Kingsland pubs are gearing up in preparation for tonight's game between New Zealand and Ireland.
They're expecting 3- to 4-times the usual business, and hours before kick-off fans are already trickling in.
Fans are sporting their side's colours, and so far green shirts are hard to spot among a sea of black.
There are no doubts from either side about who will win, but the focus is on enjoying the night.
All Blacks v Ireland - all you need to know
All Blacks v Ireland, the opening test in a three-match tour. Kicking off at 7.05pm, at Eden Park.
What's at stake?
The All Blacks are likely to meet either Ireland or South Africa (who they face in two tests straight after this series) in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup next year. So, there will be many tea leaves to sift after this series.
In a nutshell:
If the All Blacks win all three matches, the series is no big deal. Lose one, and we'll shift nervously in our seats. Lose the series and it's back to nationwide lockdowns and 1pm briefings.
So, is this one of those half-baked teams the Northern Hemisphere nations send out here that we spank by 50 points?
Nope. Ireland are a real-deal team — and tonight's first test is their best chance to break down another barrier, beating the All Blacks at home. They will be greatly aided by the fact the All Blacks are often scratchy in their first test of the year.
But the length of the tour should catch them out by the time they roll into Wellington for the third test on July 16. Some players will have to double-up between midweek matches against the Māori All Blacks and the Saturday tests — there are three on the bench tonight (Conor Murray, Joey Carberry and Bundee Aki) who featured in Wednesday's defeat to the Māori.
For the Irish, tonight's the night.
Also at stake:
There's the much discussed matter of the All Blacks Never Ever Losing at Eden Park. The last time the national side lost was in 1994, when Wet Wet Wet's Love Is All Around was top of the charts and a bright-eyed, skinny kid called Ian Foster was playing first five-eighths for Waikato.
In March, the Irish beat England 32-15 at Twickenham, finishing second in the competition courtesy of an earlier 30-24 defeat to eventual winners France in Paris.
They've won three of the past five matches between these two sides, never having claimed an All Black scalp prior to 2016. Ten of the starting line-up named by coach Andy Farrell were in the team that won in Dublin last November. These blokes know what's required to beat the All Blacks, and they know how to smash through hoodoos.
All Blacks' recent form:
Let's just try to stay upbeat, shall we?
Who's the ref?
Englishman Karl Dickson is the referee. He swung the whistle in November's match between the All Blacks and Italy in Rome — a game which ZB rugby caller Elliott Smith has labelled as "one of the worst spectacles of recent rugby memory"... and he's seen Josh Kronfeld perform a paso doble on Dancing with the Stars.
Dickson has a side-hustle: he's part of Out Of The Scrum, a rugby coaching business which shares handy drills on their Facebook page, including a breakdown practice that looks like a more brutal version of Duck Duck Goose. In a similar vein, he used to blog on parenting issues at the Baba website.
So, the ref will treat the players like babies?
More like sulky teens. He was reffing a match that involved his former Harlequin teammate Kyle Sinkler last year when the Lions prop eyeballed him and bellowed: "Are you f****** serious."
Sinkler did not get sent to his room.
Has the ref revealed any insights into his philosophy?
"Never stand directly in front of a baby when you change them, always stand to the side."
The sick list
Losing a few big names to injury and illness is nothing new, but the All Blacks' list is notable: David Havili, Jack Goodhue, Will Jordan, Joe Moody, Anton Lienert-Brown, Akira Ioane and Ethan Blackadder are all out. And Covid-19 went through their coaching staff quicker than a group of QAnon nutters in the crowd at a Donald Trump rally.
The Irish are without injured lock Iain Henderson, and Mack Hansen returned a positive Covid test.
What are the Irish saying?
Writing in the Irish Times, Aussie-Irish commentator Matt Williams observed that the All Blacks "are filthy, dirty, and angry at Ireland for beating them out the gate in Dublin last November".
Mind you, he also said "the Kiwis are not here to put socks on centipedes" — and we're pretty sure the actual quote has something do with ducks and spiders.
Two former world players of the year, Beauden Barrett and Johnny Sexton, are running the show. In Ireland's recent successes against the All Blacks, containing Barrett has been key — and the tourists will have recognised and appreciated the way the Crusaders shut down the No 10 in the Super Rugby final. But, more than ever, it'll come down to their big blokes against our big blokes.
Catching the action:
Commentary of the test is running live on Newstalk ZB, Gold Sport and on iHeartRadio, with a live blog on the Herald.
The match is screening on Sky Sport 1 and live-streaming on Sky Sport Now. And you can hear the eminently sensible hot-takes of the Alternative Commentary Collective by tuning in to Sky Sport 9, Radio Hauraki or by following their iHeartRadio channel.
Going to the game?
Good on you! There are 120 trains and buses running to the venue for free. The good folk in the Eden Park PR team tell us they're expecting to sell 6500 punnets of hot chips and 2000 boxes of donuts. The PR team also ask — quite reasonably — that anyone attending the game be nice to the staff.
All Blacks: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (c), Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Ofa Tuungafasi, Codie Taylor, George Bower.
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, Pita Gus Sowakula, Dalton Papalii, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, Braydon Ennor.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (c), Jamison Gibson-Park, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O'Mahony, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter.
Reserves: Dan Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Cian Healy, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Bundee Aki.