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 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 »
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 »
August 29, 2011
Posted: 1532 GMT
Take a trip with me in my imaginary time machine, back to an era of circus entertainment. Listen to the moustachioed ring master bellow, “Roll Up, roll up. Come and see the fastest man on earth. So quick, he’s known as the ‘Lightning Bolt’ - speedier than anyone in history. Roll up, roll up.”
The crowds swarm to see the star attraction, abuzz with excitement. What will this freak of human sprinting do? How fast can the Lightning Bolt strike this time, they wonder.
The ring master cracks his whip; our hero sets off, then, oh dear: “Sorry folks, our star attraction started a fraction of one second too early. The race is off.” Read the rest of this entry »
July 15, 2011
Posted: 1228 GMT
Watching the world’s best golfers grapple with Royal St. George’s this week underlines the romantic notion that only historic links provide a true test of a top player’s skills. You can keep the manicured perfection of a modern championship course like Augusta – the rugged brutality of the British Open is golf’s most pure, and often punishing, experience.
The U.S. Open is loved the planet over, while The Masters will try the patience of even the most talented of competitors (just ask Rory McIlroy) but neither Pebble Beach nor Augusta National can match the wild vagaries thrown up by the courses on the British Open rota – Muirfield, Carnoustie, St. Andrews, and the rest. Read the rest of this entry »
April 28, 2011
Posted: 918 GMT
For broadcasters across the globe, this is Royal Wedding week - but the love hasn't spread to Spain. And another night of histrionics from Jose Mourinho can't hide the fact that his Real Madrid side are simply not as good as Barcelona.
Regular Mourinho watchers are used to seeing him hog the limelight. It's a managerial tactic, alleviating the pressure on his team, and is part of the reason why he's won cabinet-bursting numbers of trophies in Portugal, England and Italy. Read the rest of this entry »
April 3, 2011
Posted: 1504 GMT
India’s island city of Mumbai is all about noise: a constant car-honking stream of vehicles and people. It was silenced for eight hours Saturday as the 2011 Cricket World Cup final was played, but then burst back into life to signal India’s victory. Colorful explosions lit up the skyline as an astonishing number of fireworks were let off, continuing for an hour after the match.
Even after the fireworks had run out, ear-splitting firecrackers kept punctuating the gap between vehicles beeping and drums beating. We went out on to the streets to film near our hotel in Worli, south Mumbai. We saw mopeds buzzing around, mainly ridden by young men, bare-chested and faces painted, with the pillion passenger waving an India flag.
March 30, 2011
Posted: 1540 GMT
Sometimes a sporting event is more than just a game. Sometimes the arena for competition is emblematic and symbolic of a greater reality, in which the twists and turns of a match carry a wider significance.
And so it was for the titanic clash between India and Pakistan in the semifinal of the cricket World Cup; a tie that needed no artificially created hype. Giants of the sport going head-to-head for a place in the final as two nations, both equally obsessed with the game, saw millions become engrossed with the drama unfolding on a circle of grass in Mohali. Read the rest of this entry »