8:00am Friday 9th September 2011
NO prizes for guessing the most popular team in New Zealand apart from their own All Blacks – Wales, by the width of the picturesque harbour in Wellington where the team is staying.
What is not so clear, though, is whether that’s because of any traditional affinity or whether it’s because the native population desperately wants to see Wales dismiss South Africa, who are seen as one of New Zealand’s big enemies.
Wherever we go the reaction is one of extreme friendliness, but underneath it all there is no question the locals want to see the Springboks beaten on Sunday.
Coverage of the event in the New Zealand media has been immense, as befits probably the greatest rugby nation on earth, the Herald devoting the first five pages of its news section to the tournament plus the back three, a massive supplement and a big colour wallchart.
It’s all about the New Zealanders plus a big section on the Springboks and just one piece on Wales, taken from one of our own national papers on Sam Warburton, written by former Argus columnist and ex-Glamorgan and England opening bat Steve James.
And talking of Gwent writers, Steve Jones from Rogerstone gets special billing in the paper as one of six on New Zealand’s public enemy list.
Why? Because, they say, “He hates us so it’s only fair we get him on the list.”
The others on it? Aussie outside half Quade Cooper as No 1 – “raised in the shade of a coolibah tree”; 2, Possums – “An Aussie pest that feels at home here, much like Cooper”; 3, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur – “Renowned recreational divers and supporters of the French rugby team” (France is in New Zealand’s group); 4 is Jones; 5, the Chappells (the Aussie cricketing brothers) “say no more”, while 6 is pending – Graham Henry (the All Blacks coach) “Status TBA post October 23.” No pressure then!
Extending the media popularity line, how about this for a domestic one? A Media Wales rugby writer who had upset the establishment with a particular story thought he was ringing a cricket contact, but actually dialled a WRU spin doctor with the same name who was already in New Zealand with the Wales squad.
The said journalist was greeted with the following answer – “Yes, we do have issues with you G..... but I’m not prepared to discuss them with you at 2.30 in the morning!”
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