FROM THE TOUCHLINE - FRIDAY 25 OCTOBER

The Rugby News Service team take a walk on the blindside to find offbeat news stories, stats and anecdotes from RWC 2019...

TOKYO, 25 Oct - One wonders whether married All Blacks fan Shaun Pollard has any tattoos featuring ex-girlfriends. He's certainly confident with his ink.

Pollard has had his calf emblazoned with the Webb Ellis Cup with '2019' engraved on the base. When the New Zealand Herald asked him the obvious question, Pollard seemed to forget he wasn't in Steve Hansen's lineup himself.

"You think positive, you win," said Pollard, who can't fathom why his tat went viral.

New Zealand's politicians aren't sitting on the fence either. Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard donned a signed All Blacks jersey under his speaker's robes for his regular Facebook update, while prime minister Jacinda Ardern sent a message of support on Instagram.

The only thing worrying Kiwi fans ahead of the semi-final with England was the possibility it might not be on TV. A huge fire at the construction site of Auckland’s SkyCity convention centre caused smoke damage to TVNZ’s headquarters. But the state broadcaster has reassured the nation coverage won't be affected.

Winger turns singer

The All Blacks themselves are equally chilled. Sevu Reece is the piano man in the Kiwi camp. Here he is channeling Kiwi popsters Six60.

Richie Mo’unga also proved he was pretty fly in this interview. After a few reflections on his upbringing, he needed little prompting to break out the dance moves (1m30s).

Appreciating eights

Best whisper it extremely quietly, but this video suggests Billy Vunipola has the statistical edge over Kieran Read, albeit thanks to a little extra gametime. What price the younger number eight to edge out his illustrious elder?

Love and war

Steve Hansen devoted a large chunk of Thursday lunchtime’s New Zealand press conference to verbal fencing in anticipation of a return sally from England’s Eddie Jones in the evening.

"Eddie and I both know it's all fair in love and war, and there's nothing better in a time of war than to throw a wee distraction out. You guys can't resist, best clickbait in the world," he said.

Jones kept his tinder unusually dry, however, leaving Hansen hanging.

It's all in a day's mind games for the pair, whose relationship, as Hansen explains, is based on the bond between their wives, rugby, beer and wine, in that order.

Hairy headlines

"Don’t ask for a Japanese fade. It'll cost you two weeks of banter," said All Blacks hooker Dane Coles a little mysteriously yesterday.

RWC 2019 has been awash with billowing barnets. Now one of the most fabulous has had a wash. Japan was hit by a day of heavy rain on Friday, and Faf de Klerk’s hairstyle took a drenching during a kicking session at the International Stadium Yokohama.

The South Africa scrum-half had a small topknot to keep some of the hair out of his face, and it gave him almost a samurai look, resembling a Japanese hairstyle called chonmage.

De Klerk had said "probably me" to a question by Rugby World Cup Daily’s Elma Smit about which Springbok player spends most time at the mirror.

Such was the downpour, the Yokohama pitch was already featuring a new moat when England came out for their captain's run in the morning.

From hairstyles to rugby styles

On today's episode of RWC Daily, James Haskell is concerned Alun Wyn Jones doesn't spend enough time looking in his mirror.

Elma-san has snouted out some legends ahead of this weekend's semi-finals. Bryan Habana and Shane Williams chew the cud while sipping beer, Francois Pienaar can't see South Africa changing their style for Wales, while Lawrence Dallaglio takes a spin.

Praying for a win

England's Henry Slade, who drops to the bench, is not going to be troubling David Attenborough any time soon.

Stat of the day

If anything can disrupt the All Blacks' perfect harmony, it could be this nugget. The Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, and Manu Tuilagi will start together for only the fourth time in Saturday's semi-final.

On the previous three occasions (against Ireland and France in the Six Nations, and Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2019 quarter-final) England scored 92 points and conceded 37 in the 188 minutes the three were on the pitch together.

England's ball carriers are back in business at just the right moment.

RNS am/ar/bo