WE FEEL YOUR PAIN
During the World Cup Rupert Bates is writing a weekly column from the UK for Rugby News New Zealand magazine (www.rugby.co.nz). This article was first published in Rugby News October 6th.
Those in the northern hemisphere who care not a jot for the game’s spirit as long as their team triumphs, rejoiced that the world’s finest player and a sublime joy to watch when at his purring best - and boy was this cool cat starting to purr – was out of the tournament.
Others cursed because a World Cup by definition should be a contest between the best of the best.
It took All Blacks head coach Graham Henry to remind us that behind the myth, mayhem and media frenzy of a stricken body on the training turf was a man personally distraught.
Shattered dreams is a phrase used too freely, but for Carter the dream of rugby glory was forged at his Southbridge home in a paddock cleared of potatoes by his dad Neville to make way for a set of goalposts for an eight-year-old boy's birthday.
As the burden of four million people’s hopes was hurled from Carter to Colin Slade, there was only one New Zealand number 10’s name on everyone’s lips in the environs of Twickenham, South West London.
Sitting at the top of the English Premiership with six wins out of six is Harlequins piloted by Nick Evans, the best pivot in the Premiership by a street.
Evans joined the London club in 2008 and his contract extension last year ruled him out of a return to New Zealand and a shot at being second best again.
Twickenham Stoop where Harlequins plays is about 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport, so if New Zealand’s rigid policy not to select those playing overseas had been relaxed, Evans, 31, might have been in Auckland before you could say abductor longus tendon, preparing for his 17th cap, four years after his 16th. Even Carl Hayman, another All Black ‘in exile,’ tweeted “Nick Evans. Got ya phone on?”
Of course it was never going to happen but when we talk about the World Cup being a contest involving the best of the best, it is a crying shame the world’s second best first-five is not in his homeland.
Evans’s bank manager and the Quins supporters do not mind. Rather than being remembered as the man from Auckland’s North Shore who came home to replace the irreplaceable, Evans’s biggest rugby footnote will probably be the best overseas signing in the history of the English Premiership.
Will the man they call ‘Snapper’ for his love of deep sea fishing consider it ‘the one that got away?’ We’ll never know.
But with the England first-five who gave his name to the Stoop, Adrian Stoop, my second cousin twice removed (it’s as close as I get), I am very grateful Evans is playing in magenta, French grey, chocolate brown and light blue, rather than all black.