From the Touchline

(Rugby News Service) Tuesday 11 October 2011
From the Touchline
All Blacks fans are a resilient bunch and capable of coping with defeat

AUCKLAND, 11 Oct. - A lighter look at Rugby World Cup 2011.

The numbers

0 - Changes France have made to their team for Saturday's semi-final against Wales. This is the fifth time they have gone into a RWC knockout match with an unchanged line-up. They have lost the previous four, three of them by at least 17 points.

1 - France's Imanol Harinordoquy is the only player left at RWC 2011 to have played in two previous RWC semi-finals. He will become the fifth France player and ninth player from all teams to play in three.

He said it

"Start answering your phone, you idiot."
- Mils Muliaina to All Blacks replacement Stephen Donald, who had gone fishing and had failed to pick up when coach Graham Henry came calling with an SOS to join the squad as back-up fly half.

Calm down

A lot of people are wondering if New Zealanders will descend into a deep depression should the All Blacks lose to Australia in Sunday's semi-final.

Dr D Rex Billington from the AUT University psychology department agrees rugby is part of the social fabric, that the sport means as much to Kiwis as ice hockey to Canadians and football to Brazilians.

But, in the grand scheme of things, life goes on, win, lose or draw.

"We're a pretty resilient bunch,'' says Billington. "You won't see people jumping off the bridge on Monday. We roll with the punches. Our memories are pretty short. Believe it or not, it is just a game."

Billington has taken in a couple of matches at Eden Park and he said meeting fans from all corners of the rugby world will leave a positive impression on New Zealanders.

"You didn't see any fights or violence after France beat England. I walked back with English fans and, yes, they didn't like the result, but they know life goes on."

Keeping it reel

Wales’ wing wonder Shane Williams may appear eternally youthful with his fresh-faced looks and twinkle-toed displays but admits that at 34 he is ready to slow down the pace of life.

Earlier in the tournament when several Welsh players went off to pursue some extreme sports, Williams opted for a more sedate pastime on a rare day off.

“A lot of things I do these days are a lot calmer and a lot easier and a lot less stressful, really,” Williams admitted. “There was the chance to go bungy jumping and so on the other day, but I decided to take the fishing option.”

Staged disappearance

Finding Murdoch, the story of the only man to be expelled from the All Blacks, opens in Auckland on Thursday and has particular currency at RWC 2011.

The play explores the right to privacy and the role of media in elevating sportsmen to heroes and villains, particularly topical given recent headlines involving the likes of Quade Cooper, Mike Tindall, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg and Manu Tuilagi.

After scoring the winning try in a Test match in Wales in 1972, Keith Murdoch hit a Welsh security guard after an after-match function. On his banishment from the tour, he disappeared into outback Australia, shunning family, friends and teammates for years.

He was finally tracked down in Queensland in 1990 when he talked for the first time about the incident, forming the basis for the stageplay.

Finding Murdoch at Q Theatre runs until 23 October. 

In cold storage

New Zealand coach Graham Henry joked on Monday that one of the criteria for calling up Stephen Donald was "two pound of whitebait".

The replacement fly half had been out fishing when the call came following the injury to Colin Slade.

But where is the salty package Henry so craves? “It’s in the fridge,”  Donald said on Tuesday.

RNS mr/sg