While you're reading this I'm on the plane - off to Japan to commentate on the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and I'm just as excited about this gig as I was in 2007 when I headed to Paris to cover my first Rugby World Cup.
Although that one proved a disaster from a New Zealand perspective, this one is similar in that no-one knows who will win and the country is a unique place to visit. And after a near two-year break - I'm back in the commentary box!
I think most of us know that commentary is an art form - it's not just a matter of describing an event, and it takes years to get good. It's a skill set you can't just pick up by retiring from rugby and turning up in the commentary box. It takes hours of preparation and there are different roles and different styles.
Grant Nisbett, for instance, is the usual All Blacks caller, he speaks when the ball is in action and provides the facts and figures around the game. For this Rugby World Cup Kiwis will probably struggle a little not having their trusted "Nisbo" as Scotty Stevenson will fill that role for Spark and TVNZ.
The key differences between "Nisbo" and "Sumo" are that Kiwis are used to Nisbo's dulcet tones, neutrality (most of the time) and additionally, he's not controversial. Sumo will add some humour with slick one-liners but even if he calls the game perfectly, no doubt there will be some who just want Nisbett back.
The second voice is the person who adds the colour and analyses what has just happened. Justin Marshall, and before him Murray Mexted, definitely add the colour. Because they have an opinion people tend to have an opinion on them. Stephen Donald, new to the commentary box, is the second voice for this World Cup, and he's been honing his combination with Stevenson on the under 20s, Japan v South Africa, as well as having one-on-one sessions with voice coach David England.
Mind you, his voice didn't need a lot of work. It's deep. He's also well-liked which bodes well for him if he's able to translate his first-five reading of the game to the commentary box. I'm confident from what I've heard so far that he will do well.
For the commentary team I'm in, Andrew Mehrtens is our colour commentator, next to caller Aussie Sean Maloney.
"Mehrts" is pretty cheeky, he's thrown up brilliant lines when I've worked with him like when the referee called a high tackle in a schoolboy game recently which was only around the breastline, Mehrts piped up, "lucky there's no 80-year-old women playing out there today".
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You'll hear us first up commentating the clash between Australia and Fiji on Saturday… we'll definitely throw in a few pro-Fiji calls in there just to wind Aussie caller Sean Maloney up.
The third role is the sideline analysis. No one is better than former cricketer Ian Smith in this role, and it takes a certain type of talent and brain to be able to come in with new information when you get the third replay of a try.
This is arguably the toughest job of the lot. And that's the role I have.
I tend to focus on the breakdown in defensive systems, or what's happening off-camera to bring in new information. But whether I do a good job with this role also depends on the chemistry I have with Mehrts and Sean, and thankfully after years of socialising with those two, I think our chemistry is going to go just fine.
I'm the first woman that World Rugby has used in this role for the men's Rugby World Cup, so I better get it right, but it's great to see that other former players such as Maggie Alphonsie are on other commentary teams.
For TVNZ and Spark, the names include former winning coach Sir Graham Henry, Keven Mealamu, Tamati Ellison, and Conrad Smith. As none of them have actually done sideline comments before we'll let Scotty control the call and bring them in, or we have the option of using Kimberlee Downs in an interview role.
When you head off to cover a major sporting event there's a feeling of excitement but there is also dread. You'll miss your kids, and your husband (sort of). But what also happens around a Rugby World Cup is that there will always be some brilliant moments catching up with Kiwis in the street or at the hotel.
My memories include ….
• Running into Graham Mourie dressed up and doing a pub crawl in Paris. He very kindly took me out to dinner that night with a whole bunch of former French internationals who all spoke French (I didn't) and I had to pretend I knew what they were going on about. Rugby is an international language!
• Missing the tour bus to Amsterdam at the end of the 2007 RWC, I had to train instead, and got there a day late.
• In 2001, working with a newly single former Wallaby Jeremy Paul and trying to keep him out of mischief.
• Getting my hair straightened by Dan Cater (that was when he was going through that hair straightening phase).
• Seeing the French team pull their table apart at the player awards evening after they lost the final.
• Going to the 2015 player awards evening, where I was working, and seeing Julian Savea do the limbo under some woman's belt.
The list goes on - and that is the beauty about a Rugby World Cup.
It's not just about the rugby, the commentary or the score, it's also about the friendships, the fun, and the celebrations - all things I'll be looking to bring you over the next month or so!
Good luck to the All Blacks, and to all the people on the mic.
Melodie Robinson is a two-time World Cup winner and General Manager of Sports and Events at TVNZ.
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