Rugby World Cup: Connors backs mate McCaw to win again with All Blacks
PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 September 2015
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Local head coach discusses history behind the Haka and more ahead of New Zealand’s opening fixture
New Zealander Jamie Connors is relishing the prospect of attending his first ever World Cup match over the next six weeks and seeing his old club team mate Richie McCaw hopefully lift the Webb Ellis Cup again.
Kiwi captain McCaw played with Connors, head coach of National League Three South outfit Eton Manor, in Christchurch and although they have led very different lives over the past 16 years, they remain firm friends.
The pair are set to meet up again this winter and will both hope that, come the final on October 31, New Zealand are the first team to retain the trophy.
“I am definitely excited, I have not been to a World Cup before so it will be good and I have the chance to see a few games for the first time,” said Connors.
“New Zealand will be hard to beat, their form has been pretty good. I think they have lost just two or three games since the last World Cup and they have kept their performance levels pretty good and very consistent.
“There are not many occasions when you can say they have performed badly. I think they have got to be favourites and rightly so, but there are probably three or maybe even four sides that on their day can beat New Zealand and anyone so you never know what could happen.”
McCaw captained the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup and played the whole match in the final against France, when they won 8-7 at Auckland’s Eden Park.
It was a fantastic moment for the island country as they triumphed for the second time on the big stage.
Even though McCaw will be focusing on trying to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, he will still make time to meet Connors in the coming weeks.
The Eton Manor coach was full of praise for his old team-mate, who is the most capped Test rugby player of all time with 142 New Zealand caps.
He continues to be a leading force for the All Blacks where rugby is the number one sport in the country. Connors added: “I used to play quite a bit of club rugby with Richie at Christchurch when we were growing up.
“Every time he comes over, me, my brother and a few guys that know him always try and catch up for a drink or a bit of dinner.
“He is a good guy and amazing really. He has got something like 140 Test caps and has been going since 2001 and is going as well as ever! He still tops the All Blacks fitness testing at 34, so he has a good set of lungs on him, that’s for sure.
“Rugby is the number one sport in New Zealand. What football is to England, rugby is to New Zealand. If you go to our country and pick up a paper the first five or six sports pages are all rugby.
“You might find a little bit of football or other sports after that and that is what it is like in England with football really. You pick up any paper and it is all football and the other sports come afterwards.
“Most people growing up find rugby is the first winter sport you play back home, although I played football for a couple of years first and then rugby.
“But that is generally the mainstream sport that we do and people talk about rugby in the pub or at work. It is the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Something that springs to mind when you think of New Zealand is the spine-tingling Haka that the All Blacks perform prior to every test match that they play.
Connors revealed that he used to do it when growing up in front of the television and how you have various different types of the Haka, he said: “There are various forms of the Haka.
“You have the All Blacks one which everyone grows up watching on TV and you are trying to do it when you are young in front of the TV, I certainly remember doing that!
“There are lots of different Hakas in New Zealand and every high school has their own version. What each one does is it tells a story about your school and the background to it.
“That is the New Zealand tradition when it comes to the Haka, it is all about the story of this is our mountain, this is our river and all the different parts of New Zealand.
“The high school I went to has its own Haka and whenever you play any high school matches you do your Haka and the opposition team does their Haka, so I suppose it has been ingrained in Maori culture and New Zealand culture. It is an important part of our history and long may it continue.”
The All Blacks are favourites to retain the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time, but what does Connors think is key to them winning the World Cup for the third time?
“You need to put in three big weeks in a row essentially,” he said. “You have the knock-out games, quarter-finals, semi-finals and you need to put three good performances in for three weeks in a row to win.”
Can they do it? Connors thinks so.
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