Ferdy writes from London:
As a true rugby tragic, I will be the first to admit, I have let myself down. Ever since the All Blacks clutched victory from the jaws of defeat on that magnificent day of October 25 October 2011 (a date that is forever imprinted on my mind, mainly because I nearly had a stroke due to stress and exhaustion), I am ashamed to say, I have lost interest in rugby. After 24 long years, I have breathed a long sigh of relief. I have exhaled, and that breath is not full of All Black angst.
I did not care who won the Six Nations. I wasn't bothered by analysing possible rising stars of the north and who might knock the All Blacks off their perch. I didn't care if England had finally found themselves a backline that could pass and catch (full of kiwis, Saffas and Samoas BTW, with the excpetion of a very good pivot in Owen Farrell- and those private schools in England also produce very good scrum halves). I don't care if France still blow hot and cold; if Wales still have the best coach in the world (now that Ted has hung up his boots); if Scotland still don't know how to score tries. (Is Andy Robinson the worst internaional rugby coach in the world...erm, in a nutshell....yes. How the man gets so many coaching jobs is completely beyond me,...he is a shining example of who you know and not what you can do).
And what's happening in the South? I no longer get up at 8.30am to watch some Super 15 team slug it out on a chilly autumnal Friday night in Dunedin in the fog. Has Mark Hammett (is he moulded in the Andy Robinson model?) managed to stifle full blown rebellion within the Hurricanes? ). Has Daniel Carter managed to kick his obsession with tacky Italian 'designer' scarves to the curb (not to mention his groin injury)? Has R.McCaw finally found himself a nice woman that doesn't feel the need to asphixiate her hair with blonde peroxide? And Jerome Kaino, (my personal world cup star), has decided to go to Japan for a contract full of money. In the old days I would have been weeping on the floor. Now, I'm like: 'you go, you deserve it. Finally earn some decent money for putting your body on the line.' (I've done a youtube trawl through about 2.5 million dodgy All Black kapa 0 pangos, yet not one clip of the magnificent try saving tackle Kaino made on Will Genia in the semi has made it to the mainstream interweb. That tackle won us the cup).
I don't even want to hunt down Wayne Barnes anymore and make it my personal mission to force him to confess while I surreptiously hold my clunky old dictaphone (brought for the sole reason that one day I would find him in a pub and force him to confess drunkenly: "Yes! I was paid by the French in 2007 to throw that quarter final. That's why I sent off McAlister even though he really didn't do anything wrong. That's why I didn't award one single penalty to the All Blacks, even though they had possession and the advantage for the last thirty minutes of the game. That was why I blinked when that forward pass scored France the winning try).
Bascially, tthis is how over the rugby I am. I am over the bitterness. I am now Julie Andrews, singing on a hill. I no longer have an anger for the best team in the world not being rightful world champions. Because finally, we are world champions.
Tonight I watched the replay of the final. What really caught me was how terrible the All Blacks were. We totally let the fired up (and rather mediorcre) French into the game. We once again, believed the hype of the mystical French, how they could trump us (.like they have done in tournaments past).
In hindsight...who played well in that final? Not Kaino (who was the main man of the tournament) but against the French, he was spent. He had left it all on the field for the semi and it will probably come out one day in his autobiograpy that he was playing on a broken leg, or something. We were down to our 4th choice fly half (why did all our number 10s get groin injuries? Was that a coaching issue?) The stars in the backline were quiet...Piri missed his kicks (oh how the game would have had a completely different hue if Piri had managed to stay on target). Nonu, Smith, Kahui, Jane, Dagg. All stars in previous tests, had to come together as a team and fight ugly. They fell off tackles and generally lost the plot. Did they tighten up to win the most important game of their lives? Or did they choke?
Only two players in the All Blacks played to their potential (in my humble opinion). Tony Woodcock who had been quiet for years leading up to the tournament- often injured, struggling with the Auckland Blues - grasped his moment scoring a try, sending raptures to a starved nation. And R.McCaw, playing on a broken foot, did all he could through the pain. He said himself, the last twenty minutes of the game, the most tense and nerve wracking for all kiwi supporters, were the most glorious of his life. My abiding memory of him is insisting that Andy 'riverdance' Ellis kick the ball out into touch while the rest of the team and the country celebrate He only let that game go went the ball went dead.
What a magnificent captain our McCaw was.
Ps = the below man is journeyman central.
More on that and his attention seeking white boy haka moves another day.