With fans like these…

I know technically, we’re only meant to be doing stories about previous Rugby World Cups, but this popped up in my twitter feed today, and it’s fantastic. It’s footage from the fanzone at Richmond Old Deer Park.

It captures the final moments of the the game in which Japan beat the Springboks, but it’s not the game that really matters.

It’s the scenes afterwards.

The exultation from the crowd watching as they witness an incredible upset.

The fans of other nations, gathering round to congratulate the Japanese supporters

The slaps on the shoulders, the “well done mate”, the wide smiles on the faces of all.

The Frenchman, who grabs him for a shameless selfie.

The South African fan, beer in hand, who wraps up the teary Japanese fan in a shameless, unbridled bear hug.

Rugby is, as the saying goes “… a ruffians game played by gentlemen”, and while we know not all rugby fans are as gracious and as generous as these – there’s much to be said for the sentiment and the spirit evoked in this video.

Full credit to Charlie Richardson for capturing it.

If that’s not enough, this 20 minute compilation of fan reactions, both from inside the stadium and around the UK is priceless.

“It’ll probably buff out…”

The very first 1987 Rugby World Cup that was jointly held in New Zealand / Australia was a wonderful collection of last minute amateur hour cobble something together type of tournament and as a rugby mad 17 year old with parents who had just gone on a 3 month overseas tour and left me at home by myself with the family chequebook I absolutely loved the tournament.

It was the wonderful type of tournament where you could just rock up to the ground prior to the match and buy tickets at the gate by handing over some cash – none of this palaver of ordering tickets on-line via a ballot and hope like hell that you won’t get fleeced too much.

As I mentioned before – my parents had wisely decided to head overseas and left me at home in charge of all affairs – and as far as I was concerned this included writing notes to school for any time away from school. I think it might be fair to say that I might have been the only 17 year old in the country enrolled at a NZ school that managed to watch every single game that was televised live as I excused myself from school and headed home for any midweek game to watch it.

Rugby is educational!

As for going to watch matches live – well that was simple – I had the keys to Mum’s Mark 2 Ford Escort 1600 Sport so I headed off to catch pool matches in Wellington, Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland. Enjoyed the traveling road show so much that I headed up to Auckland to catch the final as well and then back the next day to Napier to welcome home the parents.

Aside from the actual fun of the tournament once it was under way – my best 1987 Rugby World Cup anecdote came before the tournament when the New Zealand Rugby Football Union toured the Cup around the country visiting rugby clubs up and down the country.

It was Thursday night training for the Eskview Under 19s, we had showered and had our meal (Mince on toast, couple of boiled spuds, and peas), and we had the cup brought in by some Union ‘Fish-Head’.

On sighting of the Cup for the very first time I must admit I was not that impressed by it when one compares it to the Bledisloe Cup or the Ranfurly Shield. As it was placed on the table we milled around and took a closer look at it and then took turns holding and a photo being taken of it. When it was my turn it was passed to me by my friend Gary and in passing it over I didn’t realise that the lid was separate, so I just grabbed one of the handles at an angle which meant that the lid fell off and landed with a thud on to a leg rail of a bar leaner.

“Oops.”

Picking up the lid of the Cup it was pretty obvious that I had just caused a noticeable dent into the edge of the lid.

Not to worry. “It’ll probably buff out…..”

A photo was taken of me holding the now damaged Cup and lid – which for some strange reason my sister now has in her possession in England.

One of the team mates produced a couple of quart bottles of beer and filled the cup up and we all then passed it around and drunk to a future All Black victory.

Good times!

I don’t anything like this can happen to the Cup now – and somehow I think that is a bit of shame.

Contributed by Bill Blackstone

A cold, grey Monday at Athletic Park.

1987 – Group Stages

Ireland 6 – Wales 13

I was a ball boy at Athletic Park in the ’87 World Cup, including at the All Blacks vs Argentina pool game.

But, the match I remember most vividly was Wales vs Ireland. I’m behind the line out right at the start of this highlights reel.

This was the match which effectively decided the pool, with Canada and Tonga being the other two teams. The losing team was likely to face Australia in Sydney in the quarter finals.

Not bad for a cold grey Monday in Wellington…

I remember the crowds of fans from both sides, sitting on the lower Millard stand, and coming out onto the grass area between the stand and sideline to chant and wave their flags every time there was a score (there was absolutely no barrier in place, which seems remarkable compared to the security these days).

And, the Welsh rushing onto the field at full-time to celebrate the win.

The players were completely wrecked at the end, and it took them a long time to fight their way back to the tunnel and changing rooms under the old stand.

Contributed by Rowan Simpson

That night in the Pineapple Pub

2003 – Final

England 20 – Australia 17

Today has not been a good day if you’re an English rugby fan, but this story from my good mate Rich, harks back to a happier time. It’s also set in the Pineapple Pub, North London. That’s the pub I began my stag weekend in, led by none other than the Martyn of the closing paragraph, who was my bestman … so it’s a story that’s more than a little close to my heart. – Tim

“I and all my (English) friends were gathered in the pub to watch the final, and for a change, it felt like a competition we could win, so there was an air of anticipation and excitement. My new Australian girlfriend of about 1 month (now wife of 8 years) had for some reason agreed to come and watch the game with us and duly turned up in her green and gold, I think 1 of only 2 openly Australian people in the pub.

The game was close, with points changing hands on both sides and either team capable of taking the win. But then, in extra time, with 26 seconds left to play, this happened…

The pub erupted but I always remember 2 people being in tears – my wife, because she’s a true, blue Aussie and my friend Martyn (not Australian), because he loves rugby a little bit too much.”

Contributed by Rich Pattison

One Shade of Grey – Part the Second

I’m not going to talk about the game. You can watch it here, well, the first 15 minutes anyway. Probably best to stop there.

Let’s just look a little further into who played that game and how they fared post Cardiff nightmare.

The match day 22.

New Zealand: MacDonald, Rokocoko, Muliaina, McAlister, Sivivatu, Carter, Kelleher; Woodcock, Oliver, Hayman, Robinson, Williams, Collins, McCaw (capt), So’oialo.
Replacements: Hore, Tialata, Jack, Masoe , Leonard, Evans, Toeava.

Of those 22, nine played their last All Blacks test covered in grey. The nine:

Byron Kelleher,

Jerry Collins (RIP)

Big Keith Robinson

Carl Hayman

Anton Oliver

Chris Jack

Chris Masoe

Brendon Leonard

Nick Evans

Arguably the greatest loss was Carl Hayman, widely considered one of the best props of all time. He remains playing at a very high level, and at 35 he probably would have been putting his hand up for selection (big Brad Thorn is STILL bloody playing). Okay, he actually signed for Newcastle in April of 2007 and was playing his last tests during the world cup, but who’s to say he wouldn’t have returned for 2011. It worked for Kaino.

Chris Masoe also went on to big things playing in Europe. His path to the ABs was much tougher as he is an openside by trade, and with Richie in place, his opportunities would have been very limited.

Nick Evans was also quite a loss. He hung around but was not selected and left for the UK. The calls for his ABs inclusion at RWC 2011 were loud and vociferous as injuries, took their toll on the ABs number 10s. But who’s to say that he would have nailed that penalty or provided such legend as that of Beaver. It was meant to be.

But the toll of that game and that jersey was probably greater than the nine players who wore grey but never played in Black again. It was interesting to discover that ahead of the 2011 RWC, of the 2007 RWC 30 man squad, eight made the team for 2011, but just one other had played a test in 2011 and presented as available for the next cup (Sitivini Sivivatu). Ahead of the selection for the 2015 RWC, of the 2011 RWC 33 man squad, 12 made the 2015 squad, but a further six had played in 2015 and were available, and three others were still playing super rugby.

The common threads over all three World Cups were;

Richie McCaw

Dan Carter

Keven Mealamu

Tony Woodcock

Conrad Smith

Also of interest is wee Andy Ellis. He was in the squad in 2007. He was also on the bench of the RWC final 2011, playing the final 30 minutes. And he was probably half inch short of the a full fracture of TKB away from a another trip north.

But the grey was never seen again after that match. Adidas duly prepared a nice simple white one, but the ignominy of that defeat means the grey will always haunt the ABs (and adidas) and never, ever will be the ABs alternate.

Interestingly, in 2011, when the French arrived again with darker blue jerseys, they very generously offered to allow the All Blacks to wear black despite the ABs technically being the “away” team for the pool match. What resulted was a clear hiding delivered by a fired up ABs. Fiji learned from that match and did not offer the English the same courtesy. Unfortunately it didn’t really work for them.

Maybe colour is just a perception…