Speaker by Various Artists

50

Like something out of Braveheart

by Foreign Field 3

The Herald obviously didn't secure online rights for its excerpt from Tana Umaga's book (which reads more like a very long interview with his co-author Paul Thomas than an actual autobiography) but key sections have been picked up by newspapers around the world. And they reveal quite what a competitive bugger he was on the field.

The Times is still calling what happened to Brian O'Driscoll a "spear tackle" in its headline, providing a cue for whiny comments from readers, while Ireland Online goes with Umaga's description of O'Driscoll as a "sook", and Stuff has big chunks of the text, including his description of the "tackle", which actually wasn't a tackle:

"I went into a ruck and cleaned out Brian O'Driscoll. I was standing over the ball trying to protect it when he bounced back to have another crack at disrupting our possession. We were tussling as he tried to get through and I grabbed his leg to try to unbalance him, a technique I'd used before and still use to this day.

"What I didn't realise was that Keven Mealamu was doing the same thing on the other side of the ruck. As I got one of O'Driscoll's legs up, Keven hoisted his other leg and drove him back. He ended up with both feet off the ground, not in control of himself or the situation, a position rugby players often find themselves in. When we let him go he came down and what happened, happened. I didn't think anything of it, I just took off."

But I liked the description of the game that followed, the justifiably legendary second test against the Lions in Wellington:

"As a ruck broke up, Paul O'Connell loomed over me ranting and raving. As I got up, their props Julian White and Gethin Jenkins started pushing and shoving. I knew it was going to happen at some stage so I just said, 'Come on, any time, just bring it.' I backed away slowly looking at them and saying, 'Are you going to start playing soon or what?'

"Later, when O'Connell went down, I went over to him as he was rolling around the ground and said, 'Mate, don't give up now, we're just getting started.' He jumped straight up.

"When Stephen Jones came on for Jonny Wilkinson he took the ball up yelling, 'For our captain!' like something out of Braveheart. I said, 'Are you serious?' You could see how they were trying to motivate themselves but it became quite laughable.

"I got into some of their forwards about being a bit chubby and after the game Jenkins said to Steve Hansen, who'd coached him when he'd been with Wales, 'Can you tell Tana it's nothing personal, it's just the game.' That was a bit rich coming from them. I told Steve I didn't see any of it in personal terms."

Apart from the princely performance of Dan Carter that evening, the thing I recall most clearly from the All Blacks' play that evening is the ceaseless low-to-the-ground industry of Umaga and Mealamu -- they were everywhere.

Meanwhile, in Europe the Allez Les Noirs crew's newsgathering technique -- hanging out in bars -- pays off again:

Jonesy again found a celeb: this time he cornered pig hunter and part-time All Black Keith Robinson in a pub (he and Mils had pass-outs for a night). I think the big guy was there with friends or family for a quiet catch up, but he was kind enough to accept a five minute inquisition from us ... though the strange swing of topics that we were unleashing, from hunting, to training, to injuries, to where he and the boys can find the best pizza in Aix-en-Provence must have been daunting. I think we were pretty boozed by then. Robinson said he was itching for a run at Romania and things were looking good for that. Can’t wait to see him unleashed again and back in the sort of form that used to see him torment the English at HQ.

Tracey Nelson reports from Murrayfield, where she had just as much trouble telling the Scots and All Black jerseys apart as we did on the telly. And so, she says, did the All Blacks themselves:

The most notable thing about this game, in contrast to the two previous pool games, was the apparent failure of the All Blacks to be able to put the man into the gap and let the passes go. Initially there was a degree of frustration about this, but as the game wore on it became apparent that like the spectators the players were having problems sighting their team mates when the two backlines met. While this could be taken as a negative, there were some positive outcomes too - the All Blacks have conceded quite a few intercept passes in the last two games, one of which led to a try, but in this game they did not offer up the same chances to Scotland and overall against a fast defensive line, there were very few 50/50 passes thrown.

Meanwhile, The Dropkicks are running a poll on the likely outcome of Ireland vs Argentina, the game that will be of more interest to New Zealand supporters than the ABs' run against Romania, given that it will determine who we'll be facing in the quarter-final at Cardiff. (England-Tonga should be fun too.) They also have a completely bogus news story about Carl Hayman. Silly boys.

And … I need some ad copy and I'm offering free whisky again. Go and scrutinise the Whisky Galore ads on all Public Address (not System) pages and offer me up no more than a dozen words to run across two slides. Post them in the discussion and you're a winner. Possibly.

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