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Well, at least there were one or two New Zealanders smiling after their team was put to the sword by England in the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday in Yokohama, writes Dermot Davitt.
I bumped into Dan Carter, the All Black out-half great, before and after the game, and he was in good spirits, accepting that the better team won – and won well.
What an occasion. 68,000 people crammed into the International Stadium Yokohama to watch what are probably the two best teams in world rugby. England were simply magnificent, chasing, harrying, forcing the All Blacks into error after error – while managing to remain almost faultless themselves.
I was thrilled to be invited as a guest of Shiseido Travel Retail, and the division’s President & CEO Philippe Lesné; other guests included ANA Group Chairman Hirofumi Maru and Dufry CEO Asia, Middle East and Australia Andrea Belardini.
For a rugby fan, the 1823 Lounge where we were entertained pre- and post-match was the place to be. Alongside Carter – who reminisced fondly about his time with Ireland legend Ronan O’Gara at Racing 92 in Paris – there was Francois Pienaar, South African World Cup winning captain in the inspiring 1995 win; former England stars Mike Tindall and Ben Kay and New Zealand’s Keven Mealamu – all World Cup winners too.
The celebrations went on late and long in Tokyo, with every bar it seemed awash with England jerseys – and a few black ones too, whose occupants were fair and philosophical in defeat. It’s England’s time it appears (not easy for an Irishman to admit) – but South Africa or Wales (who play today) might yet have something to say about that in the final next week.
POSTSCRIPT IN ALL BLACK…
Ouch, writes Martin Moodie. I feel as exhausted and beaten up as the All Blacks forwards were by that magnificent English eight yesterday. Hopes so high, now as low as one of those chariots the English love to swing.
It’s hard to find any positives. Ok, it was 0-0 for the first 90 seconds and we did score one (very fortuitous) try in the second half after being kept scoreless in the first half. It was England’s game from kick-off to final whistle and by much more than the 19-7 score line would suggest. This isn’t suddenly a bad All Blacks team – they were superb earlier in the tournament after all – but a case of a far better English one.
There was one other positive, the chance to see the joy on my English friend Jonathan ‘Chaps’ Holland’s face as his beloved men in white turned things very, very black for the Kiwis. Chaps, like thousands of fellow Englishmen in Tokyo and back at home in the UK, was near delirious with happiness. And who can blame him? To beat, nay annihilate the reigning champions with such power and panache was some effort. Those chariots that are coming to carry the English home may need some extra carriage space for a certain Rugby World Cup trophy.