Day of mourning and little work in wake of loss

By James Ihaka

The dollar rose and shares were up, so while national spirits were low in the wake of the All Blacks' exit from the rugby World Cup on Sunday, the old doom-and-gloom spin-off theories didn't immediately add up.

But judging by web traffic, office time-and-motion studies may well find national productivity dipped sharply in the wake of the Cardiff calamity.

The Herald's online site alone recorded more than 200 pages of anguished outpourings as fans sought to put a perspective on the quarter-final loss to the French.

Add in the jokes doing the rounds, the postmortems over water coolers and on talkback radio and the vitriol posted on some sites against referee Wayne Barnes - whose 9-2 penalty and free-kick count, not to mention that yellow card, was blamed by many for the loss - and it's a wonder anyone had time to do any work at all yesterday.

Graham Henry got backing from just over half of those who responded to a Herald online poll on who was the best coach for the All Blacks. Robbie Deans, the Canterbury man touted as his successor, was supported by 34 per cent of the nearly 5500 respondents.

Henry, who faces the chop, will arrive home tomorrow along with his assistant coaches and 24 of the 30 players to a hushed reception very different from the send-off in August.

Neither the Rugby Union, Air New Zealand nor Auckland Airport has arranged any homecoming ceremony.

The team are due in at midday, except for Mils Muliaina, Jerry Collins, Doug Howlett, Andy Ellis, Byron Kelleher and Neemia Tialata, who are travelling separately with partners and family on flight schedules that could not be changed.

Neil Sorensen, professional rugby manager for the union, said there could be a large public contingent at the airport after a deluge of calls and emails of support.

"It's been quite amazing, although we've been fearing the worst," said Mr Sorenson. "The majority of messages have been ones of support."

Meanwhile, All Black supporters stuck in France without their team to follow are staying put.

House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said it had sold 1700 packages and nobody was ready to come home just yet.

"The reality is the rugby is only from Friday to Sunday so you've got all those other days to fill in."

The average two- to three-week tour, which cost about $15,000, was now filled mainly by couples.

Supporters should follow the example of good-humoured Lions supporters in 2005, after their team lost. The All Blacks' defeat has also put a halt to a planned two-week business trip by Sports Minister Trevor Mallard, who was scheduled to represent the Government at the semi-final and final.

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