Weekend of World Cup Rugby in Cardiff
Being a rugby fan (and more specifically an All Blacks fan) is ingrained into the majority of New Zealanders. There are a rare few of us that manage to dodge the bug but for the rest of us, we become fanatical rugby followers from a young age. It’s almost like a religion.
I have vivid memories from growing up crowding around the TV watching the All Blacks play Australia or South Africa and being completely enthralled. Even as a kid, it was a big deal if we won or not and would lead to a week of celebrating or grieving depending on the result.
The rational part of my brain recognises that the level of stress, anxiety, joy and pain that I experience before, during and after an All Blacks game makes no sense. It is only a game right?
But the other, more irrational, rugby-loving part of my brain always wins and I am jumping up from my seat constantly or hiding from the screen barely able to watch depending on how well the game is going.
Every four years the Rugby World Cup comes around and it takes over our life for 6 weeks. NZ won the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 (when I was only 1 year old) but it took until 2011 for the All Blacks to win it again. Throughout the period in between we were consistently one of the favourites to win but always fell tragically short.
We were in New Zealand for the last World Cup in 2011 and loved the atmosphere and being surrounded by rugby for the length of the tournament. We watched New Zealand play France in the final at home and I was so nervous for the last 10 minutes that I was hiding behind the kitchen counter peeking between my fingers at the screen not able to watch.
New Zealand managed to avoid giving away a last minute penalty and we won 8-7. I think the whole country was more relieved than anything else given we were such favourites, were playing at home and hadn’t won the cup in 24 years.
This 2015 World Cup has been different.
We’ve thankfully found ourselves in the right country for the World Cup and have again been able to be surrounded by rugby. We’ve seen some amazing games of rugby, great tries and upsets; it has been a great tournament for rugby fans so far.
The biggest difference though I think is that although the All Blacks are favourites to win again, the fact that they have got the monkey off their back by winning the last World Cup means that it is not quite as stressful as a fan. As supporters we’re probably a little more relaxed and able to just enjoy the rugby a bit more. I imagine the players might not feel quite the same and still feel the pressure though!
World Cup Rugby in Cardiff
Last weekend we finally went to our first game of this World Cup: a quarter final in Cardiff with eery parallels with a game from the past.
In 2007, I was in San Diego with a fractured left wrist and the All Blacks were playing France at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in the quarter final of the Rugby World Cup. That day was pretty hard to watch as the much favoured NZ team lost 20-18 and since I was the lone kiwi amongst a number of french students, it took a while to live it down.
8 years later, I had fractured my left wrist again and the All Blacks were playing France at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in the quarterfinal of the Rugby World Cup. History felt like it could be repeating.
This time was different though and we got to witness one of the best games of rugby we’ll ever get to see in person. The All Blacks won 62-13 and despite not being able to clap at all due to my bandaged wrist, there was a lot of cheering and celebrating in the stands from us.
Millennium Stadium is an amazing place to watch rugby. The Welsh are almost as fanatical about rugby as New Zealanders so it’s no surprise their main stadium is made for rugby. Despite being in the top tier of seats, the steep banks mean you get a good view from everywhere.
Before the match we had wandered around the pedestrianised streets and glass covered arcades of central Cardiff and soaked up the atmosphere with cheering fans everywhere.
We took a different approach than the other kiwi fans in Cardiff for the day who spent the whole time in the pub. We took the opportunity to see the castle, wander the arcades and malls and visit a few different cafes…before also ending up in a pub. Waterloo Tea in Wyndham arcade was our favourite spot I think (they had amazing chocolate avocado cake if you’re ever in town).
New Zealand’s next game is the semi final this weekend at Twickenham against South Africa which we’re also lucky enough to be going to. No matter what happens though I’ll remember this Quarter Final win over France for a long time.