The All Blacks vs England. Is there a more bitter and passionate game played between two nations? You may argue the contests between South Africa and NZ are up there, but in terms of a pure, do or die victory, the game as far as the All Blacks, and especially the NZ public are concerned, this is the most important.
This desire to beat England probably stems from a long-held inferiority complex New Zealand has towards our former colonial masters (which Tom French and Fraser Waters always used to remind me). Even though England may not be at their best as we speak, as a Kiwi and now an adopted Englishman, the encounter starts to raise the few remaining hairs on my head.
The contest for me raises some great match ups and drama aplenty – one of these involves Ricky Flutey and the Haka. When Ricky and i were playing NZ age grade rugby together, he was always the one teaching it to all us uncoordinated white fellas and leading us before the game. He is inspirational and fiercely proud of his heritage and to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke ranks on Saturday in the huddle and did a counter Haka like the one we saw the Munster kiwi boys do. Whatever the case on Saturday, knowing intimately both sides mind set and passion, from the pre match to the game itself, it’s going to be electric.
On a side note, I’m certainly glad the ferocity of the All Black Haka has evolved over the years. If anyone has seen old school All Black haka footage (especially in the 1970’s era) it looks like a drunken chicken dance in a Workingman’s Club on a Saturday night. I saw a game between NZ and England on ESPN classic the other night, and I would have been very surprised if the likes of Peter Wheeler and Roger Uttley were shaking in their calf length rugby boots by the sight of a bit of half-hearted thigh slapping and foot stamping. What made it all even more comical was the fact that while they were doing it, the players were all looking around at each other to see if they were doing the actions properly. Great stuff.
Anyway to the other important game – Friday night, Wasps versus Newcastle. My last memory of Newcastle was going up there last season, hearing Craig Dowd give the most inspiring speech of probably his career, whipping the lads into a frenzy, and then someone popping his head round the corner of the doorway and cheerily announcing “Game’s off” as the posts had snapped in the high winds. I may be mistaken but I think it was about 8 seconds before I heard the first Magners bottle being popped off.
For us, it’s a must win game, as are all our games from now in the Premiership. The boys are in great spirits though and I’m confident they will do well.
If you want to check out my blog next week www.insidethelockeroom.com, hopefully I’ll have a better site up and running so I can show you some videos, pranks, training sessions and tips and alot more.