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October 24, 2011

'It's such a small little trophy but what it means is huge'

Posted on 10/24/2011

All Blacks head coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw parade the Rugby World Cup in front of an estimated 250,000 fans who flocked to Auckland city centre for the victory parade © Getty Images

If there was any doubt that the people of New Zealand were not the real stars of this Rugby World Cup, that scepticism was blown away by simply astonishing show of support in the wake of the All Blacks’ dramatic victory over France in the tournament finale.

A crowd estimated to be in the region of 250,000 packed the streets of Auckland city centre on Monday afternoon to hail their victorious team and add yet another colourful chapter to an already vibrant slice of rugby history. It is now blindingly obvious that the ‘stadium of four million’ that World Cup organisers promised in New Zealand was so much more than catchy marketing slogan - it was a statement of fact.

Fans, who were encouraged to show their support by wearing black and bringing their flags, found their spot early along the route that took in Customs Street West, Queen Street and Wellesley Street. Evidently still high from their side’s long-awaited triumph the previous evening, there was a distinct party atmosphere, fuelled by the sunshine that bathed the event and the fact that it was also a public holiday.

The crowd was clearly bursting with pride and the odd rendition of God Defend New Zealand, the national anthem, and the now familiar chant of ‘All Blacks, All Blacks’ could be heard above the buzz of expectation. With the start of the parade just minutes away, the scene was incredible.

Every possible vantage point was taken – bus stops, lamp posts and traffic lights were crawling with people while high above the city streets more fans peered down from office windows. The vast majority of those present could not hope for more than a glimpse of the All Blacks with the crowd thousands deep in places and backed up into the surrounding streets. But they did seem to care, they were happy to just be here sharing in a special day for their team and their country, one that would generate stories for generations to come.

The appearance of the players, on the back of a series of pick-up trucks, lifted the occasion to a whole new level. Dark glasses suggested the previous night had been a long one, while the sight of the likes of scrum-half Piri Weepu and centre Ma’a Nonu dancing their way along the route hinted that the celebration had not stopped since the final whistle.

The crowd exploded into life as each member of the All Blacks’ squad, management and support staff, acknowledged their support with special praise emanating from the media contingent as their always affable media man Joe Locke. But the biggest roar was reserved for the sight of head coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw when they stood side by side and held the Webb Ellis Cup aloft.

“It’s such a small little trophy but what it means is huge,” was McCaw’s astute assessment into one of many microphones thrust towards him in the hope of getting an insight into his emotions on such a magical day.

The feel-good factor is set to continue for the rest of this week with further parades planned for Christchurch and then Wellington later this week but such is the euphoria that it is likely to carry the All Blacks all the way to their defence of the World Cup crown in 2015.

The parade was such a special and fitting way to end a truly memorable tournament and an unforgettable trip. New Zealand did themselves proud on so many fronts and for that we can only be thankful.

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Backing Black

Posted on 10/24/2011

Job done: All Blacks captain Richie McCaw hoists the Webb Ellis Cup aloft at Eden Park © Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup Final could not come soon enough for some fans who were on streets of Auckland early on Sunday, clearly unable to sleep and happier to deal with their nerves by pacing the streets of the city. But they were not alone for long. A steady stream of supporters emerged from trains, buses and boats, all dressed in black, and made a beeline for harbourside where the party started early and for some is still going. An estimated crowd of 50,000 painted the Viaduct and the assorted Fan Zones black except for the odd flash of colour from French fans or others who had chosen to stay and enjoy the tournament long after their sides had returned home.

The superb Fan Trail to Eden Park soon sparked into life with upwards of 20,000 fans opting to walk to the stadium and feed off each other's energy along the way. Seated well before kick off the tension was palpable but we had seen nothing yet as France had a little something up their sleeve. We were all transfixed as they moved into an arrow-like formation ahead of New Zealand's haka - what was going on here? Holding hands as if to reassure each other that what they were doing was not going akin to poking a bear with a stick, boos rang around the stadium as they advanced on the All Blacks but they were not perturbed. They were here to play and unsettle their rivals, and their supporters, anyway they could.

And they did not stop at theatrics. A committed display from the underdogs ensured for 80 minutes of nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat rugby. At no stage was it comfortable viewing. France's resistance and their failure to read the supposed script ensured a nervous night for the vast majority of the capacity Eden Park crowd. It was a painful experience at times with the agony suffered by fly-half Aaron Cruden, the third All Blacks playmaker to be struck down by injury during the tournament, felt by the entire 'stadium of four million'. But the crowd rose as one as his replacement Stephen Donald entered the fray, determined to encourage and infuse him with belief. At times it was a horrow show that some fans could not bear to watch and the longer the game hung in the balance the more they feared a big dramatic pay-off, a gory end to their World Cup hopes. A try for France's inspirational skipper Thierry Dusautoir triggered a moment of stunned silence from New Zealand fans but adamant that another one would not slip away, they soon found their voices again.

The All Blacks endeavoured to release the tension but it was not until the dying moments of a real arm-wrestle of a clash that tension finally gave way to delirium. The All Blacks had done it - at last. The fans didn't care that their heroes had failed to find their best form, the result was all that mattered, and anyway, they were too busy hugging their friends and total strangers.

The significance of the occasion was also not lost on the players who leapt into each other's arms - job done. A dejected France were left to wonder how they let this one get away when they could have so easily claimed the biggest upset in the history of the tournament. Instead they had to look on as fireworks lit the sky and a strangely hesitant Richie McCaw, reluctant to touch the trophy up until now because 'he didn't deserve it', stepped forward to finally get his hands on Bill. The place erupted once more as reality set in and their knotted stomachs eased - they really were World Cup winners. The fans' faith, that has been sorely tested over 24 painful years since their 1987 triumph, had been rewarded at last and it was time to celebrate - and they did, and then some.

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October 23, 2011

Another day, another launch

Posted on 10/23/2011

A cask containing sake was broken in a traditional ceremony designed to bring good fortune to Japan's staging of the 2019 Rugby World Cup © Getty Images

Not to be out done by the organisers of the 2015 Rugby World Cup who 'launched' their tournament with a drinks reception in Auckland earlier this week, Japan also chose to get the ball rolling for the 2019 event with a presentation to the international media and invited guests on Saturday.

Rugby World Cup boss and International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset was on hand for the ceremony that left him wiping sake off his tailored suit - more of that later. Lapasset reaffirmed the IRB's commitment to developing the game in the region ("The International Rugby Board enthusiastically supports the Asian region and is supportive with its development of programmes") and made special mention of the fact that approximately 60% of the world's youth (those aged 15-24, according to the UN) live in Asia underlining its value as they look to grow the game.

Yoshiro Mori, vice president of the Japan Rugby Football Union and former Prime Minister, then offered an insight, via a translator, into Japanese rugby ("We have over 5,000 primary school children playing Rugby and this will continue to grow with the support of the Japanese government and in hosting events such as a stage of the IRB Sevens World Series next season.") and his hopes for the tournament including plans to re-vamp Tokyo's 80,000 seater National Stadium.

With the formalities out of the way, the distinguished guests gathered on stage for Kagami-biraki - a traditional sake barrel-breaking ceremony. One strike from their wooden mallets was enough to smash the lid and 'release the good fortune' - all over Lapasset's suit - and into wooden cups for everyone to enjoy. Media guests barely had time to digest the sushi and noodles on offer before having to make their way to yet another function.

This time it was Visit Britain rolling out the welcome mat in a bid to lure record numbers to the England for the next World Cup. The venue for this particular function was inside the giant rugby ball that was commissioned by Tourism New Zealand several years ago and has served as a superb marketing tool ever since. You may well have seen it yourself in Paris, London, Tokyo or Sydney. The design and functionality of the ball, that houses an "eye-catching and innovative sound and light show" has worked so well and is so recognisable that you wonder how UK tourism chiefs can possibly match it in terms of aesthetic and marketing impact?

Instead of spending a fortune on devising an idea that is not likely to result in anything better, maybe they should consider just re-branding it? It's not cheap with its designer revealing it costs NZ$500,000 every time it is deployed but the fans can't get enough of it with tens of thousands of people having visited the ball over the last few weeks - an impressive stat considering it has a capacity of 160 people per show!

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October 21, 2011

Changing times

Posted on 10/21/2011

Rugby fans have been enjoying the World Cup via their mobile phones © Getty Images

Much of this excellent tournament has had a retro feel to it - the return to a country that co-hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1987, the same semi-finalists as 24 years ago and the price of beer (yeah right), but in one rather significant way the latest global gathering has a distinctly modern flavour.

Fans of digital media (and I'll take it you are one of these people as you happen to be reading this) have generated some thought-provoking stats for people like me who are intent on delivering you the ultimate rugby fix. 'Rugby World Cup 2011 a Mobile Digital Hit' proclaimed an official press release this week - not the most alluring of headlines I admit but stay with me.

What follows are some 'big' numbers which I assume are supposed to make an impact (Official RWC app downloaded 3m times, 17m video clips viewed on app) but I would argue that the most striking thing about the release follows later - 'usage on mobile devices outstrips usage of through a ‘traditional’ computer by a factor of three to one'.

That is pretty staggering to those working to provide the best online experience and underlines a growing inclination among fans to immerse themselves across multiple platforms and perhaps more interestingly, on the move.

The release continues, "The RWC 2011 official mobile application, available on BlackBerry, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 devices, has been downloaded more than three million times and garnered more than 350 million page views, while videos, including match highlights, daily news and best moments from the previous week, have been viewed more than 17 million times through the official mobile app. More than five million video clips have been viewed on the official tournament website at with 120 million page impressions generated."

And if you need reminding of the power of social media there are some more stats to make you sit up and take notice but there is clearly room for growth in that area. The Rugby World Cup Facebook page ( now has more than 1.4 million fans, whilst more than 100,000 people are following the RWC Twitter feed. In addition, videos on RWC’s YouTube channel, at have been viewed more than 4 million times. Expect these numbers to be almost laughable come the next World Cup in England in 2015.

RWC officials are quite rightly proud of these figures and they deserve a fair amount of praise for serving fans so well on this front.

In other news, the Bronze Medal Final (what is that title all about?) will be played in Auckland on Friday night. Getting up for this game must be a tough task with your body and mind still aching from your World Cup exit the week before. But 54,000 tickets sold suggest the fans expect them to do so. Let's hope they are repaid for their faith.

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October 19, 2011

"Will there be looting?"

Posted on 10/19/2011

Paul Vaughan, the chief executive of England RWC 2015 poses during the launch in Auckland - or is it Alan Partridge? © Getty Images

Pop quiz. What have the following things got in common - a dalek, a helter skelter and a wind turbine?

Answer: Rugby World Cup 2015

Let me explain. Images of these seemingly random items were used along with a host of others (including shots of the Gherkin tower, a Mini, Nelson's Column, the Houses of Parliament and the Angel of the North) to help launch the build-up to the next global gathering that will take place in England (and Wales) in four years time.

The venue for drinks reception was The Cloud, the multi-purpose venue on Auckland's Queens Wharf that is also a second home for the international media. Unsurprisingly there was a large contingent of the UK media in attendance, keen for an insight into RWC'15 and if that came with a free feed and the odd drink then so be it.

Paul Vaughan, the chief executive of organisers England RWC 2015, was our host for the evening and he kicked things off ("Tonight is the first step in a four-year journey to deliver what we believe will be the biggest-ever Rugby World Cup") before introducing IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset who set the ball rolling towards the tournament with a few words of encouragement. That was about as official this low-key presentation got with the stage then given over to Kiwi TV reporter James McConie (a regular on Sky Sport's highly-entertaining Crowd Goes Wild) and a trio of former internationals - John Kirwan, Lawrence Dallaglio and Will Greenwood (the latter two having already been signed up as ambassadors for RWC'15) who shared a few World Cup memories.

The comic talents of McConie helped lift proceedings with highlights including his labeling of Vaughan as Alan Partridge and one particular straight-faced inquiry to the English members of the panel: "Will there be looting?"

We had hoped for a little nugget or two - maybe confirmation of when the tournament will kick off but no. That is one of many details still to be confirmed with tournament organisers, the IRB and SANZAR reportedly at loggerheads over the schedule. The structure of the southern hemisphere season will take on a new look as of next year with Argentina's introduction into what will become the Four Nations. That competition is set to be played out in August and September every year which clashes with the proposed September 4 start date for RWC'15. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, who are already concerned by their financial plight, will no doubt want compensating should they be 'forced' to shorten their competition in four years time.

Uncertainty regarding the schedule could also impact on what stadiums are used for RWC'15. St James' Park, Old Trafford, Anfield, Elland Road, Ricoh Arena, Wembley, Emirates Stadium and St Mary's were all listed in the Rugby Football Union's bid document as potential venues but as football stadiums they may be being used by their primary tenants. There will be no such concern about the other proposed venues - Leicester's Welford Road, Gloucester's Kingsholm, Twickenham and the Millennium Stadium.

English rugby appears to be struggling for clarity on a number of fronts of late and just as we have more than one review into recent events to look forward to, we also have a second RWC'15 launch to take in later this week - this time an official handover from New Zealand tourism chiefs to their counterparts from England.

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October 17, 2011


Posted on 10/17/2011

All Blacks fans played a key role in their side's Rugby World Cup semi-final victory over Australia © Getty Images

Sunday's second semi-final between tournament hosts New Zealand and fierce rivals Australia was always going to be something special and not even the controversy surrounding France's victory over Wales the previous night could over-shadow the biggest game of the tournament.

Fans were out bright and early on the streets of Auckland making most of the glorious sunshine and while the players may have struggled to fill the void until the 9pm kick off, supporters were more than happy have a drink or two ease the nerves and fuel the banter with each other. That revelry carried them all the way to Eden Park either on foot via the 'Fan Trail' or by other means and so keen were some for kick off they were in their seats some two and a half hours before the first whistle.

If I wasn't aware by now that there was an extra edge to this game I need only have waited until I took my seat in the press box. Sat in front of an area reserved for wheelchair bound fans and behind the Wallabies' friends and families, my attention was grabbed by a voice behind me. I turned to see an elderly man who had pulled himself up out of his wheelchair to beckon me and having got my attention he asked several times "Are you with the Wallabies?" whilst jabbing his finger in my direction. I'm not sure he wanted an answer because before I could clarify that I was working he had flicked a 'V' sign in my direction whilst appearing to curse under his breath. Such is the passion for the sport in this country and hatred of their foes from across the ditch.

As kick off neared, the atmosphere was electric and the anthems just ratcheted things up even more. Hardened Kiwi fans had heard nothing like it before and the All Blacks fed off that energy with a startling performance of their Kapo o Panga haka. The crowd played an active role throughout the game, roaring their approval after each linebreak and every big tackle. The Eden Park factor was supposed to be the All Blacks' dominant record at the stadium - where they had not lost since 1994 and not to the Wallabies since 1986 - but clearly it now has a new dimension.

As thrilling as the crowd's input was there was a more unpleasant side to their interaction. Australia fly-half Quade Cooper was subjected to booing and venom throughout the game with fans delighting in the misfortune suffered by the Wallabies' playmaker as he struggled to find any kind of form let alone his best game. He may have invited abuse with his on-going spat with Kiwi fans' favourite Richie McCaw but the treatment of Cooper took the shine off the evening just a little.

With victory in such an important clash within sight, the crowd came into their own once again. Scrum-half Piri Weepu's fourth penalty took the game away from the Wallabies eased the nerves of supporters before a huge scrum from a dominant All Blacks pack offered a more emphatic reassurance. Veteran Brad Thorn then went from grizzled lock to cheerleader with a fist pump to the crowd bringing them to their feet - the deal was done; they were all heading to the World Cup Final.

But the crowd was not done and as the final seconds of the game ebbed away, a cry of 'four more years' echoed around the stadium. Aimed at the Wallabies and based on a famous taunt from former Wallabies captain George Gregan during his side's 2003 World Cup semi-final victory, it set the seal on the win.

At the end of an epic clash it was clear that the All Blacks were not the only ones to have raised the bar.

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October 15, 2011

Time to kill

Posted on 10/15/2011

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams will be one of those trying to stay awake long enough for his side's Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown with Australia © Getty Images

I'm not one to complain, especially about this Rugby World Cup where there has been a treat at every turn, but I can't help but have a little moan about this weekend's ludicrously late kick offs.

Wales' clash against France on Saturday night and New Zealand's showdown with Australia the following day will both kick off at 9pm local time largely due to the scheduling power of big-spending European broadcasters who demand return for their investment in the form of games at a viewer-friendly time. As a result both games will kick off at 9am in the UK and 10am on the continent and fans there will be free to go about their supermarket shop or whatever by mid-morning. Meanwhile the 60,000 fans at Eden Park and thousands more at the Fan Zones around Auckland and the rest of New Zealand will be lucky to get home at around midnight - later if there's extra-time or the public transport system grinds to a halt again!

And what about the next generation of players who will be safely tucked up in bed long before full time and so denied the chance to see their heroes in action. Robbed of those special moments in their rugby education they may well turn to something or someone else for their inspiration.

Surely any real fan of one of the semi-finalists or of the game in general would not mind getting out of bed at 7.30am to watch their side in action on such a special occasion - even on a Saturday? It would be a great way for them to start the day and no more than a minor inconvenience while fans lucky enough to get a little closer to the action could look forward to a more sociable and sensible start to their matchday. In addition, countless local bars and businesses would benefit from fans departing the stadium wanting to celebrate, commiserate and debate the interpretation of the breakdown. Sadly, there is no chance of a change at this late stage or in the long term for tournaments scheduled on this side of the world as long as the money from the northern hemisphere dominates proceedings.

Of course Kiwi and Aussie fans can look forward to enjoying the 2015 World Cup over their Weet-Bix and orange juice as no allowance will be made for them four years from now. But perhaps the players deserve most sympathy? This weekend's games will be the highlight of many careers, although some will have a bigger stage to look forward to next week, and the day-long wait for kick off must be excruciating. With breakfast done and dusted they must have around nine or ten hours to kill before even getting on the coach to the ground.

What can they do? Or is it more of a case of what are they allowed to do that isn't too strenuous on their bodies or minds and doesn't impact on their detailed dietary requirements? Here are five ideas...

+ Prank call the Rugby Football Union to report another mouthguard/branding infringement

+ Hit the casino to try your luck - red or black?

+ Take a swim in the harbour taking care to avoid the ferries

+ Have a competition to see who gets stopped most times for a photo on Queen Street

+ Randomly tweet one of your followers asking for tips on tactics

Got any better ideas?

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October 13, 2011

Stricken tankers and flankers

Posted on 10/13/2011

The Rena tanker stuck on a Bay of Plenty reef and Richie McCaw's troublesome right foot © Getty Images

Two contrasting stories have dominated the New Zealand media for much of this week with both issues granted widespread coverage and in-depth analysis across all platforms.

'Broken and doomed' trumpeted the New Zealand Herald on Thursday morning alongside a picture of the cargo ship MV Rena that ran aground on a reef in the Bay of Plenty last week but it could have easily been talking about New Zealand captain Richie McCaw. The All Blacks' talisman remains under an injury cloud ahead of his side's Rugby World Cup semi-final clash with Australia and his plight claimed a fair share of the broadsheet's front page under the headline - 'Down & Out?'.

The Liberian-flagged container ship was carrying 1700 tonnes of fuel when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef off the country's north east coast and has already leaked a reported 380 tonnes into the ocean with that number growing by the hour as authorities bid to tackle 'New Zealand's worst marine environmental disaster'. Pictures of the stricken vessel, oil-soaked wildlife and the rescue effort are accompanied by diagrams explaining the problems faced by rescue workers. Experts also offer input on how to deal with the spill and the rapidly disintegrating ship while others forecast woe for the wildlife and local tourism industry.

McCaw's plight is attacked with equal vigour and similar themes. Instead of an environmental disaster the All Blacks' World Cup future is what is at threat while in the place of salvage crews and marine conservationists and we have team-mates offering assurances and surgeons advising McCaw to sit out this weekend's semi-finals. And in the place of distressing pictures of birds that never really had a chance there are equally depressing (for New Zealand rugby fans) pictures of those 'already crocked' - Dan Carter, Colin Slade and Mils Muliaina.

McCaw's troublesome right foot is granted the same graphic treatment as the infinitely bigger but obviously less hardy Rena. Diagrams offer clarification as to where the screw inserted during surgery earlier this year can be found in his foot while a life-size offering of the medical aid attempts to hammer home the discomfort being felt by one of the All Blacks' shining lights.

A lot of questions remain unanswered in both cases with the Rena still perilously perched on the reef with its containers and oil slowly but steadily emptying into ocean while McCaw continues to sit out of training ahead of the showdown with the Wallabies on Sunday. But at least the All Blacks and their fans will have their answer in the next couple weeks with their World Cup campaign set to end in one of two ways when a fresh and more-detailed breakdown of every factor will be presented. The fate awaiting the residents, wildlife and businesses of what it is feared may stretch to 100km of coastline is not so clear and closure appears some way off.

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October 11, 2011

Injury-proof and teetotal

Posted on 10/11/2011

Former All Blacks fly-half Andrew Mehrtens squares up to 'Robo Dan' in Auckland © Getty Images

A possible answer to England's recent woes was on show in Auckland yesterday - he is injury-proof, can kick the leather of a ball and perhaps best of all is teetotal. His name is Robo Dan.

Created by Massey University Albany, the pneumatically powered kicking machine went head-to-head with former New Zealand fly-half Andrew Mehrtens as a prelude to the first Schools Robotics World Cup that will be staged later this week. Robo Dan matched the All Blacks' great kick for kick with both landing 11 of 12 attempts on goal. "We didn't swap our balls like the English did and we were quite happy with the way they kicked," co-creator Johan Potgieter told the New Zealand Herald. "We realised very early that it's not about how much power you put behind a rugby ball, it's about timing so we spent a lot of time with slow camera footage, frame by frame analysis of kicking positions and how you strike a ball."

There's a lesson there for all wannabe Dan Carters but unlike the All Blacks playmaker, Robo Dan cannot be struck down by injury. "That's the good thing about a robot - they don't misbehave," added Potgieter, "and when there is an injury you can normally fix it in a couple of minutes!"

Elsewhere, the build-up to this weekend's Rugby World Cup semi-finals continues to intensify with Kiwis desperate to find some emotional and psychological support ahead of their side's showdown with Australia.

The history books appear to offer reason for hope. No side has ever lost a game and gone on to win the sport's biggest prize so as the only undefeated side in the final four (Australia lost to Ireland in the pool stages, Wales went down to South Africa and France were beaten by New Zealand and Tonga) the All Blacks appear to be sitting pretty. In addition, the All Blacks have not been beaten at Eden Park (that will host both semi-finals and the final) since 1994 when France claimed a famous 23-20 victory thanks largely to the Try from the End of the World'. Australia's Eden Park hoodoo extends even further with their last victory at the ground coming 25 years ago.

Need further evidence that this is New Zealand's year? Well, no side has won the Tri-Nations and the World Cup in the same year so the Wallabies are up against although they may well point to the fact that every World Cup winner since the first tournament in 1987 has beaten the title holders on their way to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup - with Australia sending South Africa packing last weekend. Beaten quarter-finalists have also fared well in their next assault on the World Cup crown with England and South Africa both bouncing back to claim the big one. Both Australia and New Zealand came up short in the quarter-finals back in 2007 but only one can progress to this year's final.

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October 10, 2011

The usual suspects

Posted on 10/10/2011

All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina is presented with his 100th Test cap by former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs © Getty Images

Another day and another gaffe from England. If you thought that their World Cup exit would bring an end to the travelling circus that has been the England campaign then think again. Given a day to unwind and forget their World Cup failings before flying home, some of the players ventured to the nearby Waiheke Island for a spot of R&R.

Having come up some way short of France in their quarter-final clash and with the memory of their recent headline-grabbing exploits and a tongue-lashing from boss Martin Johnson still fresh in the mind, you would have thought they would be keeping their heads down - but no. As the ferry bringing them back to an Auckland harbourside brimming with fans flocking to the superb Fan Zone to watch the All Blacks tackle Argentina approached the dock, centre Manu Tuilagi stripped off and threw himself into the water ('Manu overboard') before swimming to shore.

It is unclear what prompted his action although a ferry company representative did confirm that all their vessels have bars on board. Either way, you sense that a little peer pressure may have convinced the 20-year-old Tuilagi to opt for an unconventional disembarking procedure. Humourous as it may have seemed to him and those on the boat that were treated to a front row seat for England's latest faux pas, the truth is that it was highly dangerous. England's already tragic World Cup contribution could have taken a fatal final twist. Thankfully it didn't and Tuilagi was full of remorse - "I'm really sorry" - or at least a statement from the Rugby Football Union said so. So everything is OK then? No. This latest incident is just another example of how this England squad appears out of control. Someone needs to rein them before someone gets hurt.

England's latest shocker helped take some of the latest heat off the International Rugby Board who faced yet more grief this past weekend for robbing the New Zealand public of the chance to see veteran fullback Mils Muliaina presented with his 100th Test cap in the wake of their quarter-final victory over Argentina on Sunday. Coverage of every game is produced by the host broadcaster - in this case Sky Sport - who work with the IRB to package the tournament for New Zealand audience and their other broadcast partners around the world.

The IRB decided for some bizarre reason they did not want the ceremony covered live and so the speech by former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs was not aired - nor Muliaina's emotionally-charged acceptance of the honour. For those lucky enough to be in the stadium like yours truly it was a magical moment revolving around one of the modern game's greats. Why the IRB thought no one would be interested in such an event is baffling especially after similarly moving moments when captain Richie McCaw was bestowed with the same honour a couple of weeks ago.

But we shouldn't be surprised as this is the same kind of faceless IRB directive that demanded 'No more marriage proposals on TV please' after an England fan popped the question to his girlfriend during last weekend's England v Scotland match. Thankfully a flood of complaints and the sterling efforts of other Kiwi broadcasters resulted in the footage finally being relayed to the rugby-mad nation.

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Graham Jenkins joined Scrum in 1999 and took over the reins for a second time in 2006. His journalistic career has also seen him work for BBC Sport and IMG and he currently lives with his family in Farnham. Graham Jenkins

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