Published: September 29th 2011September 29th 2011
Meeting the Australian team outside their hotel
Myself and Aussie fly-half Quade Cooper, who became public enemy number one due to his skirmishes with All Black captain Richie McCaw during the Tri-Nations competition
I was told that Wellington was a notoriously windy city, and it was...because I had had a curry...and it was a bad one!
But anyway enough about my out of control colon. It was blue skies galore as we drove into the centre of town alongside the sea and past the Westpac Stadium, where I would be heading for the game the following day.
I met up with Daryl whom I had met at Heathrow all those weeks ago now, and we headed to my hostel to check-in, drop off my bag and go for some lunch and a few beers.
After several hours of ploughing money into the pub trade, we decided to go and explore the sights and sounds of Wellington. We stumbled upon a small rugby pitch situated in a cosy precinct near to the fan-zone, and as a retired forward thought it would be good to get involved and see if I still had the skills. So I went to buy a ball, and proceeded to demonstrate why I should have been a member of Martin Johnson's World Cup squad...as an example of how it shouldn't be done!
Having seen my rugby credentials head down the toilet,
The most support the American team have probably ever had
USA take their positions to receive the kick off from Australia
we headed to the fan-zone in search of a beer and to reflect on my pathetic Jonny Wilkinson against Argentina esq goal kicking. ANZ, a sponsor of the Rugby World Cup had a stand set-up whereby you had to pass a rugby ball through a hole, and if you succeeded 3 times, you won a prize. Naturally I redeemed myself and was rewarded with the Webb Ellis Trophy...a moneybox not the actual thing unfortunately.
Matchday seemed to come around rather quickly and predictably I slept in quite late. However after some poached eggs at an all day breakfast bar, I went to the Te Papa museum, one of the things you have to do in Wellington. It was definitely one of the best museums ive ever been to and a real highlight of my time in New Zealand so far. Over four levels, it charts the history and formation of the country, celebrating Maori culture and industrial triumphs. It's a must see!
The game kicked off at 20.30, so there was plenty of time post museum trip to warm-up with a few beers. On my way to meeting Daryl and his mate Byron at the pub, I saw that there was a lot of activity surrounding the Australian team hotel and so got my camera ready in anticipaton of them walking to the bus. I was wearing my England shirt, which to be fair didn't go down well with a few Aussie fans, but stuff them! One by one they appeared and I was lucky enough to get a quick photo with James O'Connor, the Australian winger who amazingly looked younger than me. After yet more beers with Daryl and Byron, who was dressed as a Mexican, we headed into the Westpac stadium which was mightily impressive. It is nicknamed the cake tin, because it is quite literally shaped like a cake tin. It is single tiered but it still has a capacity of around 50,000. The atmosphere in the stadium was buzzing, I don't think the Americans have ever had so much support! Similar to the Ireland game a couple of weeks prior, it was mainly Kiwis who had come to how their displeasure at the Aussie team. The game itself was a bit of a walkover, the Aussies thrashing the Americans by 67-5, but it still didn't dampen our spirits as we headed back to the pub for a few more drinks.
Like most hostels, check-out time was 10am and as my bus was at 2pm i had ages to hang around. However this was no ordinary wait. On my way to the bus station, I took a detour past the Australian team hotel, where in the lobby were the team preparing to leave for their next match. A few people had gathered outside for a few photo and autograph opportunities, and we weren't to be disappointed! Over the course of an hour, I had photos with Quade Cooper (fly-half), Will Genia (scrum-half), Rocky Elsom (flanker) and Kurtley Beale (full-back), as well as a chat about the game with a few others. They were really nice guys and were happy to give up their time for a few moments.
I couldn't stop smiling as I got on the bus. Many of my mates who I have met whilst being here have bumped into many of the teams and now I was able to join the party.
It was a fantastic whistle stop tour of Wellington, a brilliant city and one to which I shall aim to return. Roll on a weekend of beer in Auckland, not forgetting the massive England vs Scotland game!