Relieved Kiwi fans celebrate the All Black victory over France in Auckland last night. Video: Telegraph
Commentary – By Edwin Puni of Event Polynesia
And now time to reflect what the triumph means for New Zealand and the Pacific.
Willie Jackson’s column in the Manukau Courier a few days ago sums up the RWC experience in New Zealand for me.
“This world cup has been more than just about the big (Tier 1) nations or whether the All Blacks can break the 24-year drought of not winning the world cup. It’s been about showcasing New Zealand, enjoying other nations and cultures.
“And showing the world that although we love our team (the All Blacks) first and foremost, we can be gracious hosts who have the ability to embrace, enjoy and respect other countries no matter how well they play rugby.”
It has been a time of national pride – being Samoan, being Tongan, being Fijian, being Kiwi, being Māori and being Pacific.
The excitement generated in our communities is a memory that will stay with us forever.
Even the muscular perpetrator of movie mayhem, The Rock, or Seiuli Dwayne Johnson, who has a Samoan mother and attended primary school in Auckland has been outwardly proud of his Pacific heritage; adorning an All Blacks jersey and message via Twitter:
ALL BLACKS & MANU SAMOA. Ia manuia ma fa’amalo atu. Alofa fa’a Samoa!
The message translates as congratulations to both teams and a good luck message for the tournament. “Samoan love” is his sign-off.
There’s more. The nomination of three All Blacks in the IRB Player of the Year awards who are “brown and proud”.
All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino, centre Ma’a Nonu and scrumhalf Piri Weepu account for half of the six nominations for the prestigious individual award.
Can I point out that Kaino is from my village of Matatufu in Samoa and I’m told that Weepu is dating a girl from my other village in Samoa, and that makes me a prospective distant in-law.
Hall of Fame
Then there’s Brian Lima being inducted to the IRB’s Hall of Fame, joining Tuifa’asisina Bryan Williams and La’auli Michael Jones.
Lima is the only player in the world to have featured at five Rugby World Cups, becomes the first Manu Samoa player to be accorded the honour.
Known around the rugby world as the “Chiropractor”, Lima is best remembered for the bone-shuddering impact of his tackles.
As the curtains of the 2011 RWC come down, we also farewell the sons of the Pacific, Mils Muliaina (100 caps for the All Blacks) and Nicky Little (71 games for the Flying Fijians) having played their last Rugby World Cup.
“They graced the rugby fields of the world for years with power, pace and panache,” according to IRB news.
Same time as the RWC, 12 Defence and Police Force teams from nine nations were battling it out for the International Defence Rugby Championship with pool and quarter final games being played in Australia before moving to New Zealand.
Last week, the British Army took on a spirited Tonga Defence Services team winning 15–10 to book their place in the IDRC final. The second semifinal brought together the Australian Services Rugby Union against the Samoan Police with ADF eventual winners 23–10.
In the final, the British Army came top against the Australian Services Rugby Union winning by a convincing margin 62-17.
Samoa Police beat Tonga Defence Services team in a closely contested game with final score 22-17 to Samoa Police to secure a third placing in the IDRC 2011 ranking.
There we have it, two Pacific teams Tonga and Samoa are not “minnows” in the IDRC.
In rugby league news, the 2011 Gillette Four Nations kicks off on Friday at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington which hosts Australia v New Zealand before moving on to Leigh Sports Village the following day, Saturday October 29, for England v Wales.
Apart from cheering for the Kiwis with its Māori and Pacific flair, also look out for England stand-off Rangi Chase, a former New Zealand Māori representative who started in Taranaki as a junior.
In rugby sevens news, the Vailima Marist Samoa Sevens’ 24th tournament currently held in Apia, has seen the change of tournament date from February to October ahead of the proposed dateline change in Samoa on December 29.
The new tournament date means the Samoa tournament which boasts as the origin of world international rugby sevens, will now mark the start of the international rugby sevens calendar each year.
It brings me to the end of my special coverage of the RWC and everything rugby.
It’s four more years to the next RWC, and I intend to be in England to continue this coverage. Can I also entertain the idea for the Ikale Tahi, Manu Samoa and the Flying Fijian supporters to join forces when we invade UK in 2015 with our Pacific flags, colours and spirited support?
Meanwhile, it’s back to championing the development of professional boxing in the Pacific. The good thing with boxing is that we do not have to wait for four more years to get a world title shot.
Taking a leaf out of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, next year will see the establishment of a Pacific International Boxing Championship circuit. So stay tuned ….