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Dublin: 10°C Monday 10 May 2021


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Good morning and welcome to New Ze…. well, no, we’re in the office.

But welcome to our first Rugby World Cup liveblog of the tournament. We’l be hitting the 50-mark by the time the Webb Ellis is won next month.

As I type, the greatest opening ceremony ever staged is ongoing. How would you sum it up? Think a DJ Shadow light show, add some Billy Elliott-stuff with a 12-year-old chasing a huge ball around the place. And then throw in a dancing, white-shoe-wearing Jonah Lomu and about two dozen ukuleles.

And a rugby game is going to break out in a bit.

Donal Lenihan’s suitably impressed by the ceremony: “there’s lifting… and there’s lifting,” he says as that kid is hoisted to the top of the stadium.

Lenihan spoke to our man Conor in a rugby meeting of minds recently, by the way.

“Enjoy the mighty All Blacks,” the country’s prime minster advises with a smile. Oh, we will Mr Prime Minister. We will.

The IRB grand fromage then declares the RWC officially open – but as Gavan adds in the comments section below: “The Rugby World Cup only officially begins when the Haka and the Sipi Tau are happening at the same time.”

How are we all feeling out there? Any predictions  for this morning’s game – and the tournament in general?

While New Zealand catches it’s breath before the imminent kick-off, here’s Declan Kidney’s first World cup team selection ahead of Sunday’s game with Eddie O’Sullivan’s USA.

And it’s one to prompt some debate no doubt. Connor Murray starts at scrum half.

Hooky reckons only four teams can win this tournament. We also learn that Russia learned rugger from the army.

But who do you reckon will win the thing? Vote in our poll here – you’ll be rewarded with a multicolored pie chart.

So here we are, boys and girls. These are your teams. Boom!

New Zealand: Dagg, Kahui, Nonu, S. Williams, Toeava, Carter, Cowan, Woodcock, Hore, O. Franks, Thorn, A. Williams, Kaino, McCaw, Vito.
Replacements: Flynn, B. Franks, Boric, Whitelock, Weepu, Slade, Jane.

Tonga: Lilo, Iongi, Hufanga, Ma’ilei, Piutau, Morath, Moa, Tonga’uiha, Lutui, Filise, Hehea, Tuineau, Kalamafoni, Maka, Ma’afu.
Replacements: Taukafa, Taumalolo, Pulu, Timani, Vahafolau, Fisilau, Fatafehi.

Last shout for predictions. There might be a Rugby World Cup 2011 computer game for the right answer.

Last of the parish notices… RTÉ’s match commentator this morning is Hugh Cahill, who’s already kicked off his daily column for us on our RWC site.

What have we learned already? Donal Lenihan isn’t a man who’s afraid to ask for directions.

The teams are lined up for the respective anthems. And you know what’s coming next.

We’ve had the Sipi Tau and Haka – incredible, if you ask me – and Irish ref George Clancy gets us underway. Let’s go.

New Zealand almost get over in the corner but for a last-ditch tackle, and Tonga gift possession back to the hosts foolishly. More pressure.

Gavin the office tells me that remarkably, already you can’t back NZ on Betfair. 140/1 on Tonga, 210/1 on a draw, but nobody will lay on NZ.

New Zealand 3 Tonga 0

Dan Carter opens his account with a penalty. Donal Lenihan warns the Tongans of playing too much with the heart and not the head.

Jamie Heaslip and his team-mates are watching, we can assume. The Leinster man tweeted the following verdict on the opening ceremony:

TRY Israel Dagg gets over the first try of the tournament.

So the All Blacks are looking good. We knew that anyway.

Dan Carter however has missed his second kick, the conversion, after that try. Weird.

Lenihan reckons Dagg will be the ‘rising star’ of this tournament. He got over after a 4-0n-2 situation when Ma’a Nonu off loaded quickly and he shimmied in behind.

The huge Tongan presence in the stadium are disappointed when their kicker Morath fails to get their side on the board. The lively-looking Sonny Bill Williams gave away the penalty.

The lads at Betfair tweet us the following: “Australia are the value on Betfair at 5.2 or just over 5-1.” France at 18-1, though.

TRY! Kahui gets over after an unbelievable pass from Sonny Bill.

Top, top offload as a pyjamas-wearing Jamie Redknapp is saying somewhere.

New Zealand 15 tonga 0

As LCD Soundsystem almost sang: Sonny Bill, I love you – but that try doesn’t count.

The All Blacks get over again but the whistle goes in George Clancy’s mouth due to crossing. “Harsh” is Donal Lenihan’s expert assessment.

TRY!  New Zealand 22 Tonga 0 Dagg over again after another great Williams offload. Carter does what he does best from the conversion.

TRY! New Zealand 29 Tonga 0 Anything you can do, I can do better says Kahui, as he notches his second.

Bad defending from the Tongans really, Morath fails to halt the All Black’s gallop on the line. Guess what Carter did then. 

Sonny Bill Williams is the star of the show here isn’t he? Journalist Kevin Gartside writes, he’s: “Jerry Guscott in Jonah Lomu’s body. Quick, incredible hands, unbelievable athlete.”

The good news for Tonga? Well, it’ll be half-time soon.

New Zealand 29 Tonga 3 Kurt Morath arrows over a penalty to get Tonga up-and-running, thankfully, with the last action of the half. Phew.

HALF-TIME New Zealand 29 Tonga 3

Lot of navel gazing about the gap between the top rugby nations and the minnows. McGurk is blaming the IRB for not narrowing it over the past 20 years. They should make the All Blacks wear crepe paper trailing from their shorts.

Technical sidenote: Hooky says Japan funny. Jah-paaaaaahn!

We’re up and running again…

Did you miss the Haka and Sipi Tau earlier? First of all; why? Secondly, here it is:

You’re welcome.

On the pitch, SBW – as I’ll insist on calling Sonny Bill from now on – almost wriggles through but is held just short. By this much.

The All Blacks’ run rate has slowed considerably. The huge crowd seem as vociferous as ever but the lull in play is good news for the Tongans who’ve stemmed bleeding.

Oooof! How did the Tongans keep the hosts out then? Amazing stuff.

Sonny Bill got on the ball, stepped on the gas and then kicked a lovely grubber inside on the outside of his foot.

Nonu and several other All Blacks looked they were to go over, SBW was rocked with a massive tackle as he tried to goose-step over, and ultimately the Tongans earn a penalty.

Weepu’s on for Cowan meanwhile, to a huge welcome.  There’s louder cheers however when Williams is compelled to replace a torn shirt. The man’s a rock star.

TMO New Zealand 29 Tonga 3 George Clancy goes upstairs – as is the vernacular – after Toeava slides in for an apparent try.

It doesn’t count  however as the official is told there was a foot in touch. The Tongans are keeping the score down admirably here.

TRY Kaino bundles over after great work from Kahui. It looked like the All Blacks has lost control of the ball in the scrum, they got it two Kahui who kicked, collected and off loaded after a perfect bounce.

Carter misses the straightforward conversion attempt, strangely.

Tonga are a couple of yards out for the past while trying to batter their way over the New Zealand line.

Meanwhile, John in Clonmel writes to say:

“I backed Tonga + 65 @ 10/11 hopefully their defence only leaks a few more tries.”

TMO Tonga are still camped on that line, after a period of sustained pressure on the NZ scrum. The crowd aren’t particularly impressed.

And as I type, they go over. George Clancy has again gone to the TV official.

Great scenes as the impressive sub Taumalolo does indeed make that pick-and-go count, according to the TMO.

TRY! New Zealand 41 Tonga 10 That’s more like it baby. Nonu strides over for the points – against the run of play remarkably.  Lovely offload from sub Colin Slade at the last moment.

That try was great and all but it won’t mask a relatively poor second-half performance from the tournament favourites.

Graham Henry might be best advised to put his phone on silent after the whistle because there’s 4million rugby experts who’ll want a word.

The clock shows we’ve reached 80minutes.

And that’s all she wrote. Not to patronise, but Tonga did  themselves proud and will take a lot of positves from the game.

New Zealand – despite some dazzling first-half, individual displays – will not be satisfied despite the victory.

What’s your verdict?

So, as Sharon Ní Bheoláin says, there we leave it. Please do continue to send your reaction, thoughts and tips.

I hate when Match of the Day show the league table on the first day of the English soccer season - but here’s your RWC standings after 80 minutes of action.

We’ll have more form New Zealand throughout the day of course – including Hugh Cahill’s piece from the stadium – and Conor will clock in for the first of our up-all-night liveblogs at 130 tonight. Seriously.

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