Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Misc articles after Saturday's match


All Blacks: Return of the Living Dead
By TONY SMITH in Cardiff
Fairfax Media Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Welcome to something resembling a scene from the horror movie, Return of the Living Dead. Enter at your peril.

Imagine 30 black-clad chaps sequestered on the site of a former mental hospital on the rural outskirts of Cardiff.

They had the haggard look of men who'd just witnessed unimaginable terrors. They could have come out of theIr foreboding Victorian villas which conjure up images of padded walls, strait jackets, electric shock treatments. There are still a few abandoned buildings at the Vale of Glamorgan grounds in the sleepy hamlet of Hensol.

In clutches of twos and threes, they'd filed out of plush chambers at a swank hotel resort - temporary home to New Zealand's All Blacks.

They so clearly didn't want to be there - nor did we, for that matter. There is a clause in the journalists' code of ethics which deals with intruding on private grief. But there was a duty to be done. Both groups were honouring it.

Some players were slumped against walls, seated on the floor. Others bent their bodies into chairs, staring blankly into space, wishing they could be anywhere else but here. Taciturn Taranaki hooker Andrew Hore let out a whoop and a cheer when he was released without a microphone shoved in his direction. Other escapees looked like kids released from class as they streamed towards the exits.

Among those who stayed, a tear or two was shed. Mils Muliaina, the fab fullback who'd done a manful job in midfield, was consoled by Isaia Toeava - the young man showing his respect for the master.

This was not a time for that standard opening gambit: "How do you feel?"

But it's a journalistic set-piece, the scrum and ruck of the hack's repertoire. We had to ask it, on your behalf, anyway. "Gutted..." was senior midfielder Aaron Mauger's short, succinct summation.

Skipper Richie McCaw reckoned the still-raw loss to France felt like "a bad dream" - one he still hoped he would "wake up from" soon. Yet McCaw's performance before the cameras and notebooks was one of the true pro's best.

Keith Robinson, the lanky lock who's brought some feistiness back to the All Black pack, didn't want to talk about his future. A year ago it seemed he didn't have one on a rugby paddock. After back surgery and a knee injury his career had hung in the balance.

But the bionic bloke bounced back to be part of the World Cup squad. A gold medal would have crowned a glorious comeback.

It was painfully obvious Robinson wasn't in the mood to talk. Best to give the big bloke a wide-ish berth. But, asked how long he thought it would take to recover from the quarter final trauma, he paused and offered: "I don't know if you ever get over it."

This is a time where compassion kicks in - for even the most hardened of hacks. Sport is a fundamentally positive pastime. No-one enjoys picking over its entrails.

It falls to some of us to attempt to analyse reasons for the All Blacks' World Cup demise. Yet it's tough to do when looking into the eyes of people you've known nine or 10 years. It's harder still when it's men who may never get another chance - the Maugers, Robinsons, Anton Olivers, Reuben Thornes, Leon MacDonalds, Chris Jacks who are almost surely at their last World Cup.

Mercifully, the trial was soon over - post-mortem adjourned, if not complete. New Zealand rugby being as obsessed as it is, someone will always seek to exhume the World Cup corpse.

Is it too much to ask to allow it to rest in peace?

When one dream dies another should soon take its place.


Beaten All Blacks still lead world rankings
Stuff.co.nz Tuesday, 9 October 2007

It will be laughable to many, but the All Blacks have retained their number one spot in the latest International Rugby Board rankings despite crashing out of the Rugby World Cup in the quarterfinals.

The All Blacks' conquerors, France, are the big movers, jumping from fifth position to second, just 1.25 ranking points behind.

Australia, also beaten in the quarterfinals, have plummeted to fifth, just ahead of England who eliminated them.

South Africa and Argentina remain third and fourth following their respective quarterfinals wins over Fiji and Scotland.

The All Blacks World Cup pool opponents, Scotland, Portugal, Italy and Romania are ranked eight, 22nd, 11th and 14th respectively.

The world rankings are calculated using a ?points exchange? system, in which sides take points off each other based on the match result. Whatever one side gains, the other loses.

The exchanges are based on the match result, the relative strength of each team, and the margin of victory, and there is an allowance for home advantage.

Points exchanges are doubled during the World Cup Finals to recognise the unique importance of this event, but all other full international matches are treated the same, to be as fair as possible to countries playing a different mix of friendly and competitive matches across the world.

Any match that is not a full international between two member countries does not count at all.

The top 10 teams are:

New Zealand 89.63, France 88.38, South Africa 86.44, Argentina 86.04, Australia 84.21, England 83.63, Ireland 78.66, Scotland 76.83, Fiji 75.82, Wales 74.08.

just because he is right, I publish a link (sent by our local spy Izzy -who also sent the 'men crying article') to Neil Reid's blog on what is a real tragedy


Fans visiting battlefields in Belgium

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