World Cup Diary: Kiwis resort to prayer in pursuit of promised land

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The Independent Online

What is it with New Zealand churches? Not to be outdone by the All Saints Anglican community in Invercargill, who are proudly flying an All Black flag, one of Auckland's most talked-about Christian establishments, St Matthew-in-the-City, has gone the whole hog. Fearlessly "progressive" – trendy, in other words – it tells those interested in going along not to expect anything so passé as a Bible study group. What it can promise is unstinting support for the All Blacks. Outside, on a huge billboard, is a poster featuring a ghostly David Kirk, captain of this country's one and only World Cup-winning side, and the instruction "Pray like it's 1987". One other thing: St Matthew-in-the-City produces a publication entitled OMG (the text generation will get it). The subject for debate in the current issue is: "Has religion come to this?" Quite.

Murray takes a vow of silence

Talking of which, Euan Murray will play for Scotland against England tomorrow. Why? Because the game is on a Saturday, not a Sunday. Two decades after Michael Jones, perhaps the finest flanker of the post-war era, compromised the All Blacks' defence of their world title on grounds of conscience – he famously refused to participate in the pivotal match of the 1991 tournament, a semi-final against Australia in Dublin, because it was played on the Sabbath – the deeply devout Newcastle prop has this one chance to make a name for himself at this competition. Should Scotland progress to the knock-out stage, all remaining fixtures will go ahead during the wrong bit of the week. Murray flatly refused to talk about his religious beliefs yesterday. Evangelical one moment, Trappist the next. Confusing.

French filth goes down badly in NZ

The New Zealand media's assault on all things French continues. Yesterday, the Herald trumpeted a special feature on "French Filth", quoting France coach, Dave Ellis, as saying that his players had been "too clean". Accompanying this was a rogues' gallery of Les Bleus bruisers. Of Pascal Ondarts, one of the props in the 1986 "Battle of Nantes", they wrote: "It is not known whether it was he who ripped Wayne Shelford's scrotum, but he would not have been far from the crime." An interesting approach to jurisprudence, you will agree.

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