Welcome to our Rugby World Cup 2007 feature, Some Foreign Field, which will run for the duration of the tournament. We'll work alongside Haka and The Dropkicks, and you can expect to see the Dropkicks geezers blog here, if only to mercilessly plug their podcasts. There will also be some surprise contributors as we go along.
I'm pleased to confirm that Some Foreign Field will be sponsored throughout by our friends at Whisky Galore, enabling me to offer a good bottle of whisky each week for the best reader comment. You may feel free to click through and order up your own dram, of course.
We'll keep you up with news and blog comment from elsewhere too. Like, for instance, Justin Marshall's venting in The Times. We just don't appreciate him, apparently:
Today, he wants to exhume his frustrations with the treatment that former All Blacks receive back home. If Henry’s side do win the Webb Ellis Cup they should not, it seems, expect their fans to cherish the achievement for long.
“New Zealand has a problem,” says the 34-year-old, who played with Leeds Tykes for a season before moving to Swansea last summer. “They’re very, very negative towards former All Blacks. I was the second most capped All Black ever and I received a plaque saying ‘thank you very much’ and that’s it. We never recognise the achievements of the great All Blacks.
“I’ve really noticed the difference since being in the UK. They’re very receptive of their players, particularly in Wales. They’re always having functions, they have a Hall of Fame and players are inducted every year. They’re very good with past international stars.
"Yet I know my comments will make their way back to New Zealand and people will be ‘why can’t he just shut up?’ Giving your opinion, you’re deemed out of your depth, which is weird.”
Uh, right. Whatever. Marshall also sounded a doomy note on selection policy:
“I didn’t agree with the rotational policy, neither do a lot of my compatriots and neither do a lot of the players. I know that because I still speak to them,” says the All Blacks' most capped scrum-half, who now plays for Ospreys.
“They don’t know where they stand. One week they could be man of the match, the next they might not be in the squad. That’s the reason that they’re stuttering. Players are getting anxious about whether they’re going to be selected for the World Cup or not.”
Actually, as others have pointed out, in most positions there is little doubt about who the core of the present All Black side is, and that has been the case for the past two years.
Haka, meanwhile, has a crew on the ground in France, led by the highly capable Tracey Nelson, who before she flew out offered some thoughts on what is really our best XV and the likely quality of the refereeing.
I haven't bothered to sign up for any virtual or fantasy rugby comps -- they just seem so trivial at a time like this -- but readers who are in are warmly welcomed to keep the rest of us up to date. Choice excerpts from the shouting matches on Usenet are also welcome.
But, for now, I'm just waiting for 11.45 tomorrow night. Finally, this thing starts. There is nothing to keep in reserve now. I'm not nervous yet, but this is going to be a long six weeks.