Top 5: Travelling support for the All Blacks

By Dylan Cleaver

As the All Blacks eye their touring calendar, Dylan Cleaver lists the five best places to watch the team abroad

The All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
The All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

1: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales

If you're into the finer things in life, like sunshine, there are about 259 cities around the world more pleasant to visit than Cardiff. But as a rugby venue it has a pull that is almost spiritual.

There's a ritual to it. You visit the faded grandeur of the Angel Hotel the night before the test and raise a glass to Keith Murdoch. You grab a pub lunch and a pre-match pint of Brains. You join the red-shirted, irrationally optimistic throng as it approaches the engineering marvel that is the stadium (shoehorned on an impossibly small parcel of land between the city centre and the River Taff).

You watch an All Black victory - they've never lost at the stadium against the Welsh (the French are a different matter) - then hit the pubs and Caroline St, a pedestrian walkway of fish-and-chip shops known locally as Chippy Lane or Chip Alley.

The next morning you avoid the puddles of vomit, which, when frozen solid, take on a strangely artistic appeal, as you seek a cup of rejuvenating and warming coffee.

2: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia

Like Cardiff and the United Kingdom, there are more alluring cities in Australia than Brisbane, but as a rugby stadium, Suncorp is tough, maybe impossible, to beat.

Get a taxi from the city centre to the top of nearby Caxton St. Enjoy the hospitality of that thoroughfare's establishments - it is blocked to traffic on match days - and take the ritual abuse of the locals before the short walk to the ground.

Set on the site of the old Lang Park, Suncorp is a gem, making a liar of those who say you cannot have a great, international ground in a suburban locale. There's barely a bad seat in the house and the tight, rectangular dimensions sees the ground hum with atmosphere. It's enough to make you weep when you think of the multi-use monstrosities we endure here.

3: Stade de France, Paris, France

It's Paris, stupid.

Yes, the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, with its huge, open stands offers a more visceral rugby viewing experience, but the All Blacks rarely play there and Thomas Jefferson did not write this about Marseille: "A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life." Pretentious, moi?

The All Blacks generally play well at this stadium (though it's the games they didn't play there, namely the 2007 World Cup semi and final, that stick in the mind), which although impressive in scale, can be a little insipid on the atmosphere front - perhaps not helped by the 0 per cent alcohol beer served at the ground or the fact it is stuck out in Saint-Denis.

Still, the public transport is comfortable and efficient and there is always the prospect of retiring to suburbs like the Bastille, Oberkampf and Marais for an after-match function of sorts.

Those who attended last year's test against Italy at Rome's remodelled Olympico Stadium say Paris now has a genuine rival as the place to watch the All Blacks on the Continent.

4: The Walkabout, Shepherds Bush, London, England

Granted, this is something you need to do only once in your life, and if you haven't done it by the time you're out of your 20s, you might not want to do it at all. There's an undeniable sense of community to be had when you're queuing up outside a pub at the crack of dawn to watch a Bledisloe Cup match being played on the other side of the world.

Many of those in the queue will have not been to bed and are barely holding it together; others would have had early nights all week in preparation for an epic day. All will be utterly convinced their team is going to win.

Hastily poured lager and cider in plastic cups; young men and women thousands of miles from home. A game that always invokes passion: what could possibly go wrong?

5: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, South Africa

South Africans love their rugby and have the stadiums to match, from the Cape to the Free State. Some are shiny and new, others are old and creaking. Loftus would come into the latter category, but its fortress-like qualities and the fact it is in the heart of Afrikanerdom, make this the most satisfying venue in which to watch the All Blacks win.

New Zealand have played the Boks there five times and dropped the first one in 1970 (bloody refs!), but have won every time since, including the boil-lancing 33-26 victory in 1996 that sealed the first series win in the republic.

The two sides haven't played there since 2006, perhaps because the All Blacks have treated it as a home away from home, and it is being bypassed again this year in favour of Ellis Park, Johannesburg, just down the road.

All Blacks Tours has a licence with the NZRU to sell international rugby tickets for All Blacks matches overseas and at home.

- NZ Herald

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