World Cup Diary: RFU in Cloud Cuckoo Land

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The Independent Online

The road to the 2015 World Cup in England begins on the Auckland harbourside, where the RFU chose a convention centre called The Cloud to showcase their preparations. "Is that short for Cloud Cuckoo Land?" asks one invitee, aware that average gates of 58,000 will be needed if targets are to be hit. It is a rum do from start to finish: the host refers to Paul Vaughan, the commercial director of the tournament, as Alan Partridge – Ahaaaa! – while a tacky backdrop features illustrations of Big Ben, Westbury White Horse, Nelson, a red Mini Cooper and... a dalek. Are daleks really English? Then again, they are popularly defined as genetically engineered mutants, which at least makes them eligible for red-rose selection.

How Ennis went down in flames

It is almost exactly 20 years since Canada gave the All Blacks an almighty hurry-up in a World Cup quarter-final in northern France. Two members of that outstanding 1991 pack, the lock Norm Hadley and the No 8 Glen Ennis, are in town, giving it large (or in the giant Hadley's case, giving it extra large) in all the best bars and restaurants. And what might they be doing with themselves these days? Hadley has just ended a 12-year stint in and around the Japanese financial markets and is on his way home to Vancouver, where he might set up a hedge fund. Ennis? Now, there's a tale. A brilliant back-row forward, he now works as a film stuntman and has featured in a couple of X-Men movies. He turns on his trendy phone and shows some footage of a man engulfed in flames. "That's me," he says proudly. "Drink, anyone?"

Figures Hadley might choke on

Expensive, this rugby lark. The last 900 tickets for the final went on sale yesterday, priced between £390 and £650. A pretty penny indeed. There again, you could be a New Zealand taxpayer. Public spending on this tournament is running at more than £111m, with the local authority in Auckland shelling out north of £46m. And this does not include the £280m on stadium upgrades and the £19m losses underwritten by the national government. Crikey. Even Big Norm Hadley might blanch at numbers like these.