World Cup Diary: 'Outback' Murdoch to miss premiere

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The Independent Online

They seek him here, they seek him there...all things considered, the darkly intimidating, extravagantly moustachioed front-rower Keith Murdoch, last seen on a rugby field almost 30 years ago, is the most sought-after player in the history of the game in New Zealand. By comparison, Jonah Lomu is common or garden – his story an everyday tale of normal folk.

Murdoch, born in Dunedin midway through the Second World War, was sent home from the All Blacks' tour of the British Isles in 1972 after an outbreak of late-night pugilistic mayhem at the team hotel in Cardiff. When his flight reached Singapore, he broke his connection and headed for the remoteness of the Australian outback, where he has lived and worked ever since.

Terry McLean, a journalist of his acquaintance, once tracked him down to a quarry way out west but did not find him entirely co-operative. "McLean," he is said to have muttered while brandishing a monkey wrench, "you have one minute to turn round and get the fuck out of here."

Another reporter, Margot McRae, was given a marginally warmer welcome in the 1990s, but she too left without the full story. Now, she has written a play on the subject. Finding Murdoch opens in Auckland in a few days' time and is expected to pack 'em in. One man won't be there, of course...

Auckland forks out £50,000 for seats

Len Brown, the mayor of Auckland, decrees that the 900-odd people who missed this tournament's opening ceremony – and, indeed, the New Zealand v Tonga game that followed – because of transport issues in the city will be awarded semi-final tickets costing the best part of £50,000. And who, pray, will be footing at least some of the bill? Step forward the local ratepayers. "We know we can't make up for the experience, but we hope this gesture of goodwill is received in the spirit in which it is made," said Mr Brown. It's always the way – privatise the bouquets, socialise the brickbats.

Locals still putting boot into French

The trouble with being the last side to beat the All Blacks in Auckland – albeit 17 years ago, deep in "forgive and forget" territory – is that the locals tend to give you hell when you return. There was an overpowering whiff of payback in the air when New Zealand socked it to France at Eden Park last weekend: for instance, a major company used part of its advertising budget to advise all Tricolore sportsmen to stick to petanque, on the grounds that this is what they do best. And they're still at it, five days on. One New Zealand scribe informed his readers that Marc Lièvremont, coach of Les Bleus, was particularly angered by a question from a "garlic-scented" French journalist. Dear God. Does this mean Graham Henry has to deal with reporters smelling of lamb shank?