THIS IS THE day.
It’s time for the game that even Declan Kidney says is a must-win.
The 80 minutes of Rugby that we always knew would define our tournament.
The Dunedin Holiday Park was a hive of activity deep into the cold night as the community gathered to sing the songs that always bring us together: Ireland’s Call got half a dozen plays; young Willie McBride had plenty of graveside visitors and Oasis, as they do, somehow found their way onto the playlist too.
This morning, the sun is beating strongly down on drawn curtains. The good weather has been a pleasant surprise ever since we left Auckland. The only rain we have experienced has been in mountainous terrain when the clouds simply have no other way to escape.
After experiencing the wild and cold up north, we had expected doubly difficult conditions way down here where penguins hide amongst the rocks.
But spring has sprung and many of the layers we had put aside to wear underneath our match day attire will stay in the van. The sun makes it easier for many of our kinfolk to pop open a bottle of Speights at 11am.
The shower facilities have queues out the door, but those small cubicles have an almost magical ability to transform. The dishevelled young men who wait and wait for hot water emerge after just 10 minutes as new men, each one dressed ready for battle in their finest green chainmail.
With our neighbours bashing out Christy Moore’s greatest hits on a well-tuned acoustic guitar we take out the tactics board to plan our assault on the Octagon. It will begin with a return to Pirates RFC to watch the All Blacks and then it is on into the city. We are expecting a sombre enough mood from our hosts due to news of Dan Carter’s tournament ending injury.
When the word broke yesterday we had thought it was a little bit of melodrama from the ABs; Canada is no match to risk their prized asset, we would believe the catastrophe only when Carter’s replacement was brought in.
Now the worst has happened for the hosts, but if Aaron Cruden does manage to play any part in this World Cup it will be an incredible rise for the young fly half who developed testicular cancer at just 19 years of age. Cruden had been groomed to be Carter’s understudy for this most pressured of situations. However, due to his diminutive stature and a tendency to offer the sublime and ridiculous in equal measure, the less talented (though more consistent) Colin Slade was promoted by Graham Henry.
It is yet another massive twist in the RWC 11 story; let’s just hope everything goes to plan this evening.