Above: The All Blacks in training in Japan. PHOTO credit: NZRU media release/Getty Images.
- By Kevin McCarthy
Can someone please just kick off.Like me you’ve probably had enough of watching the build-up to the Rugby World Cup.
It’s only then we will begin to sketch in a few realities and answer a few questions.
Like will there be a lion or two that roars – and by that, sets the entire draw on its head.
While a lot of games may seem to New Zealanders to be a bit inconsequential, it pays to pay attention right from the get-go.
In France 2007, I watched the first match (France v Argentina) on the TV at the place I was staying in Marseilles ahead of the All Blacks opener.
The French lost and ended up finishing second in their group.
That of course meant they were facing the All Blacks in Cardiff in the quarter final. We know how that worked out don’t we?
Just try rewinding the imagination if the infamous quarter matchup had never happened? On reflection, the All Blacks might have still come short that year but on the other hand . . .
So, I would say there are four first weekend matches that could achieve that sort of butterfly effect for the knockout stages.
Could Fiji beat Australia? You would think not. But that would make life interesting.
Could Scotland beat Ireland? Possible. And that’s probably of the most direct impact on who the All Blacks could face.
Although, of course, the real determinant of that is the MASSIVE first up clash on Saturday against the Boks.
Finally, France are playing Argentina. That could go anyway, so there you are. Back to 2007 for someone.
I always like at a World Cup to have a few second-string favourites. Yes, we’ll be cheering for the All Blacks first, but we need to step outside that bubble sometimes and realise that this is a World cup where every fan care about their little patch or some adopted patch.
I’ve never met a Namibian or a Georgian at the tournament, but I once stood watching the All Blacks bus arrive at Murrayfield and two people behind me were engaged in an energetic debate in some Nordic language. I asked them where they were from, and yep, it was Sweden.
Mad keen All Blacks supporters from Sweden.
Good luck to everyone, even England.
That “Ngani Laumpape is coming to the RWC” rumour was weird. The former reporter Hamish McKay may have been led astray by his source, but either the source was wrong, or had some mischief in mind. The latter scenario doesn’t seem likely.
I used to work with “Mush” and while typically larger than life as a lot of TV reporters are, I very much doubt he went on a flight of fancy.
Maybe it was true until it wasn’t, and the prognosis on SBW suddenly improved, left-footing the source and the Mush.
It won’t be the last such injury scare story; you can bet.
The All Blacks team to play South Africa in their opening Rugby World Cup Test on Saturday September 21 at International Stadium, Yokohama has been named (Kick off: 6.45PM, 9.45PM NZT). Players below with their caps in brackets.
1. Joe Moody (41)
2. Dane Coles (64)
3. Nepo Laulala (20)
4. Samuel Whitelock (112)
5. Scott Barrett (32)
6. Ardie Savea (34)
7. Sam Cane (63)
8. Kieran Read – captain (122)
9. Aaron Smith (87)
10. Richie Mo’unga (12)
11. George Bridge (5)
12. Ryan Crotty (45)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (38)
14. Sevu Reece (3)
15. Beauden Barrett (78)
16. Codie Taylor (45)
17. Ofa Tuungafasi (30)
18. Angus Ta’avao (8)
19. Patrick Tuipulotu (25)
20. Shannon Frizell (5)
21. TJ Perenara (59)
22. Sonny Bill Williams (53)
23. Ben Smith (80)
Wellington club rugby players at the Rugby World Cup:
Australia: Jordan Uelese (Oriental-Rongotai junior)
New Zealand: Dane Coles (Poneke), Ardie Savea (Oriental-Rongotai), TJ Perenara (Northern United)
Samoa: Jack Lam (Oriental-Rongotai), TJ Ioane (Old Boys University), Kane Leaupepe (Oriental-Rongotai/Johnsonville), Motu Matu’u (Oriental-Rongotai), Belgium Tuatagaloa (Petone), Reynold Lee-Lo (Marist St Pat’s), Alapati Leiua (Northern United), Seilala Lam (Oriental-Rongotai junior)
Scotland: Blade Thomson (Upper Hutt Rams)
Tonga: Sam Lousi (Marist St Pat’s)
It’s halfway in the provincial comp and the Lions may be guilty of stealthy success, sitting in second position – though well behind – the all-conquering Tasman Mako.
Seems like Wellington have monopolised the squeaky backside department with some of the finishes, but that don’t matter.
However, Auckland at Eden Park loom on Sunday as a big hurdle. With the hosts in third, and Canterbury now in fourth after recovering from a horror start, it’s tight.