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Q+A: Panel discussion on RWC

Published: 2:39PM Sunday October 23, 2011 Source: Q+A

PANEL DISCUSSION moderated by PAUL HOLMES


PAUL Time to welcome our World Cup panel. Dr Jon Johansson of Victoria University is our regular political analyst and also played senior grade rugby on the wing for the Merivale - Papanui in Christchurch. I played as a prop very badly for Haumoana School. I never understood what I was doing in a scrum and where the ball went after it got out.
JON JOHANSSON - Political Analyst
You were a prop, Paul?
PAUL I was a prop. David Kirk was also a useful player - 17 Tests at halfback for the All Blacks. We all remember him, of course, as the only All Blacks captain to lift the Rugby World Cup, although we're hoping this day he loses that honour. But of course he also worked in the Beehive during the Bolger years, and he sought National Party nomination for Tamaki in the 1992 by-election. He went on to be chief executive of the Fairfax Media Group, which bought Trade Me under his rein, and is now executive chairman of the Bailador Investment Management in Sydney.
Michael Jones is with us this morning. Michael is one of our genuine rugby legends. The statue outside the ground of Eden Park is proof of that. And, you know, it's amazing. You're the only man with a statue outside Eden Park and you couldn't get in this morning.
(LAUGHTER)
MICHAEL JONES - Former All Black
That's right.
PAUL I knew that'd happen. He was the first man to score a try at a Rugby World Cup back in 1987. What a great moment. But he too has dabbled in the idea of politics. He was widely touted as a potential National Party MP in this year's election before he opted to put family considerations first. He is now a strategic manager for the Reef Group, a freight and shipping company operating in the South Pacific. Good morning to all of youse. What an amazing day to be back at Eden Park, and you were telling me before you're so glad it's this time of the morning.
DAVID KIRK - 1987 World Cup Captain
Yeah, exactly right. I said, even if we hadn't had the programme to shoot here, I would have loved to have come here and just walked around Eden Park - no one here, this air of expectation and the goosebumps. It's a wonderful feeling at the moment here.
PAUL And what do you feel about being here? I mean, 24 years on, this is Cup final day.
MICHAEL Yeah, it's quite surreal, really, Paul. I mean, like Kirky just... I mean, things have changed, but just the sort of almost... smell the liniment and sense that the boys are going to run out for what is such a historical day. But it only just seems like yesterday, I must admit.
PAUL How's the tournament gone, do you think? How's it gone? How's it played?
MICHAEL Well, I... I mean, we have to applaud the leadership around what has taken place. I mean, I've seen not only Mr McCully but Martin Sneddon and the whole 2011 Rugby World Cup, you know, operation - it's just been unbelievable. I've been privileged to be part of the volunteer programme, and just to see how the New Zealand public have gotten behind this - it's just been such a showcase of New Zealand Inc, but I think most importantly in terms of outside the rugby, about a celebration of the power of rugby to bring a nation together and just showcase everything that's great about this fantastic country.
PAUL You make a good point - the celebration of New Zealand Inc, and I think New Zealand Inc has projected itself very well to the world. It's said, "Come have a look at us."
JON And particularly to my eyes, Paul, provincial New Zealand - the way that it has embraced the World Cup has been tremendous to watch, and, you know, seeing people in New Plymouth becoming Russian for a week has been exhilarating for both them and the rest of us to watch, so I've loved that aspect of it too, and I guess, you know, from the comments that I heard about the next tournament, it seems that the way that we have showcased as a stadium of four million, as it's been said, seems to be replicated in the following tournament too, where they're going to have more decentralised...
PAUL Yes, but it's a brilliant concept, that stadium of four million. It really was a brilliant concept, wasn't it?
JON Yeah, and we've had a tough old year, so, you know, this has been a... not so much necessary, but a good diversion away from a lot of that toughness in Canterbury and elsewhere.
PAUL Yes, when you were on the wing for Papanui-Merivale, did you ever wonder if you'd be broadcasting live from Eden Park on Cup day?
JON In those days, mate, Lancaster Park was it. I mean, you always feel a bit of a foreigner being a Cantabrian up here.
DAVID Quite right too.
PAUL What were your thoughts when you arrived in the bus that day for this final against the French back in '87?
DAVID Well, always before Test matches, there was sort of a little bit of a feeling of dread, you know. "I want to go out there. I want to be part of it. I want to win." But, you know, there's a fear of failure and the fear of not living up to the expectations of yourself and your team was always part of it. But mostly on that day, it was this overriding feeling that this is a unique opportunity: "I've got an opportunity, this team's got an opportunity. We just have to take it."
PAUL Interesting point, too - today is a Sunday, Michael Jones, and of course the reason you don't have the number of Tests you probably should have accumulated as an All Black was so often the games were on Sundays - the big World Cup matches. If you were still playing as an All Black, would you be playing tonight?
MICHAEL (laughs) No, I mean, nothing's changed in terms of, you know, my...
PAUL Your beliefs?
MICHAEL It's always been a conviction of mine. But it's interesting, Paul, that I probably wouldn't even have been in the team, because we were fortunate back in the day that we were amateur and we didn't sign contracts and, you know, played solely for the love of it...
PAUL But now it'd be in your contract, yeah.
MICHAEL If we were required to sign a contract, I would have been precluded from playing.
PAUL Parts of the Sky coverage, I have to say, that's gone out to the world, had those little vignettes of the towns in which the games are being played. And the world saw a different New Zealand - they suddenly realised that New Zealand is not necessarily pouring rain at Carisbrook - you know, when the games are usually July and August. They see that we have a spring, we have golden light, we have summer coming and so forth. Advertising can't buy you that.
DAVID No, that's exactly right, and that's.... You know, when people tot up the economics of the World Cup and did we make money out of it, was it good for the country, that's the big unquantifiable benefit that we've got. We've sent out massive positive branding messages to the rest of the world. It's fantastic.
PAUL Well, you live in Australia. Has the country looked good?
DAVID The country's looked fantastic, and it's really what Jon was saying before - what people have been sort of amazed about, and this has been the only great sporting event in the world that has been able to do it this way, every little town, every little part of New Zealand has just given a big hug to our visitors and made them feel really welcome, and that's been wonderful.
PAUL I know. Everyone in Remuera became Scottish. I wondered what all these Scottish flags were doing one day. I said, "What the hell's going on round here?"
JON What happened after the Scots went out, Paul?
PAUL No, they're still flying the Scottish flags. Don't worry. We're still very loyal. They are still very loyal. We talk about the... I don't even remember the opening ceremony. I was at the game in '87, but I don't even remember the opening ceremony. It was so hokey and kind of downcast. And this one, of course, was a multimillion-dollar job up there with the Olympics. So we must marvel at how big the Rugby World Cup tournament has become, but is commercialisation of the event a bit of a worry? I mean, if you take that mouth guard business, the attitude of the IRB - and we'll speak about this later, the attitude of the IRB to Pacific Island teams - but was that excessive? $10,000 fine for that boy?
MICHAEL I mean, certainly from where I sat, and I wasn't involved with any of the Pacific Island teams this year, but just as I think as a fair-dinkum Kiwi, I mean, we love the thought of fairness and that everyone's treated on an even playing field, and we just... Yeah, I certainly felt that it was a bit over the top. I mean, I don't think any New Zealander even noticed that there was anything on that mouth guard until it was raised, so...
PAUL No, no, exactly. And others were doing it.
MICHAEL And others were doing it.
PAUL It made the IRB look like, you know, the old gin-soaked, high-handed Northern Hemisphere wallahs and Poms that we all suspect they are.
JON And they don't need much help in that regard.
PAUL They don't need much help in that regard. But let's talk about the Pacific thing, Michael, because I quite admired the boy for tweeting his dissatisfactions, and there's an attitude to the Pacific Islands - the squeezed playing schedule. Even at Zinzan Brooke's This is Your Life the other night, Will Carling was talking to Mike Brewer about it. It's too squeezed - for the minnows, particularly, and the Pacific Islands.
MICHAEL Yeah, I mean, I think again - young Eliota, there was a lot of sympathy for the young man. I mean, he's a very outspoken... I mean, I don't think David and myself would have gone about our messaging that way, and using that language or those analogies, certainly not. But, I mean, even the IRB have admitted that some of those calls had justification. So...
PAUL Discussion has began, hasn't it?
MICHAEL Yeah, so essentially the challenge really is what next? I mean, is there going to be some key calls made? I mean, it takes some strong leadership to make some of these calls, but I've already heard whispers that even that whole area about scheduling is going to be shifted so that it is... Again, it's all about a level playing field, and that's...
PAUL A fellow was writing the other day, saying it's almost institutionalised racism. You look at this, David. Consider this. The IRB council... The eight foundation unions each have two seats - Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan each have one seat on the council. And Tonga and Samoa don't have a seat on that council, and they play higher up the scale than Canada or Italy.
DAVID I don't think...
PAUL I mean, it's ludicrous.
DAVID Yeah, I agree. It's absolutely wrong. It's not racism, though. They've made that decision not on the basis of race, but on the basis of historical playing power in history and engagement with the national governing body. But it's time to change that.
PAUL Yeah. Do the IRB, on the other hand, get an undeserved bad rap? Because they do hand out a fortune to the smaller nations. I think in the last... �300 million... Do you notice, by the way, when you read IRB figures, it's always pounds? It's always pounds. But, like, they hand out massive amounts to 117 member unions. Do they get...?
DAVID They do, and that is great work that they do, and we've seen the benefit of that work at this Rugby World Cup. We've seen, you know, Romania, Russia, the United States - all of those countries really lifting, and that's partly to do with that development money, so we do have to give them a big tick for that.
JON And also...
PAUL Quickly, Jon.
JON ...in a way if they were making a pure commercial decision, the Rugby World Cup wouldn't have been here.
PAUL No, that's true. Because while virtually all the tickets were sold,...
JON But bigger media markets.
PAUL ...the stadia are down in size, that's right.

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