Here’s Richie Vernon’s 2nd installment of his RWC Diary
The final week of our build up to the World Cup 2011 has been another good one.
Training has, as expected, stepped up a gear in intensity and has even featured a few tastes of the famous Aussie wildlife. Last Friday we had a run-out against Canada before they flew off to NZ the next day. Scrums and lineout movements were polished up and a bit of 15 on 15 was played out, providing a valuable chance to practice plays against a rival defence and to sharpen up on our own defensive systems.
It was also a good chance to see DTH Van der Merwe and Chauncey O’Toole, my old team-mates from Glasgow, and wish them luck before their campaign. DTH’s haircut at the moment is a shocker, so there’s no chance you’ll miss him if you do manage to catch a Canada game.
One unexpected visitor was a 6 foot snake in the dead ball area. Our own resident Steve Irwin, Nick De Luca, had no idea of whether the snake was deadly or not but decided to grab it by the tail to get a closer look. Luckily, it was a harmless Grass Snake and Nick escaped undamaged.
We got our first day off of the trip on Sunday and I was one of the lucky few to get a chance to go to see the Broncos take on Manly in the NRL. The game was a 50,000 sell out for league legend Darren Lockyear’s last home regular season game. The Broncos survived a second half comeback to get the win in what was a wonderful atmosphere.
With a planned fishing trip cancelled some boys went to Seaworld but most decided to stay in and recharge the batteries for what was going to be a big week ahead. Training the next few days went well, even with the distraction of a few kangaroos pitchside most days. It was great to see, however, they did seem to dislike our presence there as they would leave little brown ‘presents’ for us each morning on our training pitch.
Wednesday we got up around 5 to leave for our first WC venue in Invercargill.
Three flights and most of the day later we arrived at around 7.30pm to a wonderful reception. Scottish fans lined the arrival lounge and we were greeted in traditional Maori style with a warriors ‘haka’ and singing.
It was great to see so many Scots already here and it reminded us that we had finally made it to what we’ve been training so hard for. Invercargill is a small place but the buzz of the World Cup is everywhere here. All the shops have Scotland, and unfortunately Romania and Georgia, flags hanging from the windows and the people here have been enthusiastically telling us of the town’s Scottish links, as it seems everyone here has a Scottish Gran or Grandad. I have no doubt there will be some honorary Scottish fans for our game tomorrow.
Yesterday we had our official welcome and World Cup cap presentation at Bluff, near Invercargill. We were greeted with more Maori war dances and singing and this time replied with a Kelly Brown and Euan Murray led Caledonia which seemed to go down very well.
The biggest cheer of the day came when Moray Low, much to the surprise of the boys, managed to fit his newly presented cap on his oversized head, for his official photo!
With the greetings here done, all that is left is the rugby and the players are chomping at the bit to get started. The team has been announced and it is a great honour for me to be starting our first game here. The team run passed smoothly this morning and we’re all focussed on what we’ve come out here for and the huge physical challenge the Romanians will pose. On the eve of our first game it’s great to say the long wait is over for fans, players and management alike and I for one can’t wait for the challenge!