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Alastair Eykyn's blog: October 2011 Archives
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October 2011 Archives

All Black's legend Sir Brian Lochore senses a repeat of 1987

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Twenty-four years ago the man who shepherded New Zealand’s rugby team to World Cup triumph was Brian Lochore.

Now Sir Brian, he still cuts an imposing but friendly figure at 71. He is a bear of a man, his huge paws enveloping my own in a handshake.

His eyes have retreated a little with age but they are illuminated by a ready smile.

Sir Brian is a legend in New Zealand. As both a number eight and lock forward, he won 25 international caps for his country between 1964 and 1971. He was captain of the All Blacks for 18 of those Tests.

New Welsh crop ready to create own history

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Alan “Thumper” Phillips is looking rather confused.

The Wales team manager has a slightly crumpled forehead and a wry grin plays across his mouth, as he surveys the chaotic scene at their hotel in central Auckland.

The world’s press has gathered in one of the smaller conference rooms, waiting for any useful nugget of news ahead of arguably the biggest game in Wales’ history.

The World Cup semi-final against France is occupying every waking hour of his life. Men and women crane their necks over the phalanx of camera crews and journalists, searching for a view of the Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards.

“Look at that media scrum,” says Phillips, scratching his head. “It really is a completely different game now."

Magnificent Wales reach World Cup semi-finals

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Hats off to a magnificent Welsh display. Hats off to the mastermind Warren Gatland, to the inspirational captain Sam Warburton, and to the happy band of colourful Welsh supporters who make every game seem like a World Cup final. Their passion breathes life into each and every one of their contests. 

 

I want to isolate one man though, because despite the three excellent Welsh tries, the victory over Ireland was built on a teak-tough defence.

 

The man in charge of that particular area of high impact is Shaun Edwards, and he is doing a wonderful job. Ireland were not at their marauding best, but they asked a lot of questions, especially in the first half.

To give you some idea, the Welsh had completed 85 tackles at half time, compared to 46 by the Irishmen. Lock forward Luke Charteris had made 16 of those by himself, before withdrawing, injured, from the field of battle. 

 

Confident Ireland ready to make history

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Declan Kidney's Ireland have now achieved something that none of their predecessors managed - qualifying top of their pool for the quarter-finals of the World Cup. It is an accomplishment of which they are justifiably proud.

This is a special group of players, achieving special things together. In the red of Munster and the blue of Leinster they have scaled the heights of European and domestic rugby. In the green of Ireland they won the Grand Slam in 2009. Now they have the World Cup itself in their sights.

Ireland arrived in New Zealand on the back of four defeats in a row. Expectations across the country were low. Inside the camp though, there was a residual determination, and a knowledge that they could turn their fortunes around.

Players like Ronan O'Gara, Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell will almost certainly not take part in the next World Cup. For them, this tournament represents their final opportunity to shine on the biggest stage of all. As O'Driscoll himself said in advance of the game against Australia "it's win or bust".

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About this blog

I'm Alastair Eykyn and I am a rugby commentator for BBC Radio and TV. My job also involves having my nose to the ground for all the interesting rugby stories. You can follow me on Twitter @5LiveRugby.

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About this blog

I'm Alastair Eykyn and I am a rugby commentator for BBC Radio and TV. My job also involves having my nose to the ground for all the interesting rugby stories. You can follow me on Twitter @5LiveRugby.

Here are some tips on taking part and our house rules

For the latest updates across BBC blogs,
visit the Blogs homepage.

Subscribe to Alastair Eykyn's blog

You can stay up to date with Alastair Eykyn's blog via these feeds.

If you aren't sure what RSS is you'll find our beginner's guide to RSS useful.

Rugby headlines

Visit the BBC Sport website