From the Touchline

(Rugby News Service) Saturday 15 October 2011
From the Touchline
Rugby players made from sweets on display in an Auckland shop

AUCKLAND, 15 Oct. -  A lighter look at Rugby World Cup 2011.

The numbers

62,000 - Welsh fans expected to head to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to watch the Wales versus France semi-final on the big screens.

13 - RWC matches Eden Park has hosted in 1987 and 2011, equalling Murrayfield's (Edinburgh) tally.

He said it

"History is history, mate. This is a World Cup semi-final and history means nothing."
- Australian skipper James Horwill scoffs at a question on whether the All Blacks choke in big matches.

Sweet tooth heaven

An Auckland sweet shop is savouring the sweet taste of success.

Fans have been flocking to the London Lolly Shop to sink their teeth into their favourite player.

"I decide to make Dan Carter from marshmallows and sherbert sticks,'' said store clerk Dani Barrack, adding one customer left with enough goodies to make his own display. "I sold him everything he needed for a competition at his work.''

Children especially love the window: "The biggest problem I have is the smudges on the window," Barrack said.

Sad but true

Richie McCaw on whether the way the team have prepared this week is any different to four years ago:  “Yeah, well we didn’t make the semis in 2007 so ...”

Fowl play

The Australian front row appears to be a good place if you like chicken.

Hooker Stephen Moore owns a fast food chicken outlet in Canberra and has been known to hand gift vouchers to his fellow front rowers for team bonding sessions over plates of fried poultry.

Prop Sekope Kepu, outed as a chicken fan by this column earlier in the tournament after being spotted munching away on a post-game wing, appears to have hit the jackpot.

So overjoyed by the abundance of free fowl, he has been happy to share his good fortune beyond the tight-knit tradition of the front rowers club.

"We've sort of let some second rowers in," he conceded. "But they've got to push in the scrums first."

Black rooster

Tony Marsh is one of many New Zealand Maori players in Auckland for the semi-finals.

Unlike many other New Zealand Maori players, such as Zinzan Brooke, Steve McDowall and Rico Gear, Marsh did not go on to wear the black of New Zealand, but the blue of France.

After joining Clermont Auvergne in 1998, the Rotorua-born centre qualified to play for France under residency rules and made his debut for Les Bleus in 2001.

He scored 35 points in 21 appearances and was a member of the French team that won the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2002.

He even captained France in the RWC 2003 bronze medal match against the All Blacks, a match France lost 40-13.

As such, this weekend he has an interest in both camps. "I can't lose," he told From the Touchline, "it's a 50-50 chance."

Floating fans

What weighs 210,000 tons and has arrived in Auckland for RWC 2011?

No, not a very heavy forward pack, but the combined weight of three huge cruise ships that berthed this week with rugby fans aboard for the final stages of the tournament.

Taking a cue from Sydney when passenger liners were used to ease the accommodation shortage during the 2000 Olympics, the luxury trio - the Rhapsody of the Seas, Pacific Dawn and MS Volendam - have beds for nearly 6,000 passengers.

Twitter toast

While Wallabies fans were digesting the news full back Kurtley Beale’s hamstring injury would rule him out of Sunday’s semi-final, the man who will take his place at the back certainly did not seem too concerned.

As three of his teammates faced the media at a press conference on the ground floor of the team hotel, Adam Ashley-Cooper was upstairs taking photos of Rob Horne and Rob Simmons cooking toast and sharing them via his Twitter account.

He aptly named his photograph “The Art of Toasting”.

Getting along swimmingly

James O'Connor tweet: Very humbling experience to be in presence of Australian legend Dawn Fraser (multiple Olympic gold medallist in swimming) let alone being asked for my autograph.
RNS gy/mr