The knockout phase of the Rugby World Cup starts tomorrow. As the stakes increase, so does the quasi-religious fervour. I’ve seen a few “One nation under black,” signs around the town. And this is making the rounds as well:
All Black Prayer
Our players who art in black, hallowed be thy game,
When fulltime comes, thy will be done in ’11 as it was in ’87.
Give us this day our daily victory and forgive us our previous shortcomings,
as we forgave those who coached in ’97.
And lead us not to knock-out failure and deliver us from World Cup drought.
In the name of McCaw, a broken down Carter and the Holy Webb-Ellis.
What I like is our sense of proportion about it all!
But I have to confess that I’m feeling my share of the communal excitement, anticipation and anxiety about the All Blacks. They’re consistently the best team in the world but they haven’t won a world cup since 1987 and they played a woeful game against the French last time to get knocked out in the quarter finals. The country hasn’t recovered from the pain of that egregious choke, so the mood is increasingly nervy.