October 24, 2011
Posted: 1511 GMT
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. Read the rest of this entry »
October 21, 2011
Posted: 1024 GMT
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. Read the rest of this entry »
October 14, 2011
Posted: 425 GMT
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. Read the rest of this entry »
October 13, 2011
Posted: 1640 GMT
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. Read the rest of this entry »
October 7, 2011
Posted: 1819 GMT
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. Read the rest of this entry »
October 1, 2011
Posted: 507 GMT
(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. Read the rest of this entry »
September 23, 2011
Posted: 959 GMT
(CNN) – Last year’s soccer World Cup in South Africa was memorable for many reasons, not least because of the distinctive sound of the vuvuzela.
The colored horns provided a unique soundtrack at every match and despite the predictable complaints from killjoys, the din added to a carnival atmosphere.
September 9, 2011
Posted: 1355 GMT
It’s a thankless task tackling the sports fans’ most-heated debate –- picking a greatest ever team. There is never a correct answer; facts are ignored, personal favorites picked and style preferred to substance. It’s always subjective.
So, I preface my selection of the best rugby World Cup XV of all time by saying that this is very much a side that I would want to watch. As a journalist, you need to think about balance and neutrality, but I’ve indulged myself here.
For me, sport at its most uplifting is about grace and poise, the balletic as well as the brawn; I like to see athletes make the mastery of their game look easy, as if they were born to do it. My ultimate World Cup XV has plenty of grit but, above all else, these players would be entertaining to watch - simple as that. Read the rest of this entry »
February 25, 2011
Posted: 1548 GMT
When you say you don’t like your opponent, just days before a potentially championship-deciding match, it’s going to create a stir. But I believe England’s rugby players couldn’t care less about Marc Lievremont’s provocative remarks.
Not only did the France coach express his dislike for England, he also claimed the other four teams in the Six Nations tournament felt the same way. According to Lievremont, his cross-channel neighbors are “insular.” Read the rest of this entry »
February 10, 2011
Posted: 2026 GMT
If you like to be surprised, keep your eyes trained on France’s rugby team this year. They should be the northern hemisphere’s leading candidates to win the World Cup but their sheer unpredictability makes it impossible to declare that with any confidence.
France seems to have the unique knack of serving up inspiring victories and embarrassing defeats in equal measure; a seven-try thriller to start the defence of their Six Nations title coming just a couple of months after a 43-point thrashing by Australia.
It reminds me of the scene in the last Batman movie when the camera slowly moves around dashing District Attorney Harvey Dent to reveal the horrific injuries on one side of his face.