I only really got into rugby after the 2003 World Cup. You know, the one where England actually managed to win a major sporting title for once.
I went back to school after the half term holidays to discover I had a new English teacher, an Australian woman.
“So, from my accent you might have guessed I’m from Australia. Does anyone know anything about the country?”
*several hands go up*
“… Ok, enough of that, let’s get on with the lesson, shall we?”
Since then, I had decided I would follow and support the New Zealand All Blacks. At first it was the History and Meaning of the Haka ‘Ka mate’ that got me hooked, but then I watched a few more games and began to fall in love with them more as I realised that the All Blacks aren’t just a cool dance at the start.
Richie McCaw, Sonny Bill Williams and Dan Carter performthe haka “Ka mate” in the 02/10/2015 Pool C match against Georgia at the Millennium Stadium, Wales.
They might have taken 24 years to win a second World Cup, but they have consistently been the best team in the world for many years, topping the rankings in 2003, 2004–07, 2008 and 2009–15. The All Blacks are discipline, hard work, dedication and skill. I remember watching them and remarking how they seamlessly passed the ball- they didn’t need to look for the man to pass to because they knew he would be there automatically.
My university halls room window, circa Sep-Oct 2011.
When they won the 2011 World Cup, I vowed to one day see them play live. When the 2015 World Cup host was announced as England, I vowed again that I would see them play during that tournament, regardless of anything else that year. I mean, I live in the country, it’s not like I’d have to pay £1000 + just to get there!
Tickets were originally allocated by ballot and I made damned sure I got my name down for that! I applied to all of New Zealand’s pool games and ended up with my golden ticket to see them take on Georgia at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. I was initially a little disappointed, I had really wanted to see the Argentina match as I know they’re a very good team that can always give the All Blacks a run for their money. Watching Georgia in their first pool match changed that though, I was actually a teensy bit worried that I might see my team play for the first time and see them lose.
I saved up and bought their 2015 World Cup shirt; since they now have two years on the sleeve, it would be rude not to and besides, perhaps my buying their 2011 shirt was some kind of good luck charm and not buying the new one would result in them losing?
ignore the long hair, that disappeared 4 months later! This is how I played badminton the day after the All Blacks won the World Cup in 2011.
I learned the national anthem “God Defend New Zealand” in less than 24 hours (even the Maori verse), took along my 2011 scarf and kiwi mascot “Richie” for good luck, got on a train to Cardiff and got ready to achieve my 4 year dream.
I started off with a bit of sight seeing as I went to find a tourist-y shop that sold fridge magnets of the Millennium Stadium for my mum, then I headed to the Fanzone at Cardiff Arms Park to while away the 2 and a bit hours left until the gates opened to let me into the stadium.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I know England say support makes their players into giants, but this is just not on!
Sir Gareth Edwards, Welsh rugby legend.
My mascot, Richie, met his first girlfriend at the Cardiff fanzone. ❤
Once inside, I discovered that my ticket (the cheapest possible for this match) was actually in a brilliant part of the stadium. I was told where to go, but as I got closer and closer to the pitch I began to doubt. Maybe I’d gone wrong somewhere, I’m never this lucky? I asked a couple of people to confirm where they were sat and realised that I was in the correct place- my seat was in the second row back from the pitch!
Once I’d calmed down, I had a chat with the folks sitting around me (mostly English who were supporting Georgia as neutrals, but there were a few New Zealanders too. Crazy how friendly rugby supporters are!). The teams started to come onto the pitch for their warm up. Unfortunately, in doing so, they confirmed that the All Blacks would be performing the haka facing away from me as the ‘home’ team. I took advantage of my dad’s ‘epic zoom’ lens and my proximity to get some nice photos!
My two favourite Kiwis.
At the Millennium Stadium
The Ref warming up.
Steve Hansen instructing his men.
Sam Whitelock in the zone.
Sonny Bill Williams warming up with some throwing exercises.
Jerome Kaino sprinting on.
George Gregan, Jason Robinson and Sean Fitzpatrick on behalf of ITV.
Ka mate as seen on the big screen.
A Lineout. Spot the ball!
Richie McCaw about to do what he does best.
He’s seen his man…
Wrapped up in Richie’s tackle.
Dan Carter looks on.
Dan Carter gets 3 points on the board.
Richie takes a breather.
Sam Whitelock. Mouthguard or hungry, I’m not sure.
A strong passing game.
This would have been a try if the pass had gone to hand.
Sonny Bill Williams
Charlie Faumuina and Brodie Retallick recover after the scrum.
A try for New Zealand!
Scored by number 8.
Dan and Jerome.
The catch that led to a try.
Another try in the making.
Grounded for the points of try three!
They won, and now they’re heading back to Wales to take on France in the Quarter Finals. Considering the 2011 final ended in a hard fought, one point victory for the All Blacks, I’m a nervous wreck! Please, wish them luck- it’d be a dream to see them become the first team ever to successfully defend a World Cup title.