Every Monday throughout the World Cup we will bring you the heroes and villains of the previous week's action - from the opening-night buzz to the tragic goal-kicking and whingeing journalists.


The People of Auckland

Aucklanders have never been collective partygoers.

The whole way the city has developed has militated against that. Where Wellington has a central entertainment district, Courtenay Place, Auckland has a collection of suburbs and areas with their own distinctive trends and demographics.


Likewise there have never been entertainment districts, but a collection of strips, such as Ponsonby Rd, Parnell Rise and the Viaduct, where the nights are late and sometimes loud.

But the World Cup gave those who felt like putting on their party clothes a purpose and didn't they make the most of it. The pictures beamed around New Zealand and to distant corners of the globe showed the city in a terrific light, even before the opening ceremony spectacular.

It might not reach the same fervour again, but the city and its citizens look ready for a seven-week party, and why not, what else were you going to do in October?

It was just a shame they're probably going to be let down by the "Bad Buggers". More on that later.

The Minnows

There was something a bit special going on in Invercargill, c'etait magnifique at Albany and, although the tone was a little different, nail-biting in Dunedin.

The reason? After an hour of all these games you seriously contemplated the possibility of a massive upset taking place. That was especially true at Invercargill, where Romania drew level at 24-24 late in the game, before Scotland wing Simon Danielli scored two late tries.

The mercurial French let the Brave Blossoms of Japan back into the match and although they never looked like losing, the 22 unanswered points in the last quarter flattered them.


Argentina are not minnows in the truest sense, even if the IRB has tended to treat them as such. Four years ago they shocked France in their opener; on Saturday night they nearly did the same to England.

Only the late addition of halfback Ben Youngs and a disturbing injury count prevented them from closing out the match against the Six Nations champions.

It's early days but the IRB will be starting to puff out its chest and point to all the development money it has poured into these developing nations as the reason for their good showing.

It'll have a decent enough point, but the counter-argument is even stronger.

To turn these spirited teams from 60-minute warriors into 60-minute heroes, the IRB is going to have to do a much better job of massaging them into the calendar and giving them more tests against the big nations.

Vereniki Goneva

Every World Cup needs a Flyin' Fijian and Goneva is shaping as that man.

He might have some way to go before you would put him in the same category as Rupeni Caucaunibuca or even Vilimoni Delasau, but four tries is a nice start.

The globe-trotting three-quarter, 27, has played at Rotherham and Colomiers in the French second division. Such rugby outposts are seldom going to see you hit the headlines, so there could be no better job interview than scoring tries at World Cups.

Auckland's Transport Authorities

The shame of it is that more than 100,000 people around Auckland would have had the time of their lives on Friday night, but there are probably 10,000 or more who went through an absolute nightmare.

All because of the transport authorities' inability to get the basics right. Don't worry, they'll have all their excuses ready, they always do, but the reality is they blew it ... badly.

It wasn't just the all-too-predictable meltdown of the rail "network", but the complete lack of vision that failed to see potential problems for passengers disembarking at the ferry terminal after taking the short hop from Devonport.

Worst of all was that after encouraging people to take public transport, there were not even close to enough buses on the Northern Expressway. Crowds were queuing for more than an hour at stations at Constellation Drive, growing more frustrated by the minute. After the crowds dispersed from the Wynyard Quarter and waited for northbound buses at the Victoria Park station, they had to watch as full bus after full bus passed them by without even the courtesy of stopping to tell them how long they could expect to wait.

The farce was best highlighted by the fact that those whose day went smoothest were the ones who hopped in their cars and came to town.

The public transport farce was a small, but particularly ugly, stain on what was otherwise a great night in Auckland's history.

The Goalkickers

If you're going to chew up minutes on the clock with elaborate rituals, at least kick the flaming thing over the posts. Saturday's action saw some lousy kicking in the deep south, with Scotland's normally reliable Chris Paterson launching a Minties-Moment conversion attempt that dribbled under the bar.

At least he was outside. Inside at Stadium Otago, Jonny Wilkinson, who has won a World Cup with his boot, briefly Felipe Contepomi and particularly Martin Rodriguez were having an absolute nightmare evening with their boots. At a conservative guess, at least 15 minutes were wasted on 11 missed shots at goal. True, some of them were difficult, long-range attempts but surely it's not difficult to kick when you're inside?


After being lectured from on high about how to behave to portray the country in a positive light, it turns out a minority of our past colonial masters are kindly giving us a demonstration on how obnoxiousness can reflect poorly on the nation you represent. Very kind of them. Whinging about anything and everything from the exchange rate (sorry), the prices (really sorry), the stadiums (again, sorry), the beer (so, so sorry).

A colleague overheard a British journalist berating a stadium official in Dunedin on Saturday night when he was merely trying to explain to him that the English players would be going to one end of the mixed zone to do interviews, the Argentines the other. "Christ, can't this country get anything right," came the reply.

Honestly, after the hardship some of these guys are going through, they'll fully deserve that holiday in Skegness.