Field Theory by Hadyn Green


Our greatest fear

Everytime we play France, everytime the referee is Wayne Barnes, everytime we play in Cardiff, someone will mention 2007. It was our nadir in terms of rugby, in some ways it was local minimum in terms of rugby support (the Springbok Tour being our rock bottom for that).

Since then we have won games under Barnes's control and won plenty of matches against France. In fact since that game we've only lost to France once, oddly it was in the very next game we played against them (Dunedin 2009). And we haven't lost at Millienium Stadium since.

The fact is, we worry. We're sports fans and we see narratives where there are none. We weave stories based on the small amount of facts that we have and we go with it.

I recently found, via the Wayback Machine, what I wrote in 2007 before and after the infamous loss.


Now, if you ignore the “points for” (and the implied try-stats), not a lot separates us from the French. And lets be honest, we played some terrible teams while France had to face the best defence in Argentina.

… both teams had roughly the same amount of points against. This is perhaps more telling…

…We also gave up less penalties than the French, which means cool heads under pressure, which is what you need when it comes to the final…

Let’s just hope (or pray) that we are not the Fish n Chip-Eating Surrender Kiwis.


It is quite obvious from these stats that New Zealand actually won this game and that some sort of error has occurred....

This is because stats in rugby are almost meaningless. You can win games with less than 40% possesion and/or territory. You can wins games with fewer tries or fewer penalties or fewer tackles made. The breakaway nature of the game makes determining a winner from anything other than "points scored" incredibly difficult.

In fact the only stat that seems to have a correlation with the final result is the turnover ratio. Even then it's a weak one. New Zealand beat Georgia 43-10 with a turnover ratio of -14 and Australia beat South Africa this year 24-20 despite being -7 in turnovers.

These aren't easy stats to get at, so if anyone wants to actually do a few days of data entry and then analysis, please do!


It's about time


I feel I need to start with this: I don’t like Richie McCaw any more.

Four years ago I was firmly on the Captain Tackles fan train. McCaw was everything we liked in player. Smart, fast, big, at the edge of the rules and a work horse. He shone in the statistics that we like: first to the breakdown, tackles, test caps. He is the stereotypical All Black, all stoic and shit.

It feels like so long since that World Cup and now I’ve got a problem and I can’t shake it. Sports and politics, man. Yeah yeah yeah I know. It’s my problem to deal with.

The more the All Blacks align themselves with John Key the more I hate them. Remember this:

I liked Dan Carter when he was an underwear model who helped us score more points than Australia. As soon as he has an ideology then he’s got something I can disagree with.

So a litany of “Hey John Key just showed up in our locker room for a post-game beer” photos, with Richie always in the middle, began to slowly wear me down. Then the politician I strongly disagree with is on the cover of Rugby News as the All Blacks number one fan.

In my head the idea of the All Blacks as a national team is slowly pushed out and now they are a National team.

I figured this would all slide away when the team finally took the field against Argentina. Then Richie, always playing to the edge of the rules, and often over them, reaches out with his foot and trips a player. I was watching ITV so there was no New Zealand commentary to soften the blow, he just played dirty.

Past Hadyn may have shaken his head but let it go by; present Hadyn couldn’t. My mind was filled with swearing and anger at a player I used to admire.

The All Blacks win over Argentina and I feel a little better, but I think I’ve realised that I’m comfortable with this team losing the cup.


You may have done this and not even noticed. I know I did, but I wasn’t the only one

So the question had to be asked:

Twitter automatically suggests hashtags when you start typing, so how did a clear typo become a highly suggested tag for such a big event? Well if the organisers want to blame anyone, it should probably be themselves.

Early on there were a couple of typos by official Welsh rugby publications and the French rugby team.

But you have to go all the way back to 2013, when the tickets for this World Cup were announced and the official RWC twitter account sent this out:

Then in May of 2014 this:

And that was the beginning of the end.

If you’re wondering why so many people haven’t noticed what they are tweeting, it’s because humans have learned to read fast and you can still raed wodrs qiuckly even if there are small typos.


Upsets at the Rugby World Cup are rare. Japan’s game plan against South Africa was perfect: attacking the old players at a pace and saying “keep up”. Looking at that on the surface it seemed like they could beat anyone. But Scotland aren’t the same as South Africa, Japan had a short turnaround to the next game and Scotland had the advantage of seeing Japan play. I’m sure Japan will be back up for their next game though.

Seeing the celebrations after the game brought back strong memories of the final game Japan played at the last World Cup. JK’s team came away winless and after drawing with Canada. Fans in the crowd were crying, the Japanese media wanted Kirwan’s head and his soft spoken captain had to come to his defence.

The emotions after the South Africa game were raw and pure and the result of so many rabid fans with nothing to celebrate for so many years.


I’m doing a project with my friend Tim, called Retro RWC. We’re collecting your stories from previous World Cups. Not just the games but all the things around the games and the events.

As Tim, a teacher, points out, there’s a generation of rugby fans coming through who have never known a losing All Black squad.

Tim realised in 2013, that the students he was teaching (10 year olds) had no living memory of a losing All Black team – this project is a way of reminding/refreshing ourselves of those memories – not just of the ABs, but of all the many teams and players that have been part of the rugby world cup since 1987.

We’d love to hear any of your stories too.


Real Fans

Wellington is currently consumed with the toughest philosophical question ever: who is a real fan of the Hurricanes?

It’s a pretty fucking deep question. As tickets to the final sell out in unbelievable time are the real fans the ones who a) slept in the queue for tickets, b) got priority as season ticket holders, c) paid inflated prices for them on TradeMe, or d) complained online about who weren’t real fans.

That face you make when they swear they were there all year but all you saw were yellow seats.

— Whā Kapow (@Rarerecordings_) June 30, 2015

'Real fans are only the ones who refuse to pay any more than face-value for tickets' - seems kinda stupid, really. #rpt

— Jamie Wall (@JamieWall2) June 30, 2015

Wellington the city of glory supporters. We were using people's spare tickets as beer mats last season.

— Dan Hargreaves (@Raise1glass) June 30, 2015

"I queued for 13 hours to get Hurricanes tickets, and all I got was this shitty bottle of chocolate milk?"

— Ferdy + Slugso (@ruggerblogger) June 30, 2015

Most people I know see the humorous side of the situation but some people are grumpy as fuck about it. WHY WON’T THE GUBBNAMENT STEP IN TO HELP?!

Which is kind of funny in itself. This Government has painted itself into a corner as the “Rugby Government”, everything must be done to make rugby great! After all our PM is the captain of the All Blacks. He’s a real fan™!

I was on a bus after the election and overheard a young man recounting why he voted for “good cunt” John Key: “He went to heaps of [Rugby] World Cup games!” Motherfucker, I went to more games than he did and I paid the same amount of money for my tickets that he did, $0. But at least I was working when I was there.

Where was I going with this? Oh right, there’s no such thing as a real fan, a #1 fan or any other fake metric for determining who likes something more than someone else. Wellington does have a lot of fair weather fans though. Literally.

Watching the Hurricanes play in the summer is much nicer than watching them play in autumn or winter. The Caketin is a freezing cauldron of icy wind and very little rain shelter. Empty yellow seats everywhere. So I can totally understand why the numbers of people wanting to attend games would increase the closer you get to the final. And when have the Hurricanes ever been the in-form team?

The only other time they reached the final, no one saw them lose.

The tickets are so in demand because fans are hoping to see the Hurricanes in the final for the first time ever.

— post-scott (@buzzandhum) June 30, 2015

The World Cup is over

“The Cricket World Cup is officially over.” That’s me quoting myself before New Zealand smashed England in a surprisingly short game in Wellington.

I don’t follow cricket, as many of you know, but it’s bit of fun to watch when we’re doing well and the games are short. So my reasoning for that premature statement on the Cup was based on the what the goal of any World Cup actually is.

World Cups are not about finding out which team is the "Best in the World", and they aren’t even about the more cynical goal of discovering which team is best at making it through a knockout tournament once every four years. World Cups exist solely to further the sport and rake in those television eyeballs.

Well the India versus Pakistan match in Adelaide brought in 1.5 billion viewers (estimated). That’s 21% of the world’s population watching a single sports event. Looking at the world population table, you aren’t going to get a significantly bigger audience for any other event ever (unless China gets really into football and then plays Brazil at the World Cup).

As for furthering the game, Ireland and Bangladesh have already had their boil overs against much higher rated teams. Of course at the Irish match a man was caught relaying info to a betting syndicate. Cricket is gonna cricket I suppose.

Back before the cup actually started I wondered aloud to a friend if the country wouldn’t respond well to a World Cup that we, most likely, won’t win. His response was that we actually were one of the favourites. I raised my eyebrow in reply. Had the “Black Caps aren’t very good” meme disappeared, literally that’s all I really knew about cricket. When NZ won a match it was a big deal because it was never a guarantee.

Now I have a new concern: What do we do if we lose?


World Cup of Evil

I'm not sure what theme FIFA was hoping to emphasise at the is world cup, I'll bet good money that it wasn't "villainy". 

Almost as soon as the knock-out stages started the bad guys started their evil works. Perhaps even before then.

Obviously FIFA itself is evil, like the worldwide sporting branch of SMERSH, but that usually doesn't translate directly onto the field. With this in mind, I offer you: The World Cup of Evil!

Making my life easier, I'm going to start with the round of 16. This means I don't get to include Cristiano Ronaldo. So before I kick off (see what I did there?) I'd like to make a quick mention of the Portuguese striker.

From what I understand, the English really don't like Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA's player of the year. But they seem to not like him in the same way they don't like huge binging nights out drinking. They publically scorn him, then chuckle quietly remembering all the cool things he does.

His main issue seems to be diving, which he does at a rate that looks similar to other players. (Portugal in general has a similar time taken per "fake injury" as England in the graph below that I made from WSJ data). 

Let's be honest, it's probably this though.

Round of 16

Chile v Brazil - Winner: BRAZIL

While I don't particularly think the Brazilians are evil, the Chileans are just so damn nice!

Colombia v Uruguay - Winner: URUGUAY

Yeah he wasn't playing, but Uruguay has a guy who bit another guy! Then they complained that FIFA didn't let him play any more, suggesting instead to just wheel him on the field like this.

France v Nigeria - Winner: DRAW (France on penalities)

No ones really complaining much about these teams so France wins a scoreless draw because they take so much time when they draw penalties.

Germany v Algeria - Winner: GERMANY

It was once said "Nobody who speaks German could be evil" and I'd like to believe that. But the Algerian goalkeeper was just so damn cool, that I can't let them keep going in the evil tournament.

Netherlands v Mexico - Winner: NETHERLANDS

Robben, admits diving in the game against Mexico, then says: "In recent days there has been a lot of talk about diving and actually I’m tired of this bullshit." I don't think that's how it works after you admit something. "I'm really tired of every talking about me shooting someone after I admitted I shot someone."

Greece v Costa Rica - Winner: GREECE

Austerity measures reach sport as the Greek team constantly plays for 0-0 draws.

Argentina v Switzerland and USA v Belgium - Winner?

(I can't see too much anger aimed at these teams so I'm just going to flat out ignore this whole arm of the bracket and assume the USA makes it to the semifinals simply for teasing a whole lot of fans who otherwise couldn't care less about football.)


Brazil v Uruguay - Winner: URUGUAY

So not only did Suarez bite the Italian guy, he's bitten a bunch of other people and may be racist. No matter how silly Neymar and friends act, they have yet to place part of another person in their mouths with intent to injure. And even after he bites the Italian, Suarez falls to the ground holding his mouth seemingly to claim he had been fouled.


You know what, let's just skip to:

The Final

A packed stadium holds it breath in anticipation for:

Uruguay v Netherlands

The Netherlands play the entire game while lying on the ground should an Uruguayan player near them. While left alone though, the Dutch play with pure skill and excitement, causing fans to truly believe that this is a good team and not, as it turns out, terrible, awful people.

In the meantime Uruguay, continually annoyed at giving away penalties to the Dutch, continue their simple game plan of "get the ball to Suarez" (as this is the evil World Cup, he hasn't been banned, but will instead win the Golden Boot.) Should Suarez be sent off, the Uruguayan team will pack a collective sad, but he won't be today.

Instead he launches face first at Robben during a corner, jaws open wide. Sadly he misses completely, causing Robben to fall and be awarded a free kick.


All fiction aside though, it's quite odd watching these games and watching so many of the players diving. Especially when you see that players, like Neymar, actually getting quite badly injured. I get the fall down if you're tripped thing, because maybe the ref doesn't see it, but to then writhe as though your body is aflame, is so bizarre. 

Full disclosure: I'm doing very poorly in my tipping pool.