Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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All across New Zealand anticipation and anxiety are building in equal measure for this Sunday’s Rugby World Cup final between the in-form, fit and famous All Blacks and the maddening, mercurial and occasionally magnificent French – (‘Les Bleus’).
From the top of the North Island to the tip of the South (Cape Reinga to the Bluff), some 2,257km of some of the most gloriously diverse landscape on the planet, this land is fluttering with the black flag adorned by the silver fern. You could power a million windmills on the back of them.
Earlier this week I flew into tiny New Plymouth Airport (below) on the west coast of the North Island. It too was bedecked in black.
Rugby fanaticism, so entrenched in the Kiwi psyche, is rampant. One fan (I promise it wasn’t me) appeared in court yesterday charged with threatening to bomb Sky TV after his television cut out during the All Blacks-France pool match. What’s he going to be like if the same thing happens in the final?
All the media talk has been of disunity in the French camp, of a team supposedly in disarray after a series of poor performances. No Kiwi with any knowledge of sporting history gives such stories any credence at all. “Remember 1999 and 2007” is the constant refrain from supporters around the land. Remember? Who could ever forget?
Everyone is entering into the spirit of this great French rivalry. The New Zealand Herald is advertising a ‘final NZ/French wine line-out’ featuring four wines from each country and it’s a fair bet that plenty of each is being consumed in the interests of non-partisanship.
‘The Kohimarama Retreat’, where several members of the travel retail community are holed up, might indicate a place of solace but it’s no such thing as the McLoughlins, Moodie and Sutcliffes contingent here in Auckland ensures equal amounts of New Zealand and French wine are put away.
There’s no shortage of the former of course but balance has been created by a case of excellent French wines that arrived on our doorstep yesterday courtesy of Sylvain Combe and Olivier Magne from French wine company Peuch & Besse.
[Will it be the taste of France (left) or New Zealand (right) after the World Cup final?]
Olivier of course knows about giving Kiwis a taste of France – he was in that French team that stunned the All Blacks in the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-finals, overturning a 24-10 half-time deficit to power away to a 43-31 victory.
On Sunday night one nation’s wine will be poured in celebration, the other in consolation. I wonder which will taste sweeter?
[With his Celtic favourites, Ireland and Wales, out of the competition, an unhappy John Sutcliffe is having to support the Kiwis].