THE top ten happenings of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
1. An Air Force Iroquois will need to be on hand if a referee plays a role in the ousting of the All Blacks
In the pre-match entertainment for their first NRL match back in 1995, the Warriors proved it's possible to run a military-style rapid evac with a helicopter on a footy pitch.
We've already seen in the past week the effect a relatively small-beer decision can have on the national psyche. Half of us don't even like the Crusaders - although we all respect them, etc, etc - but it didn't stop us demanding Stuart Dickinson's head be displayed on a pike outside the remains of the Christchurch Cathedral.
Let's not even get started on Wayne Barnes, that forward pass and 40 minutes of French tunnel vision.
If, just for argument's sake, Alain Rolland gets a crucial decision wrong and the All Blacks lose, there will need to be an airlift.
Yes, we've come a long way from the days where we blamed John Hart's horse for '99 and a waitress named Suzie for '95.
2. The winner will come from one of five teams
Apologies for ruining the suspense, but if you're considering putting money on an outsider to win the Webb Ellis, then you're the type of person who gets excited when this drops into your email inbox:
"Subject: Charity distribution
From: Mr Peter Attah, Abuja
Urgent - I have $15,000,000.00 (fifteen million) US Dollars and I want you to assist me in distributing the money to charity organisations. I agree to reward you with part of the money for your assistance, kindness and participation in this Godly project. This mail might come to you as a surprise, but please consider it a divine wish and accept it with a deep sense of humility."
Treat the above with the same scepticism you would when envisaging the $15,000 return you would get from putting $100 on Scotland at the TAB. In fact, you have more chance of getting some money out of Mr Attah.
The winners will come from New Zealand, Australia, England, South Africa and, only because of their relatively decent record downunder, France.
3. If you're in the Government, wait for the Cup to release any bad news
SECRET MEMO FROM NATIONAL PARTY HQ:
If the All Blacks win, sell the health system and the primary schools - the nation will be too hungover to notice until after the general election.
If the All Blacks lose, do it anyway - everything will pale in comparison with the trauma of defeat on home soil.
4. Quade Cooper will single-handedly knock out a major nation - and then get thumped by the majors
The Tokoroa Kid clearly has the goods to tear apart even the best defences in a one-off knockout match.
But can his kitbag of no-look passes and high-stepping breaks deliver against top opponents three times on the trot?
Wishful thinking perhaps, but we think not ...
5. A soon-to-be-stress-fractured part of Daniel Carter or Richie McCaw's anatomy will become a matter of national discussion
It will probably be a metatarsal. But these things happen. C'est la vie. It's not the end of the world: they've both signed up for another four years anyway.
6. There will be at least one scandalous story involving a boozed-up player, a boozed-up lass and the Pony Club
Auckland is touted as "Party Central", where thousands of tourists from around the globe will gather to eat, drink and be merry. Most will behave themselves, but it's inconceivable that all drunken rugby fans - and players - will keep their noses clean.
Just three years ago, Auckland police interviewed an 18-year-old girl after a three-in-a-bed romp with two English players in the Hilton Hotel while two other players watched. No charges were laid, but more unsavoury scandals like this will come to light - particularly with the hungry British tabloids in town.
And when it comes to partying, our European visitors also have different tastes. And we're not talking warm ale. Expect to see more cocaine and Ecstasy floating around the Viaduct. More than 10kg of Colombian marching powder has been seized by Customs so far this year, up from 3kg last year and 733 grams in 2008.
7. Eden Park will not be our Wembley, our Panathinaiko, or even our Westpac Stadium. In fact, in five years we'll ask ...
... why the hell didn't we just finish the damn stadium when we had the chance? Why isn't the ground rectangular? Okay, cricket, so why didn't we re-legislate the Eden Park Trust Act and pay for the ACA to move elsewhere?
Why, once the now defunct Auckland Regional Council decided we couldn't have a waterfront showpiece, didn't we fully commit to leaving Eden Park as a legacy stadium? What the heck is that impossibly ugly West Stand still doing there?
What's that weird thing at the eastern end of the ground? Uncovered seating in a modern stadium, you're 'aving a larf aren't ya?
None of those questions we can answer, but we can answer this. Will this be the worst stadium to host a World Cup final since 1991?
8. Scottish fans will be the most fun to drink with
These being the posh Scots from the borders, rather than the Glasgow Neds or the miserable Presbos from up north. There was some debate as to whether the Scots or Irish would win this prize, but the fact they come here with at least a skerrick of expectation and are still getting over the whole Brian O'Driscoll bruised shoulder incident of 05 rules the Irish out.
As a dark horse, attach yourself to the Georgians whose national drink is Chacha, a strong liquor made from grape pomace and which is said to be great for clearing up ear blockages. True story.
If you do find yourself drinking with the seven Polish rugby fans who are travelling to the tournament - another true story - it might be prudent to avoid mentioning Krystof Azninski. Boozing legend has it the Polish farmer cut off his own head with a chainsaw in a hard-man drinking game with friends. It has urban myth, sorry, rural myth, writ large over it, but is a cracking tale nonetheless.
9. Richard Loe will accuse the All Blacks of being soft
No further explanation required.
10. SBW agrees to schedule his boxing bouts midweek and only during the pool stages
This benevolent gesture will keep him free during the final weeks of the tournament when he will be available for the All Blacks' knockout matches and a couple of pre-season hit-outs with the Parramatta Eels.
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