Back in 2007 I was really excited to be covering the Rugby World Cup in France, even more so given that my 1st match was New Zealand against Italy. The All Blacks - wow!
The match started at 2pm inside the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, the temperature was hovering around the 30 C degree mark - just what were the organisers thinking of starting at that time in Southern Europe! The press were assigned their positions and I had a good spot just to the left of the Italian goalposts, unfortunately without shade and I'd also forgotten to bring any water! But that was soon forgotten the moment the players stepped onto the pitch and the roar of the crowds bellowed around the stadium.
I started by focusing on the New Zealand Haka, a traditional ancestral war cry, an awesome spectacle which often strikes fear into opponents and creates a huge aura of invincibility before the game has even begun. The Italians were having none of it and in a show of defiance (or downright fear of what was to come) formed a huddle facing away from the All Blacks.
Two minutes after kick-off, the All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw (pictured below with ball in hand), touched down for the first try of the game right in front of me. I wasn't expecting that - shot in the bag! Things were about to get even better when five minutes later he again touched down for his second try of the match - a dream start which led to a hatful of 11 tries being scored in an eventual 76-14 trouncing of the poor Azzurri.
Unfortunately the team suffered their worst ever World Cup getting knocked out in the quarter finals to hosts France but that didn't stop Riche McCaw going on to become the greatest player to have ever graced the pitch. He may even become a double world cup winner as we head into the 2015 tournament.