up. You get the idea, though.

Wendell Sailor votes for Wendell Sailor 17,468 times in online poll

Suspended Wallaby winger Wendell Sailor topped Mark Ella, John Eales and Stephen Larkham in an online poll to find to find Australia’s Greatest Ever Player. Investigations revealed an IP address matching Sailor’s was used to cast 17,468 votes in his total of 17,470 received. “Number one, baby, the stats don’t lie!” explained Sailor.

Office workers worrying about World Cup woes, not working

SRNZPA: A recent trough in New Zealand offices’ productivity levels is being attributed to the All Blacks’ recent form and their chances in the upcoming Rugby World Cup according to a recent survey. Pollster Fred Britten said “Our survey shows the average New Zealander in an office environment thinks about Rugby every 6 seconds. That’s second only to food. Work comes waaaaaay down the list right after ‘I wonder what happened to that funny looking guy in high school. You know, that guy.'”.

“I just can’t be arsed. Doing any actual work holds about as much appeal as driving to Bluff with Stu Wilson” said Hamilton accounts receivable clerk John ‘Wiggo’ Wigg. “Seriously, how can they expect me to process historic invoices when there’s no settled pairing in the centres? That’s grounds for a PG right there.”

‘Talking about the weekend’s game’ ‘Worrying’ and ‘Fucking around on the Internet’ all polled higher than ‘Work’ in office workers’ daily activities. In extreme cases, workers are taking annual leave for personal reconditioning programmes, consisting of ‘breaking in’ new Plasma TVs and burying fears deep, deep down underneath oceans of cheap draught beer.

Rugby without music? No Way Jose!

Once, I hated rugby. It was that stupid thing my dad and brothers watched Sunday afternoons when 90210 was on. AND they made the lounge stink like beer and wet wool. Eeeeeew!

Then Bev from the office dragged me along to watch the Hurricanes play the Whoever-they-ares. I wasn’t holding out much hope – chardonnay came in a funny plastic bottle, I got sauce all down the front of my top, and there were no cute guys in the crowd. Looked like Rugby was fully gunna suck.

And then… they started playing MUSIC. Woah. Who knew that just playing music turned rugby from something fully stupid to a night out that totally rules! “I don’t knowwwwwww – oh – oh – oh! WHY DOES LOVE! DO THIS TO MEEEE!” “HEEEEEEY HEY BABY! OOOH! AAAAH!” Then the DJ played the Feelers! And Robbie Williams! We were dancing like it was a night club! I’ve got to hand it to them – Rugby certainly is a total entertainment package!

The Rubgy DJ doesn’t just play the best music – he’s soooo funny! In the very first huddle thing, one guy went off injured – and he played ‘Another one bites the dust!’ Hah hah hah! He’s such a hard case! Then the ref made some stupid call, and he played Wet Wet Wet’s “Sweet little mystery!” Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah! What a crack up!

Next thing you know the home rugby guys went ahead on the scoreboard, and he stuck on ‘One step ahead’ by Split Enz. Classic. He’s funny AND clever. I go every week now, it totally fits in with my lifestyle. I get my face painted, and wave my big finger glove around.

I have to take my hat off to the Rugby marketing guys (or my dreadlock wig). Before, Rugby was just stupid and smelly, and now, with music, it’s a perfect Friday night out with friends and family. The Sevens is even better – there’s more music and less Rugby! Choice! I buy the official Hurricances Jerseys every year just to say thanks! My wardrobe’s full of them! See you there!

Links on Friday

Tour De France face plant – the Tour De France Prologue through London is this weekend, with stage one in idyllic English countryside the next night. Check guides for times, good luck on Sky’s shitty website
Good Goran interviews Bad Goran – not that remarkable really, I conduct interviews with myself like this all the time
Andoni Goicoechea, ‘The Butcher of Bilbao’ shatters Maradonna’s ankle – ouch. It’s all on the next time the teams meet
The Framely Examiner – Har. I want to live here
Dinosaur Jr – In a jar – I’m off to see these guys on Monday night. Kick. Ass.

Finally, someone talking sense: Shock as Henry hands All Black reigns to talkback callers

SRNZPA: Dave from Greymouth will lead the All Blacks to the World Cup. In a shock announcement today, the three wise men of New Zealand Rugby have handed the hopes and dreams of a nation to regular Radio Sport callers. “It was an obvious choice” said Graham Henry. “Listening to the radio on the way back from the airport I was staggered, quite frankly. It seems our sharpest Rugby minds were in the lounges, garages and pub carkparks of New Zealand, not at the game.”

The new panel underwent a rigorous selection process. Head coach Dave from Greymouth is a regular contributor to Radio Sport’s midnight to 4AM Ruckin’ Rugged Rugby Graveyard show. “It’s fair to say I don’t sleep much. If at all.” said Dave, who lives alone. Forwards coach Ryan from Manurewa proved his coaching credentials with a 23 minute rambling tirade against Reuben Thorne in the early hours of Monday morning. “When he used the word ‘invisible’ three times in a sentance I knew we’d found our man. Particularly as Reuben wasn’t even playing.” said Henry. Backline specialist Des from Waitara makes the move from coaching the Waitara Possums’ 2nd XV to the All Blacks. “I’ve been banging on about how I’d fix the All Blacks for years”, a claim confirmed by his wife, five sons, the postman, Dipak in the Dairy, and regular patrons of the Waitara Tavern’s public bar.

The new regime has no shortage of coaching theories honed over hours of talkback. Hair product and dreadlocks are out and number 4 buzzcuts are in. The media will be banned from talking to players, with the coaches speaking exclusively to Murray Deaker. Team talks will now be delivered over the phone on a conference call. Ryan from Manurewa outlined the new panel’s collaborative style: “We’re not afraid of getting experts in to help. Like Glen from Huntley – he’s a leaguie, but his ideas on the Warriors being gutless wonders is something we can learn from.”

“We know talkback callers are often labeled blinkered, fickle cretins. Many are. But believe you me, if we don’t bring home the World Cup, I’ll be first to ring Willie Lose and demand my own resignation.” said Des from Waitara. The new panel is upbeat about their chances in France this spring. “If any French git waiter gets clever with me he’ll know all about it” said Dave from Greymouth, who’s heard a beer could cost as much as fifteen bucks, which is daylight bloody robbery, adding he hoped they weren’t holding their breath for a tip at those prices, which were just about as bad as he’s heard they are up in Auckland.