Thursday, 30 October 2008
The unique nature of this Trans-Tasman test being played at a neutral venue has seen the two sides rub shoulders in the buildup to Saturday night's clash.
They attended a gala dinner at the massive Sha Tin race course on Wednesday evening with All Blacks and Wallabies players sharing tables with invited guests.
On Thursday afternoon players from the two teams were running a coaching clinic for local kids.
But the night at the races went down well with the players. A horse named Lucky Quality romped home to win the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union Cup by 8-1/2 lengths. McCaw and Mortlock presented trophies to the jockey and trainer. McCaw declared a bit of an interest in the horses - no doubt helped by his forwards coach, racing-mad Steve Hansen.
"Particularly the Melbourne Cup, it's on again on Tuesday and a Kiwi will win it," said McCaw.
"I don't think so," Mortlock chipped back. "The Kiwis will have to endure more than one sad story over the next week."
The match continues to get very good coverage in the South China Morning Post with four stories included in the Thursday edition of Hong Kong's main English newspaper.
The All Blacks' promotion in the main adidas store in the shopping metropolis featured local children performing a haka and was rewarded with a large photo.
Piri Weepu and Sitiveni Sivivatu joined youngsters from the Tai Po Dragons Rugby Club.
They had been taught the haka by the club's imported Kiwi prop Taiapa Tomlinson who played for Hautapu in the Waikato competition.
"The hardest thing to teach the kids were the words, but they got the hang of it after two lessons," he said.
The newspaper also featured a humorous tale of teenaged Wallaby James O'Connor. At 18 he is the youngest of their tourists and so has to guard the team mascot, Wally the Wallaby. It looks like some of his older team mates have already got the better of him. O'Connor was in a flap on Wednesday.
"I took Wally with me for training as it is required that I keep him by my side at all times. But someone nicked him and I haven't been able to find him," the mop-haired Western Force midfield back told the newspaper."I'm not the first keeper of Wally to lose him, I know Berrick [Barnes] lost him a couple of times. But this is the longest time he has gone missing. I will have a lot of room searching to do."
O'Connor is desperate to find the mascot before the team head to France because apparently Wally is a bit of a babe-magnet there as was discovered at last year's World Cup.
"I heard that in France the girls love him. They also love the guys carrying the mascot. It should be good," O'Connor said.
NO JUNK MAIL
The Wallabies have been mixing business with pleasure in Hong Kong. Having the benefit of four training camps before coming to the city for this historic Bledisloe Cup clash, Robbie Deans gave his players the day off on Wednesday.
That saw several of them take a ride on a traditional Chinese junk boat on the harbour.
All this was going on while the All Blacks were training in extremely hot and humid conditions.
"This does feel weird. It feels more like a holiday," said Australian wing Lote Tuqiri. "But then we have never played a test match in Hong Kong before and everyone is really excited and looking forward to it."
SADDLE HIM UP: Jockey Mark du Plessis eyes up All Blacks captain Richie McCaw at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong.
-- PM to O'Connor : whether you get Wally** back (**here with BB during 2007 RWC) or not, I'm sure you'll be a ladies' man in France coz we LUUVVV Oz :P !!!!!!!!!!
--Did anyone notice that Richie looks like a giant here? Know what? On Saturday, it's gonna be the same :)