I went to this game played at the North Harbour Stadium.
I was at the very first game North Harbour played as a new break-away union from Auckland. That was in 1985. Things have changed since then. Now the union is 27 years old and today they hosted their first World Cup Game.
I have been impressed with the transport organisation I have been involved in. I know there have been
complaints but none from me. Two buses and I was at the ground.
I didn't really know what to expect. After the amazing opening ceremony I think I was expecting a low-key affair. Wrong!! The ground was near full capacity and the splendor of Japanese and French colours and the spirit that the crowd entered into for this game was fantastic. I've now been to two 2011 World Cup events and they both now rank No.1 and No.2 experiences in my rugby life (My tour of Twickenham in April 2009 ranks third).
Japan were the favoured side by most New Zealanders who went there. Many Kiwis decked themselves out in Japanese supporters gear which was great. No disrespect intended against the French. I guess the Kiwis will always support the underdog. Unless, of course, that underdog is playing the All Blacks. Even then, as against Tonga, all due respect is given. It's what makes this game so unique. Am I wrong when I say you just don't get that in soccer. At any level? Not in my experience.
These Japanese students were from Ryukyu University in southern Japan. In fact the Ryukyu islands are off the southern coast. So these boys had a fair bit of traveling to do to get here. Quickly joining them at the front was Yasim Carrio of France.
These two French supporters were Bono and Sebi, from Bordeaux, whose web site is www.Bono-Rugby.com. Its a free plug so go seek it out. I just loved the costumes!
Next were this group of French supporters from Lyon. Dun, Mullav, Kutch and Lolagz are members of the LOU rugby club in Lyon. Jeez! I though I came a distance from Tasmania, but these guys and the Japanese supporters. I take my hat off..cap actually.
Below are a series of pics from after the game and then on the streets in downtown Auckland after I got off the bus from North Harbour.