World Cup Diary: All Blacks take drinking seriously

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The Independent Online

Less than a week after the first allegations of Queenstown high jinks – or more accurately, given the central role played by a band of dwarfs in that sorry affair, low jinks – it appears the management of the host team are taking a rather different view of matters alcoholic. Where Martin Johnson, the England manager, reacted to his players' boozing in a "boys will be boys" kind of way, the All Blacks have put their troubled wing Zac Guildford on a "self-improvement" programme designed to address his excessive intake. Guildford has not played since his country's Tri-Nations defeat by Australia in Brisbane last month – a game in which he played poorly, sought solace in the bar and annoyed Graham Henry and his coaching staff in the process. Local journalists described Guildford as "sheepish and humble" when he admitted to his problems in public. Those adjectives were not, on the whole, used to describe the England players' attitude following their night at the Altitude Bar.

Kiwis counting the cost of the £6.8m ball

Much has been written, some of it on the basis of things that have actually been said, about the balls being used in this tournament, although improved kicking performances in the second round of pool matches suggest there is nothing wrong with the shape, weight, inflation pressure or dimple count of the Gilbert "Virtuo". If people really want to moan about a ball, there is one candidate: the giant promotional model lugged around the world by Tourism NZ since 2007. It has appeared in front of the Eiffel Tower and at Tower Bridge, at the Tokyo Tower and in Sydney. The cost? A cool £6.8m, which works out at around two-thirds of the entire advertising spend for the competition. Supporters of the project describe it as a "huge success" – but then they would, wouldn't they?

Splish, splosh, splash to slip, slop, slap

Rugby folk with a memory stretching back years rather than days will recall what it used to be like in New Zealand: rain and mud, mud and rain, rain and rain, mud and mud. The famous picture of Fran Cotton, the England prop with a chin like Desperate Dan's, looking as though he had just dragged himself from the primeval swamp was the iconic photograph of the 1977 Lions tour: equally, the so-called "wet" Test between the All Blacks and Scotland in Auckland two years previously said everything that needed saying about conditions here. So what do we hear from the local Cancer Society? Warnings that travelling supporters are putting themselves at risk of sunburn. "Slip, slop, slap and wrap" is the slogan as the UV index levels begin to rise in the spring weather. Put it down to the greenhouse effect.

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