NEW ZEALAND WINS WORLD CUP
The best-selling author Stephen King sparks stories by asking himself ‘what if?’ For example ‘what if vampires invaded a small New England village?’ inspired the plot for Salem’s Lot.
‘What if the penalty by a French first-five of Vietnamese descent had gone over and New Zealand lost the World Cup final?’ Now that would be a horror script right up there with King’s goriest.
My nerves were shredding in England as I got texts from my Tauranga father-in-law dying a thousands deaths in an Australian pub and not just because the beer is filthy. But my tension revolved around the £1000 I would pocket should France prevail. Francois Trinh-Duc – otherwise superb – you owe me a drink, or a small vineyard.
But I was genuinely not sure I wanted the money. I’m an old softie like that. Surely the health of four million people was more important than making a dent in the overdraft?
Of course the recent tragedies that have claimed many lives in New Zealand had injected sombre perspective into the glorious triviality that is sport, but not for 80 odd minutes they didn’t. This epic, tight contest was heart surgery without anaesthetic for a country that beats to rugby’s drum.
Many of my friends at the World Cup, henceforth known as ‘the bastards’, speak of a host nation that embraced the rugby world, despite pre-tournament fears that a combination of paranoia and obsession would make it all about one big dog in its own black yard.
For us English – god we were woeful – there is the consolation that if Richie McCaw wants his knighthood he has to kneel before the Queen of England. If her grandson-in-law Mike Tindall coaches her she’ll probably drop the sword, which McCaw will fall upon and recycle with reckless disregard for his safety. Not content with beating everybody to the loose ball, McCaw even beat me to the sheep gag, revealing in his post-match interview he was ‘shagged’.
Let’s not forget France, treated with shameful disrespect and labelled the worst team ever to reach a final. Excusez-moi? Why is France the only country not allowed to win ugly, simply because it betrays its rich heritage? There has surely never been a better display in defeat than that of France captain Thierry Dusautoir, one of the great tacklers in history.
With predictions of an embarrassing rout, French sports newspaper L’Equipe ran the headline the day before the game: ‘Why get up tomorrow morning?’ Reasons given included ‘because there are few occasions when you can go to paradise in pyjamas’ and ‘because when she wakes up my wife looks like an All Black.’
Last Sunday even Tony Woodcock looked beautiful. At the final whistle my father-in-law sounded like he’d been out with Israel Dagg and Cory Jane and his text as Sir Richard McCaw lifted the World Cup may as well have been in French.
Thank you New Zealand. The view was great – even from 12000 miles away.