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Upper Hutt Leader : October 12th 2011
54 UPPER HUTT LEADER, OCTOBER 12, 2011 SPORT French once again turn tables with their flair SPORTS TALK JOSEPH ROMANOS The French are not to be trusted, especially their rugby team. You can go overboard ascribing traits to certain nationalities. It s often said Italians play with grace and flair. But their soccer team looked dreary drawing with the All Whites at last year s World Cup. The Germans are described as a utilitarian race, yet Boris Becker played tennis with rare colour and flair. That said, some generalisations have more than a grain of truth to them. Brazilians in any sport, from beach volleyball to soccer, bring pizzazz and excitement to their play. Equally, All Black teams are invariably resolute and unbend- ing, even if the nature of their play has changed. In the Colin Meads-Brian Lochore days of the 1960s, the All Blacks won with relentless determination, eschewing brilliance for a no-risks policy. Now, with such a strong Maori and Polynesian influence, the All Blacks play with much more daring. Even so, victory remains an imperative. The French turned the Rugby World Cup upside down over the weekend with their 19-12 win over England. They were awful earlier in the tournament, losing 37-17 to the All Blacks and 19-14 to Tonga. A week after their Tongan humiliation, they bounced back to stun unbeaten England. How can that happen? Former English Davis Cup ten- nis player and coach Mark Cox once explained to me his theory about the Anglo-Saxon work ethic . Players from England, Aust- ralia and New Zealand won t play well unless they ve trained hard, said Cox. They have to feel they ve done the right preparation, that they deserve to win. The French, on the other hand, are happy if they can get away with minimal training and still win. They don t feel that guilt. He s right. French sportsmen, from middle- distance runner Michel Jazy to tennis player Henri Leconte, have always tended to be erratic. They ll turn up undertrained and hope they can get by. Only before special occasions -- an Olympic Games or a Grand Slam tennis tournament -- do they really put in the hard graft. A huge defeat never seems to faze them. New Zealanders are different, however. The All Blacks could not coun- tenance a rugby defeat by Tonga. It would go against the national psyche. Upsets happen in international sport, of course. Look at Australia. The Wallabies lost to Samoa, then turned around and beat the All Blacks. But that s not a result of not caring. The French often are not wounded by a defeat. Their rugby team has lost massively here. In 2007 they were smashed by 51 points in Wellington. They shrug off such results, secure in the knowledge that on the big stage it will be different, as the All Blacks learned at the 1999 and 2007 World Cups. Now they ve done it again, this time to England. It must be frustrating for French rugby supporters. All Black fans would be devas- tated having to swallow the sorts of results the French sometimes turn in. But it must be exciting, too, knowing that no matter how bad the lead-up form is, a big result is just around the corner. Rugby evening all black and blue Kirwan and Campese lay it out By COLIN WILLIAMS Yada, yada, yada: A seated John Kirwan looks as if he may have heard it all before from his former international opponent David Campese. Inset -- Change of pace: The female vocal trio Avi Diva provided some up-tempo entertainment. Sensitive guys: Upper Hutt sporting legend Earle Kirton and ''that scarf'' with John Kirwan. Friday night s Sporting Legends dinner, which raised money for the Cancer Society, featured plenty of traditional ribald rugby fare. Both Miles Copeland, the MC for the night, and comedian Michael Jones told plenty of jokes where blue would be the tamest description (for those there, just recall the Ma a Nonu punchline!) but if any offence was called for it was not registered by the happy enough and predominantly male crowd which included tables of visiting Australian and South African supporters. Legends David Campese of Australia and New Zealand s John Kirwan, both Rugby World Cup winners in lengthy and productive international careers, were in journeyman-like mode. Campese was almost audacious, starting his address with a short video of his greatest rugby moments, accompanied by a tortu- ous ballad The One and Only and, mostly, the high-pitched excite- ment of veteran television com- mentator Gordon Bray. Campese, with more than 100 test caps behind him, spoke of the limited status of the game in his homeland and the code s changing nature, particularly the increasingly sated demands of the modern player. Presciently, he dismissed the pain in the arse Poms as not offering any sort of rugby currency and he ripped into the inadequacies of Wayne Barnes as a referee, though perhaps not sensing the irony when he warned, he s going to lose a game for somebody sometime . Campese suggested the cup had too many long gaps between important games, joining the call for a formal two-tier structured competition, something Kirwan was surprised by and expressed some understated opposition to. If Campese, to mix sporting metaphors, was guilty of simply rolling his arm over on the night, Kirwan was more motivated, using the whole stage and looking very visual compared to Campese. The famous Aucklander was comfortably playing a home crowd, of course, but he proved a likeable raconteur, with engaging memories of his early All Black years especially the demands of rooming with the horror that was Richard Loe, and describing the variety of old-style match warm- up rituals. The self-confessed new-age man was at ease, laughing at himself and remembering the the days when the backs were all about looking good and the forwards were there to supply them the ball. The probably soon to be ex- Japan coach spoke proudly of his side s cup campaign and of his Kiwi pride in the way the World Cup was being so successfully managed and staged in New Zea- land -- and so well embraced.
October 5th 2011
October 19th 2011