The Rugby World Cup is the premier international rugby union competition. The tournament is one of the largest international sporting competitions in the world, surpassed in scale only by the FIFA World Cup, the summer Olympics and the Four de France.
And right now New Zealand is gripped in its fever like never before. And, believe me, in a rugby mad country, that is saying something. New Zealand is hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The inaugural tournament was held in 1987, when the All Blacks, the New Zealand national team, became the first ever champions and the country has plunged into despondancy every subsequent four years when they failed to win it again. Some even see the outcome as a prediction for the government at the following elections. The governament in power at the time of each loss is judged harshly.
This year the expectation on the All Blacks is huge. Home game advantage and all that.
Here in the north we will have two games, featuring three teams, Canada, Tonga and Japan, all teams that wear red. So Paint it Red is the theme. Whangarei has been spruced up ready to welcome our international visitors. I am doing my best to get into the spirit of things, have flags flying from the front of my deck, giving equal prominence to Australia and New Zealand. There's a strong wind today and Ireland blew away!
I can't compete with this place, though.
And in another corner of the same premises they have painted it red:
I'm looking forward to Wednesday and the game I will be attending, Canada Vs Tonga. I tip Tonga to win but will be supporting my Canadian son-in-law and half Canadian grandson. I'm so glad Tonga will be playing, the Tongan community in Auckland have been fabulous in their enthusiasm and support of their team and the event. The scene from the wonderful opening night that clings to my mind is that of a big, burly Tongan player with tears of emotion streaming down his face as he sang his National Anthem before the start of the first game. I'm glad I have a Tongan flag flying.
But do you want to know what the best, the very best, thing about it all is? My younger son is returning from Brazil to enjoy it all. OK, he might have come home for his 40th birthday anyway but the RWC sealed the deal!
Go the Wallabies!