“Que?” says the boy as he takes the oblong shaped ball in his hands, a perplexed look on his face.
“Play,” we say. The boy shrugs, gathers his friends and does the first thing that comes naturally to a Brazilian with a ball - keepy-uppy.
But even these naturally fleet of foot local Sao Paulo boys soon tire of their kick-about with a rugby ball.
Handing back the oval-shaped imposter, they return to the spherical football they love so much.
While the majority of Brazilians may not be familiar with a rugby ball or have even heard of Rugby Sevens, come August 2016 this soccer-loving nation is set to transform the fortunes of the game when it makes its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro.
If elite sport was a superhero it would have the gleaming letters "RB" emblazoned across its colorful spandex-covered chest. The "Recession Buster" has saved the day again if rugby World Cup organizers are to be believed.
Last week they marked exactly two years to go until the 2015 tournament by announcing an impressive list of financial statistics pointing to it being the most successful in rugby's history.
While the path back to economic prosperity appears to be painstaking for the rest of the planet, the sporting world is unintentionally mocking that struggle by breezing through the downturn. FULL POST
I expected this blog to be about the glory of New Zealand rugby; a poetic tribute to the majesty of the All Blacks and their record margin of victory. Instead, France produced a performance that stood up, grabbed you by the throat and demanded to be acknowledged.
Les Bleus were meant to be the chorus, the supporting cast. Instead, they stole the limelight from the intended stars of the World Cup final. The hosts were the team of the tournament but France were better at Eden Park on Sunday.
As I fly out of Auckland, more than four million New Zealanders are rightly hailing their new heroes – the country's first rugby world champions for nearly a quarter of a century. Monday's victory parade brought hundreds of thousands flooding on to the streets. FULL POST
Like any other sport, rugby has plenty of clichés and one of them is to never write off the French. It won’t apply on Sunday at Eden Park Stadium, though, and I expect New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup final by a record margin.
A week ago, that would have been a bold prediction. Now, it seems a statement of the obvious. France’s stock has plunged further than the global finance markets, while the All Blacks look every inch the number one-ranked team in the world.
Rugby means so much in New Zealand, and the pressure on the All Blacks to win this tournament is so vast, that my usual professional detachment briefly deserted me on Sunday. Even I felt nervous ahead of the hosts’ semifinal showdown against Australia. FULL POST
This was supposed to be the final.
Until Australia lost to Ireland during the pool stage, the number one and two rugby teams in the world - New Zealand’s All Blacks and Australia’s Wallabies - were expected to top their groups and not face each other until the World Cup final on October 23. FULL POST
Flying to New Zealand for the final fortnight of the Rugby World cup is a bit like walking into the keepsake-crammed house of a collector; the obsession seems a bit unhealthy but you can't help admiring it just a little.
And it underlines how the hosts simply have to lift the trophy on home soil again, after a wait of 24 years.
It's as if the end of the world is nigh and the government wants to give advice to as many people as possible. That is, if a dearth of rugby was globally fatal and the only anecdote was posters of the All Blacks' players every few meters. FULL POST
The 2011 Rugby World Cup has turned into a battle between the northern and the southern hemisphere. Rankings and continental pride is at stake and the pressure is very much on England, France, Wales and Ireland to prove they are a match for the best that New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina have to offer.
Ireland’s shock win over Australia in the pool stage has left the draw split down geographical lines; nations north of the equator in one half, and countries south of it in the other.
It means we won’t get to see north versus south until the final itself on Sunday October 23rd, and if England stumble along the way either Wales, Ireland or France will get the chance to become only the second European nation to be crowned world champions. FULL POST
(CNN) – No matter what the sport is, major tournaments always throw up intriguing match-ups, contests that go beyond a simple sporting rivalry between two opponents.
New Zealand’s largest city will witness such an occasion this weekend when one of rugby’s great battles takes place. FULL POST