mr. zilla goes to town

Saturday, March 05, 2005

North XV vs South XV

To my American readers, no I'm not talking about yet another civil war recreation society, but today's rugby match at Twickenham where the cat's cream of world rugby lined up against each other to raise money for the World Food Programme's six month post-Tsunami operation. I rate it a great decision by the International Rugby Board to direct the funds in this direction as the WFP moves into the reconstruction phase.

That the game raised over a million quid in ticket sales and sponsorship was fantastic. Even if to put it in fair perspective, this figure is less than one per cent of the WFP's operational budget for tsunami reconstruction, let alone their global operations. So whether attending the game, or text messaging in a donation, or just sitting on the couch enjoying an amber fueled inner glow of altruism, we need to keep our wits about us of the scale of the challenge yet to be faced both in this area and in the other 'South'.

Off the soapbox now. Lets get down to brass tacks, or perhaps boot studs: what kind of play would be on offer? Would the Northern players, deep in the stride of their Six Nations season smash the Southerners just coming into their peak, not to mention hopping off the plane from a 24 hour flight? Or would the South's near week of preparation be the edge over the North, who only came together for the first time the day before the game?

While there's the occasional Barbarians game that creates similar conditions, it's rarely of a similar calibre. So the most intrigung and amusing aspect for rugby fans was watching the unique halves combination of George Gregan and Andrew Mehrtens at work, feeding the ball to Tana Umanga and (man of the match) Latham of Socks Down in the outside backs. Some great players from the anitpodes I hadn't seen on the field before included Fijian Sereli Bobo, a winger with blistering pace, Samoan captain Semo Setiti who came on to score two tries late in the game, and brawling Aussie hero-of-yore Toutai Kefu in from his club in Japan.

Well with star waterboy Matty Burke serving from the sideline for the South, any jet lag fatigue seemed to be well taken care of. Also, to be fair to the North a good number of the best players were sitting out through injury, or perhaps 'injury' with the Six Nations championship still up for grabs next week. Most notable of these was Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll. But the scoreboard shows that the South simply outclassed their Northern cousins in an offensive duel, running in 8 tries to 3 to go away 54-19 victors.

I'm sure the annual rugby calendar is a busy affair, and coordinating the respective hemispherical seasons would be a trick. But I reckon this kind of charity spectacle would be a killer fixed addition to the calendar in non-world cup years.

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