CONTRASTING stories from New Zealand – on the one hand the house full signs are being put up at grounds all over the country, while Auckland reports plenty of rooms available for the World Cup semi-finals and finals.

Their Eden Park ground was predictably sold out for the game between the All Blacks and France, but so it was again for the clash between Pacific Island rivals Samoa and Fiji.

The Irish are burning the place up, with as many as 27,000 fans said to be following them all over the country, many of them probably ex-pats.

Even seemingly unattractive matches like the one between England and Romania drew a big crowd, as did Scotland against Argentina, despite foul conditions.

But a survey here has discovered that 33 out of 84 accommodation providers are not full for the World Cup finals weekend.

One organisation increased its rates in June by 1,577% to around £600 for the weekend but are now offering rooms for roughly £160, and are still not sold out.

But the All Blacks’ chances of winning the tournament for the first time since New Zealand last hosted the event, the first one in 1987, are being ramped up.

The northern hemisphere challenge has long since been dismissed while the Australians, called the convicts among other things in the media here, are similarly being discounted.

The only side capable of preventing the All Blacks from marching to the title is South Africa, it is claimed, because they possess the power game which could halt the hosts.

Meanwhile, nothing will prevent our media from eulogising about the never-to-be-forgotten sight of the New Plymouth ground with Mount Taranaki in the background slowly disappearing as darkness descended amid a red glow stretching across the snow capped peak.

And what other main street can you walk down and look left along any road to see the ocean, glistening in the warm spring sunshine we were blessed with.

The Welsh fans were unanimous about the warmth of the reception they received, their flags, scarves, T-shirts and jerseys in many of the shops as the locals took to their guests.

Make a note of it. If you can bear the 30-hour trip to holiday in New Zealand a must on your itinerary is a visit to New Plymouth.

l Quote of the week here – England replacement Thomas Waldrom who said of his Leicester coach Richard Cockerill, “He is a man of wise wisdom”.

l Most boring topic – the media obsession about who should be the All Blacks scrum half. Current owner of the jersey is Piri Weepu.