October 04, 2006

Horse 635 - NZ Rugby Sevens

The tale of Rugby is a tumlutous one with many twists and turns, from the famed split that saw the Rugby League break off in 1909 to the eventual hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 1987. Few can dispute the utter wave of joy that swept England after they won the 2003 World Cup, or the bitterness when over the course of 12 months the Wallabies managed to lose all four trophies that they held (Cook Cup, Bledisloe Cup, Tri-Nations Trophy and the World Cup).

Of course most feared of all the rugby nations in the world is that of New Zealand. That little spit of islands lying 3 hours by plane off the coast of Australia, boasts a national side that even before the kick-off is likely to make their opponents weep, if for no other reason than their war dance the "Haka" before the match. When the Bledisloe is played, Australia always goes in as underdogs for the simple reason that if New Zealand were to lose, it would be a national disgrace.
Rugby is really the only sport played in anger in New Zealand and I do literally mean "in anger".

Is it perhaps little wonder then that when it comes to the Sevens variant of Rugby, New Zealand has won all World Tournaments bar 2006 when the tiny nation of Fiji stole the cup from under their noses. Is it little wonder then that the All Blacks coach Graham Henry came out this morning with the promise to "restore NZ Rugby pride and win back the 2006-07 series.Tenei te tangata puhuru huru. Nana nei i tiki mai. Whakawhiti te ra!" The last part taken directly from the Haka and means: This is the hairy man who fetched the Sun and caused it to shine again.

New Zealand's record in the Sevens format is so blistering that when it comes to their Commonwealth Games efforts, not only have they won all three Gold Medals for the three occasions it's been part, but the have also never lost a Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens match.

Incidentally the USA leg of the tournament will be played San Diego's Petco Park on February 10-11, 2007. The pitch will line up so that one corner will line up with the foul lines from home plate.

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