By Emma Chesworth of Laureus

On the spot in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup

Laureus Ambassasdor Lawrence Dallaglio (second right) at last night's England 2015 Launch Night

I wonder how many people in New Zealand know there will be a General Election next month? Right now – it is all about the Rugby World Cup. TV news, the papers and radio stations talk about nothing else.

Last Sunday, 97% of all TV sets in New Zealand were tuned in to the All Blacks v Wallabies semi-final. The game was airing on four (yes four!) networks – TVNZ, TV3, Maori and Sky NZ. What were the other 3% watching?

I attended the England 2015 launch last night – as England will be the host nation for the Rugby World Cup in four years time – and the controversy of ‘that Red Card’ from  Saturday still rages on.

Former England player, now journalist, Will Greenwood told me: “There have been four so-called spear tackles in this year’s tournament, with one yellow card and one red. Where’s the consistency in that? If you follow the strict letter of the law, then Warburton’s red was merited. But if you look at the established precedent, added to the fact the occasion in question was a Rugby World Cup semi-final, then in my view the sending-off was not warranted.”

The Welsh would love to be playing in the final rather than Friday night’s bronze play- off. For the record, the local media consider Wales to be the second best team in the tournament!

Lawrence Dallaglio, Laureus Ambassador and now TV pundit, fears the French have little chance. “If they go out to try and contain the All Blacks, they could end up going down by 50 points”.

Former Kiwi great John Kirwan is less convinced. “The French are at their most dangerous when they have nothing to lose.”

The French former Chairman of Rugby World Cup and the current President of Biarritz, Marcel Martin, offered the most intriguing insight that I have heard to date.

“The French have never learned to deal with the tag of favourites. Against England, they weren’t favoured to win. Against Wales they were tipped to lose but they started well, then as soon as Warburton was sent off, and the balance was tipped in the French favour, strangely their game went to pieces. When they go into a game as favourites they win maybe six times out of ten. But when they go in as the underdogs they also win maybe six times out of ten too.” It’s a thought.

No one is giving them a chance here. The New Zealand locals have already awarded themselves the Cup, but the locals would be foolish to write the French off.

As for the rest of the news, the papers are crowing about the NZ$700 million injection of cash into the economy directly attributable to Rugby World Cup tourism. The Europeans have spent the most per visitor – and the Australians have been the most careful with their money. (Not sure how they find out these figures!)

Last weekend, in Auckland alone, foreign credit card transactions amounted to NZ$5.3m…and the party is showing no signs of slowing down. This weekend will be wild.

I will post the latest news as the final draws ever closer.

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19.10.2011
by Wil Reidie
Wil Reidie Blogger-in-residence at Laureus