ROSEMARY ABBOTT | Sport
As the Rugby World Cup draws near, Christchurch man Mark Simmons finds himself growing increasingly uneasy with the looming prospect of the All Blacks’ opening pool game against the host nation, France.
Despite being a devoted supporter of the All Blacks since birth, the 34-year-old remains haunted by the infamous quarter-final defeat suffered by the All Blacks at the 2007 Rugby World Cup at the hands of the French, even though the team has clinched two world cups since.
“There’s something about that day that I just can’t shake from my memory,” Simmons lamented. “The grey jerseys, the missed forward pass, Luke McAlister’s yellow card, and Wayne Barnes’ overall impact on the game. Honestly, I genuinely believed we were destined to win that tournament,” he continued, his disbelief still apparent, given the dramatic turn of events leading to the All Blacks’ earliest exit from the event.
In 2007, the All Blacks were the favourites to win the tournament, having rested most of their senior players at the beginning of the 2007 Super Rugby season and implementing a rotation policy within the team that year.
“We were basically underdone heading into the tournament. The first four pool games were a breeze, and when the critical moment arrived, we simply weren’t physically prepared for a tougher match. I can’t fathom how Graham Henry managed to convince NZR to endorse a conditioning program for senior All Blacks at the start of that year,” he reflected.
“Why was Wayne Barnes even reffing that game anyway? He was only 28 and it was the host nation against the tournament favourites,” added Simmons, who was now starting to pull up highlights of the match from YouTube.
“See, look. How did Wayne Barnes miss that? Plus where was the TMO back then? Why didn’t we go for a dropped goal either?”
Our reporters left Simmons deep in thought about that fateful quarter-final, recognizing his mounting nervousness as the All Blacks draw closer to Saturday morning’s game. This encounter carries the potential for another historic victory by the French, as the All Blacks have never lost a pool match in their history.
More to come.