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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
INPHO/Dan Sheridan Damien Varley arrives in Auckland.
# RWC2011
View from the Frontline: Simon Hick’s World Cup dispatches, Part 2
“The truth is the thousands that have made their way here don’t fit with our current negative image of ourselves – the snivelling trembling wretches of the recession are still at home jangling copper coins in their pockets.”

IRELAND ARE FRONT-page news in every Sunday paper in New Zealand, knocking the previous big story, the high price of milk, off the charts.

New Zealanders have a quiet fascination with the Irish way of life, they see us as their wild urban cousin.

The kind of cousin that had the same upbringing as you but dropped out of college to be a DJ. They wrap their hands around their cup of cocoa at night, delighting in the tales of our wild escpapdes, but pulling the curtains in case we call round. They’re happy they know us, wish us well, but are quietly frightened about how we might turn out.

The host on Newstalk ZB, a nationwide radio station here, was taking deep satisfaction from reports that Irish people we’re still awake and partying in Auckland a full 12 hours after the final whistle had blown. But how would they cope with the hangovers, she wondered, and would those leprechaun suits keep the rain off.

The truth is the thousands that have made their way here don’t fit with our current negative image of ourselves – the snivelling trembling wretches of the recession are still at home jangling copper coins in their pockets.

This group travelled to New Plymouth and Eden Park to make some noise, make themselves known, and let others do the worrying. Perhaps it was youth, or wealth, or lack of wealth (a huge backpacker presence here), but Ireland’s woeful history in World Cups wasn’t a burden.

The locals are grateful for the cash, Ireland are the best team for your town to get to host, and they’re happy that ‘Aussie’ has been taken down a peg or two, but mainly they’re just grateful that we’ve made this a better world cup by finally causing an upset, and for turning the whole draw on its head.

Declan Kidney was asked what it would mean for the tournament, if, as now seems likely, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were all on one side of the draw with Ireland, England, Wales and France on the other.

In a rare moment of Kidney bombast, he quickly replied that it would be ‘a good thing’, because it only really feels like a world cup when a northern hemisphere team plays a southern hemisphere team in the final. Let the big three bash each other up and then have the winner of their tussle emerge, bloodied and dazed, into the final.

Perhaps the biggest bonus though, is that it now feels as though we are a part of this whole Rugby World Cup project. Before this we were a quiz question, the big underachievers, the dark horses nobody backed, the ones watching on TV as teams like Wales and Argentina made the semi-finals.

After that performance though, a little spear of light has made its way into the bunker; help has arrived, and they’ve got shovels, and they’re wearing skintight leprechaun suits.

Hard Yards: here’s what you missed this morning

The Happy Camper: it’s the morning after the night before

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