Up in Canada, a few of you may be aware of a sporting event going on down here in New Zealand. A little one called the Rugby World Cup (RWC). The opening ceremonies on Friday even made the front page of TSN (for a few minutes).
It certainly isn’t a big deal for Canadians (I am rather impressed that TSN2 is showing the games at all), but for Kiwis, this is THE biggest sporting event they have ever hosted. Similar to the FIFA World Cup, the RWC is held every 4 years, with one nation playing host to the games. The games are played all over the country at various times of the day for the round robin play, then focuses on the main stadiums for the playoffs. So pretty much wherever you are in New Zealand, you aren’t too far away from a major international Rugby game.
The opening ceremony, fireworks and spectacle were really quite spectacular. For a country of 4 Million people, an estimated 200,000 crowded the downtown area of Auckland to take in the festivities, and a further 60,000 were are Eden Park Stadium to watch the first game. Over 6% of the population came out and celebrated, and 1.6Million+ watched from home. So nearly 50% of New Zealand was watching the ceremony and opening kickoff. They do love their rugby here – those numbers (percent wise) are pretty comparable to the TV viewer numbers of the 2010 Gold Medal game in Vancouver. I can only imagine that something like 60-70% of Kiwis will be glued to their TV if New Zealand is in the finals.
The opening game was New Zealand (their team is called the All Blacks), versus Tonga. It was an easy victory for NZ, and the first Rugby game I’ve watched (on TV) in it’s entirety. Pretty enjoyable game I thought. Quick moving and lots happening. It should be a fun game to see in person I think – and I hope to do just that! I’m currently in Opotiki, but am moving off to the far east coast of New Zealand to a place called Gisborne in a couple days. While my stay with my host there will be shorter (4-5 days probably), that does give me some options in regards to where to go next, most likely Napier.
Napier is hosting only 2 RWC games, both of which just happen to feature a certain team:
Surprised that Canada even HAS a rugby team, let alone one good enough to qualify? Ya, me too. But hey, I’ll hopefully get to one of their games and support them! They don’t play in Napier until later in the month, so I’ve got a shot.
Canada doesn’t have a hope in the world to win, or even make it to the finals – their goal is to finish 3rd in their pool, out of 5 teams. Very lofty indeed. In their pool are the All Blacks (ranked #1 in the world), France (#4), Tonga (#12) and Japan (#13). Canada is ranked #14, so they have a shot at achieving their goal, and I’ll happily go and cheer them on! Of the two games played in Napier, Canada goes against France and Japan…I’ll probably try to see the Japan game.
The tournament has 20 teams total, though you can tell just how regional the game is by looking at where the teams are from – 4 are from the UK/Ireland and 5 are from Oceania. Teams like Canada, USA and Argentina seem to be odd ones out at times. But either way, GO CANADA!