Rugby writer Jamie Wall shares his tips on the fan experience for following the All Blacks overseas
I have to admit I've got one of the better jobs going around. Following the All Blacks gives me the opportunity to see the world and experience some of rugby's greatest stadiums. Here are a few highlights and tips from my travels, for anyone keen to head off on a rugby adventure overseas.
This is more of a place that All Blacks fans feel they have to go to because it's the venue for this year's World Cup final. Watching the World Cup is going to involve a lot of train rides for travelling Kiwi fans, so it will be wise to adjust your beer intake accordingly if you are travelling back to the epicentre of Tokyo and its Shibuya and Shinjuku nightlife post-match. Yokohama does have some cool areas, though, but it will involve at least a taxi ride from the stadium, which is very much in the middle of nowhere.
English rugby fans aren't exactly noted for their humility, but you can get a pretty good gauge on why when you enter the incredible home of their game in southwest London. Seating 82,000, "Headquarters" is an incredibly imposing venue. Nearby, planes taking off from Heathrow track a flight path above, but it's impossible to hear them over the crowd when they're in full voice. Getting there from the city is a decent ride on the train, and prepare to get wet on the walk to and from the station if the weather turns foul (spoiler: if it's on an All Blacks end-of-year tour, it will).
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Things are a bit different in Dublin rugby-wise since the Irish figured out how to beat the All Blacks. That said, the off-field experience is still incredible. On the Friday morning before a test match, simply getting up and watching all the brewery trucks deliver their kegs to the city's pubs is an amazing sight as they are tossed down and rolled across the cobbled streets with military precision. Lansdowne Road is about a 40-minute walk from Temple Bar, the main tourist hospitality district, and there are plenty of pubs around the historical site that has been rebuilt into a fantastically atmospheric stadium.
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Rome isn't exactly noted for being a hotbed of rugby. But the famous Stadio Olimpico on the western bank of the River Tiber is worth a trip for its place in wider New Zealand sporting history: it's the track where Murray Halberg and Peter Snell won gold within an hour of each other at the 1960 Olympics. As well as that, Rome during the winter is (slightly) less congested with tourists, and a good tip is to get out and see the ancient forum and other ruins at night when the area is virtually deserted.
Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
If you like old school, you'll enjoy the Buenos Aires rugby experience. Los Pumas' home ground is a concrete-terraced, barbed-wire-ringed enclosure deep in the heart of BA, where the traffic is insane and atmosphere of game day starts permeating the air before you've even left the highway. Local fans come in huge groups, sporting their club colours and singing relentlessly. There is a huge fan area with music, games for the kids and local food, which mostly consists of steak, red wine and empanadas - a type of spicy meat-filled turnover that goes down really well with a beer.
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Many Kiwis are no strangers to Brisbane and the surrounding area, but there is something pretty special about their footy field. While Suncorp is primarily a league ground, it does a sensational job of hosting rugby as well, mainly down to the closeness of the crowd to the pitch and short hop to the legendary Caxton Hotel across the road. There's plenty of other bars on Caxton St too, but it's not too far from the South Bank area as well if you're planning on starting your night there. Plus, no matter what time of year, it'll be nice and warm.
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Jamie Wall's Brothers In Black is published by Allen & Unwin. RRP: $36.99 allenandunwin.com