Freeley Speaking

An English tourist casts an eye on the Rugby World Cup

Freeley Speaking: How do you say 'my liver hurts' in French?

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Maxime Mermoz of France steps away from Ma'a Nonu of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Maxime Mermoz of France steps away from Ma'a Nonu of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

I woke up on Monday to find my liver calling me names, packing its suitcase and demanding a divorce. All of which doesn't bode well given that we had only just passed halfway in a seven-games-in-11-days stretch here at the Rugby World Cup.

Today it's Romania v Georgia in Palmerston North, where we hope to complete our mission to have a beer with someone from all 20 nations. We've crossed off 18 countries and have just Romanians and Georgians to go.

While it's been almost impossible not to have a beer with an Irishman or an Aussie over the past few weeks, some of the other fans have been hard to track down. Robin Bickford - who has published a book on Namibia - introduced us to some bona fide Namibians for a two-hour, beer-drinking history lesson.

Saturday brought our first taste of test-match nerves, but they were quickly dispelled as the mighty All Blacks went 19-0 up in 20 minutes. The French gave the new south stand a real test of engineering stability with all the jumping up and down - it was awesome to watch.

The marketing before the tournament told us the world was coming - and they were dead right. Of course, in rugby terms, most of the world are underdogs and how we love the underdog.

American Tom Hewitt had just got back from Wellington and reckoned he will never in his life see so many people from another country cheering for the USA. It's not just the competing nations who are represented in the crowds - I met the Venezuelan rugby captain, Carlos Salas. We were also lucky enough to run into the French team on Saturday night. Seeing the Kiwi women following the suave French blokes was like watching lambs to the slaughter.

Sunday had a great Pacific feel right from the moment we hit town. The Samoans were in full humour. We ran into a couple of Scottish lads, as you do, and took them down to the Cloud to watch their guys play Argentina. Later that night, while drinking and having a laugh with some blokes from Melbourne, I couldn't help but wonder what all the fuss about Aussies being treated badly was about.

Callum Brown, from Melbourne, said: "All we have had is smiles and good old-fashioned banter."

He pointed out that Kiwi fans had a lot to cheer about with the All Blacks on track, the Wallabies flopping against Ireland and the Warriors in the NRL final.

When drinking your way around the world's rugby fans, you need to get a little creative with the communication. The early hours of Monday morning were spent in the company of two Frenchmen, neither of whom spoke a word of English. I've never laughed so much when only talking in sign language.

The hangovers are taking a toll. My mate Craig Hewetson forgot his tickets to the Boks v Namibia match, then arrived to see All Blacks v France with the stub of his ticket from Japan v France.

Next on the agenda is a couple of days in true heartland New Zealand: we're looking for a good rural tavern to talk rubbish with the locals. Then it's off to Auckland to see England take on rival Scotland.

We're still living the dream, but I need to buy my liver some flowers.

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