25 October 2011
The success of the All Blacks this weekend and the massive displays of public enthusiasm which followed, suggest not only satisfaction and relief at the outcome of the Rugby World Cup, but that New Zealanders have been very interested and involved in the tournament. It may be hard to find many who have not been caught up in the drama of the Cup final. A year ago, in the UMR survey of Interest in Sport, 70% responded that they were very interested or fairly interested in rugby. Figures for netball were 58%, football 54%, league 52% and cricket 48%.
Weekend successes for New Zealand national teams in rugby, netball and cricket would probably mean that a survey taken now would reflect greater levels of interest.
Sunday’s match against France was, of course, on the anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Were it not for the fact that struggle was against the French team, the attrition among the All Blacks perhaps could be seen as more reminiscent of the Western Front. And that too has a memorable connection.
On 23 October 1918 one of New Zealand’s Victoria Cross winners was killed in action at Beaudignies. Sergeant Henry Nicholas, a carpenter from Christchurch, was serving with the Canterbury Regiment. He was awarded the VC for his part in the New Zealand Division attack on Polderhoek Chateau on 3 December 1917. He led an attack on a strongpoint that was inflicting heavy casualties on advancing troops. He used grenades and a bayonet to overcome the 16 men in the German position.