Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
16 August 2014
Oh sure, if New Zealand wins tonight in Sydney against the Wallabies those of the NZSSA (The New Zealand Sycophantic Sportswriter's Association), will no doubt trumpet to the heavens that our famous All Blacks will have 'set a world record' of 'Tier 1' test victories in a row. But will the NZSSA's claim hold up against a deeper 'Nicky Hager' search?
If the All Blacks win they will have moved to 18 test victories in a row. They have not lost a match since the 38-21 drubbing they received from England in December 2012. (The NZSSA called the All Blacks that night 'a tired team at the end of a long season.' Wow! Deep reporting there boys and heavily insulting to England.)
But what needs to be addressed is; what about Cyprus?
This little rugby Mediterranean powerhouse has a record of sequential international test success in 2014 which is way ahead of New Zealand's.
Look at the facts; as of before the game in Sydney the (NZSSA's) claim the All Blacks have 17 test wins against 'Tier 1' countries. And yes that is impressive. But is it any better than Rugby's Cyprus's team, 'The Moufflons,' record in their current level of 23 wins on the trot?
In terms of cold facts it is not. But we all understand rugby scoring. 23 always beats 17.
As a rugby nation do we not have regard for the 'minnow's of our so-called beloved global game? I think Cyprus deserves our respect. And praise.
The Cypriot sequence of wins have all come in the European National Championship (2nd Division) run by Rugby Europe (formerly FIRA - the Federation of Rugby Amateur, founded in 1931).
Cyprus has been unbeaten since their record run began on 29 November 2008 when they beat Azerbaijan by 37-3. Since then they have beaten 'all comers' either at home in Paphos or in away matches at their level of competition. Their most recent game was a 46-13 win over Hungary in Paphos on 17 May 2014.
A look at the results tells us than they play regularly against other teams like Israel, Luxembourg, Austria, Bulgaria, Slovenia etc - and if those teams don't make the headlines as 'Tier 1' countries - surely they do at a lesser, but no less significant level?
It must be said that Cyprus was denied entry into the qualification play before the 2015 Rugby World Cup as they had 'not met the necessary membership criteria' to belong to the International Rugby Board. However Cyprus has been in Rugby Europe (formerly FIRA) since 2006 and Rugby Europe operates under the umbrella of the IRB! So surely to dismiss or ignore their record, as some are doing, is semantics only.
Looking at it from another direction; We would not dismiss any records set by the Cypriot tennis star Marcos Baghdatis would we? Because he came from that land? We would celebrate his success surely. Surely our rugby media should do the same for the Mighty Moufflons!
FOOTNOTE I: By the way, it just so happens that the All Blacks, via the NZSSA's flattery, do claim a 54-6 win over Japan in Tokyo last year as part of their current wonderful 17-game winning sequence.
I have a tremendous regard for Japanese rugby and its very real recent progress - but are they 'Tier 1' yet on the world scene? Really? However using my earlier logic I certainly include Japan as a worthy part of the New Zealand list of wins.
By my reckoning the All Blacks will not go to the world record of wins in a row - that's if they even get there - until their 24th win - and that could be not until the game against Australia in Brisbane on the 18th of October this year. I don't know why all the sycophants of the New Zealand news media aren't promoting that game. After all it'd be another cosy trip for many of them!
FOOTNOTE II; Meanwhile on the other side of the debate, perhaps back in the Mediterranean the 'Moufflons' might also be adding more to their inspiring total too. Their 2014-15 season has just begun.
Being fair we should all hope they do.
FOOTNOTE III: A 'Moufflon' is a breed of reclusive horned mountain sheep found in the hills of beautiful Cyprus. The Cyprus Rugby Federation has been proud to nickname their winning international rugby team after such an impressive animal. Horned sheep are famous for butting heads with those around them. Enough said?
Source; The Wikipedia entry for Cyprus National Rugby Union Team has the full list of Cyprus test scores.
Anti-tour protests and police surrounding the ground in Christchurch made this a tough watch for the fans. But NZ beat South Africa on this day in the first test by 14-9.
Headquarters for the game of rugby in Samoa. Apia Park is a ground with a colourful past. Just as Twickenham in London was once a market garden, and cabbages were grown at Lancaster Park in Christchurch during World War I, Apia Park in the capital city of Samoa was once a horse racing track and a golf course.
Situated close to the city, the ground was originally owned by the occupying German Government. The first horse racing was held on Kaiser Wilhelm II’s birthday in 1910. Later, Chinese, Melanesian and Samoan labourers ploughed the swampy land, aided by oxen-drawn carts. They levelled an inner field and plans for rugby were drawn up. The locals did not worry that a large, shady tree was left intact on what was to be inside the field of play.
Horse racing died out in 1939. The first rugby game on the park was in 1924 when an Apia Selection played a Pago Pago Naval XV. Apia won 33-0. During the same year a Fijian team on its way to play Tonga stopped in Apia. Its two games against the locals were split one win each. It is not recorded how the teams coped with playing around the tree!
These days the rebuilt ground, with its superb backdrop of palm trees and other native flora and fauna, must be one of the prettiest in the world.
Apia Park has always been a highly significant place for sport in Samoa. In 1991 before the advent of a home TV network, crowds used to come to the ground and sit for hours overnight waiting to watch on an imported giant TV screen the matches of (Western) Samoa at the World Cup in Britain.
For years the field was also used as a golf course, but in 1975 the inherent dangers of people walking near such a course led them to shift to a new venue, at the Royal Samoan Golf Club. Only then for the first time could rugby truly claim the grounds.
In 2007, Apia Park was one of the main venues for the 2007 Pacific Games. In 2015 it will play host many events at the Youth Commonwealth Games, the opening and closing ceremonies. It will also host the All Blacks from New Zealand for a much anticipated game against Manu Samoa. The ground has a capacity of 15,000.
When Ireland played Australia in Dublin in 1958 what coloured jerseys did each team wear?