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Saturday is a very special day for the people of Christchurch, New Zealand.
The city has had the heart (physical not spiritual) torn out of it over the past two years by two devastating earthquakes and thousands upon thousands of aftershocks. The Central Business District was largely destroyed by the deadly February 2011 quake and, while now partly flattened, is yet to be rebuilt.
But an important physical and mental manifestation of the city’s rebirth happens in Christchurch this Saturday when the Irish team plays the All Blacks. It’s the first rugby international to be played there since the February 2011 earthquake wrecked AMI Stadium (formerly Lancaster Park), forcing all last year’s Rugby World Cup matches to be relocated to other cities.
Now a new AMI Stadium has appeared, a 17,000-seat facility at the former Rugby League Park in the suburb of Addington that was built in under 100 days.
Coincidentally, Irish author John Garrett wrote to me earlier this week, to update me on his book ‘Be Inspired’, which celebrates heroic figures from the southern city of Limerick (and to which I contributed a chapter about the magnificent Munster v All Blacks match of 2008). In an earlier Blog we gave away ten copies in a readers’ competition.
As regular Blog readers will know, John has kindly donated 50% of the proceeds to the Rugby World Cup Christchurch Appeal (www.rwcchristchurchappeal.com), dedicated to helping restore Christchurch’s wrecked rugby infrastructure.
The other 50% will go to the The Shane Geoghegan Trust, formed in honour of a rugby player from Garryowen who was tragically murdered in a case of mistaken identity as part of a gang feud in Limerick in 2008.
Given my Christchurch roots (and my Irish mother), it seems too good an opportunity not to try to boost one or both of these good causes.
At the recent Trinity Forum in Seoul, Aer Rianta International CEO Jack MacGowan (above) presented me on stage with an Irish rugby jumper, complete with its shamrock – symbol of the original Holy, rather than industry, Trinity, and suggested I wear it on stage during the event.
I never did get round to it, but now I will. Maybe. I’m prepared to wear the Irish colours (with pride I might add) for a full day in the office and at a nominated industry function on a wager with Jack (who must wear the All Blacks kit, complete with silver fern, on a similar basis) on the outcome of Saturday’s match. I’m even prepared (based on last Saturday’s convincing win for the All Blacks in the first test) to give Jack 14 points in. Will he take the bet? Let’s see. In case he does, our carefully crafted images below show how we each might look. [UPDATE: Like the good Irishman he is, Jack just took the bet. See my next Blog for details.]
We’ll also offer a free ticket in the latest Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise draw for a luxury car to the reader who gets closest to the final score on Saturday.
You must a) get the winning team right; b) give us your predicted score for each team. We’ll award on the basis of the closest collective difference to the final scores. Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, is not only an Irishman (though he quite literally supported the Kiwis in the recent World Cup final against France – see below) but his two brothers Ray and Feidlim accrued a combined 41 caps for the Irish national rugby team (in fact during my younger days I saw Ray play for the British & Irish Lions at Lancaster Park in a notoriously violent match against my native Canterbury).
Send your entries by match-time on e-mail headed ‘Welcome back Christchurch’ to Martin@TheMoodieReport.com