Welcome to the weekend, and to the weekend we've been waiting for since 2015.

Rugby fever has taken over the country as Kiwis gear up to watch the All Blacks take on South Africa in their first match of the 2019 World Cup on Saturday. Can we make it a three-peat and bring the cup home again?

If you need some non-rugby related news to keep the nerves at bay this weekend, here's a selection of content from our premium international syndicators.

What really makes the All Blacks so unbeatable?

New Zealand's famed All Blacks are the most successful rugby team of all time, with a win rate of nearly 80 per cent.

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They won the last two World Cups, and the players wear the expectation of a third championship the way they wear the expectation that they will win every time they walk onto the field. And they nearly always do.

That indomitability? It dates from 1903, when the team played its first test match.

We Kiwis are familiar with our pride for the All Blacks, but in this piece The New York Times looks at how that pride reflects generations of history and tradition.

• Also read: Nigel Owens creates a buzz while keeping the peace

• Also read: Rugby underdogs again, the US team hopes to turn a corner

Kieran Read and the All Blacks perform the Haka during the Bledisloe Cup Test match against Australia. Photo / File
Kieran Read and the All Blacks perform the Haka during the Bledisloe Cup Test match against Australia. Photo / File

Iraq faces a new adversary: Crystal meth

Hussein Karim sold his three cars, he sold the land where he planned to build a house, and he spent his savings — several thousand dollars — all on his crystal meth habit.

He is one of thousands of meth addicts in Iraq, a country where drug problems have been rare. But growing addiction here is the most recent manifestation of how the social order has frayed in the years after the US invasion in 2003.

Karim, 32, now lives in a windowless room with his wife, his three children and his disabled brother.

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"If crystal is in front of you, you have to take it," he said as he held his 2-year-old daughter on his lap.

The New York Times reports.

Two suspected drug users were arrested during a night raid targeting a dealer in Basra. Photo / Ivor Prickett, The New York Times
Two suspected drug users were arrested during a night raid targeting a dealer in Basra. Photo / Ivor Prickett, The New York Times

RuPaul on Meghan Markle, the trans debate and Drag Race

When friends hear I am meeting RuPaul, they are more excited than if I were meeting the Queen. RuPaul is, of course, up there with Her Majesty at the pinnacle of glamour and camp. He is also the star of the television show RuPaul's Drag Race, which is arriving in Britain this year after 10 years and 11 series in the US.

RuPaul wanted Meghan Markle as a guest judge but when they were recording she was heavily pregnant.

"The invitation is still open for season 2," he says. "Meghan's arrival in the royal family marks a whole new era. I like the way she challenges the norm."

Katie Glass of The Times sits down with RuPaul.

RuPaul said
RuPaul said "Meghan's arrival as a royal marks a new era." Photo / Getty Images

Notre Dame's toxic fallout

The April fire that engulfed Notre Dame contaminated the cathedral site with clouds of toxic dust and exposed nearby schools, day care centres, public parks and other parts of Paris to alarming levels of lead.

Five months after the fire, French authorities have refused to fully disclose the results of their testing for lead contamination, sowing public confusion, while issuing reassuring statements intended to play down the risks.

A comprehensive investigation by The New York Times has helped fill out an emerging picture of a failed official response. It found significant lapses by French authorities in alerting the public to health risks, even as their understanding of the danger became clearer.

Read the full story here.

Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15. Photo / Getty Images
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15. Photo / Getty Images

Heels that turn into flats: The start-up taking the pain out of fashion

When Haley Pavone, founder of Pashion footwear, pitches her innovative high-heeled shoe business to (overwhelmingly male) sneaker-wearing venture capitalists, she often suggests that they discuss the idea with their wives.

That's because the 23-year-old is pitching a simple idea, but one most men wouldn't understand the need for: heels that turn into flats.

Those who follow her advice tend to return less sceptical and more intrigued, she says. "It's worked every time, it's really funny."

The Financial Times looks at how a US entrepreneur sold her innovative shoes to sceptical venture capitalists.

A US entrepreneur has come up with an innovative idea to combat the problem of painful high heels. Photo / 123RF
A US entrepreneur has come up with an innovative idea to combat the problem of painful high heels. Photo / 123RF

The plight of the office introvert

Ask any introvert what their version of workplace torture is, and it may well be brainstorming sessions.

Other options include orientation breakfasts, trust falls, should we whiteboard it?, team-building yoga, team-building karaoke, team building in general.

Ethan Hauser of The New York Times explains what it's like to live in a near-perpetual state of fear of hearing one simple phrase in the office.

• Also read: Young people are going to save us all from office life

• Also read: The awkward but essential art of office chitchat

"Let's brainstorm." The phrase guaranteed to get the pulses racing of any office introvert. Photo / 123RF

iPhone 11 review: Is it time to upgrade?

Over more than a decade of writing about technology, reviewing a new iPhone has long been one of my simplest assignments.

Year after year, the formula was this: I tested the most important new features of Apple's latest smartphone and assessed whether they were useful. Assuming the newest iPhone worked well, my advice was generally the same — I recommended upgrading if you had owned your existing smartphone for two years.

But with this review of the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max — the newest models that Apple unveiled last week and which will become available Friday — I'm encouraging a different approach. The bottom line? It's time to reset our upgrade criteria.

Brian X. Chen of the New York Times with your not so typical gadget review.

Now is the moment to ask: Do we really need to upgrade our iPhones every two years? Photo / Jim Wilson, The New York Times
Now is the moment to ask: Do we really need to upgrade our iPhones every two years? Photo / Jim Wilson, The New York Times

'People actively hate us': Inside the US border patrol's morale crisis

One Border Patrol agent in Tucson, Arizona, said he had been called a "sellout" and a "kid killer." In El Paso, Texas, an agent said he and his colleagues in uniform had avoided eating lunch together except at certain "BP friendly" restaurants because "there's always the possibility of them spitting in your food." An agent in Arizona quit last year out of frustration. "Caging people for a nonviolent activity," he said, "started to eat away at me."

For decades, the Border Patrol was a largely invisible security force. Two years ago, when President Donald Trump entered the White House with a pledge to close the door on illegal immigration, all that changed.

The New York Times looks at how overwhelmed by desperate migrants and criticised for mistreating the people in their care, many agents have grown defensive, insular and bitter.

Eduardo Jacobo, who has served as a Border Patrol agent in the El Centro Sector for about a decade. Photo / Kendrick Brinson, The New York Times
Eduardo Jacobo, who has served as a Border Patrol agent in the El Centro Sector for about a decade. Photo / Kendrick Brinson, The New York Times

I had a non-surgical face lift, does that make me a bad feminist?

It is more than 20 years since the feminist journalist Angela Neustatter was accused of "betraying the sisterhood" by having cosmetic surgery on her eyes. She was, she wrote, "amazed by how puritanical the younger feminists are". I wasn't remotely amazed, I must confess, because back then I was one of them.

Yes, well. Fast forward to 2019, and the wrinkles and jowls in the mirror made me feel not only bad but sad. Having been widowed in my early forties, and then undergone chemotherapy and surgery for cancer, I knew I should feel lucky just to be alive. To care about my face collapsing would be plainly ridiculous. The trouble was, I did.

For Decca Aitkenhead of The Times, non-surgical 'tweakments' seemed like the pick-me-up she needed after personal and physical upheaval in her life.

But could she get past feeling like a guilty feminist?

Does getting a non-surgical face life make you a bad feminist? Photo / 123RF
Does getting a non-surgical face life make you a bad feminist? Photo / 123RF

Why this scientist keeps receiving packages of serial killers' hair

Those fortunate enough to have a head of hair generally leave 50 to 100 strands behind on any given day. Those hairs are hardy, capable of withstanding years or even centuries of rain, heat and wind.

The trouble for detectives, or anyone else seeking to figure out who a strand of hair belonged to, is that unless it contains a root, which only a tiny percentage do, it's about as helpful as a nearby rock.

Getting sufficient DNA out of a rootless hair has long been considered impossible. But now a scientist, better known for work with ancient fossils, has figured it out.

The New York Times looks at how this is a game-changer for crime and surveillance.

A scientist in the United States has developed a technique that makes it possible to recover and sequence DNA from hair without the root. Photo / 123RF
A scientist in the United States has developed a technique that makes it possible to recover and sequence DNA from hair without the root. Photo / 123RF

Vaping Bad: Were two brothers the Walter Whites of THC oils?

The drug bust shattered the early morning stillness of this manicured subdivision in southeastern Wisconsin. The police pulled up outside a white-shuttered brick condo, jolting neighbours out of their beds with the thud of heavy banging on a door.

What they found inside was not crystal meth or cocaine or fentanyl but slim boxes of vaping cartridges labelled with flavours like strawberry and peaches and cream. An additional 98,000 cartridges lay empty. Fifty-seven Mason jars nearby contained a substance that resembled dark honey: THC-laced liquid used for vaping, a practice that is now at the heart of a major public health scare sweeping the United States.

The key players in this operation were two brothers, barely in their 20s.

The New York Times looks at the vast black market for vaping supplies.

Brothers Tyler Huffhines and Jacob Huffhines were arrested following a bust on black market vaping supplies. Photo / Kenosha County Sheriff's Department via The New York Times
Brothers Tyler Huffhines and Jacob Huffhines were arrested following a bust on black market vaping supplies. Photo / Kenosha County Sheriff's Department via The New York Times