Friday, June 15, 2007


I’ve been playing rugby since I was eleven. For me, it is the game they play in heaven. Last week, I was in New Zealand for the two French tests and was lucky enough to be invited into their box by the New Zealand Rugby Union. It was just great, a chance to catch up with friends from way back, like Eddie Tonks, a former Chairman of New Zealand Rugby Union; Jock Hobbs, the current Chairman, ex-All Black Captain and ex-Vale of Lune Captain!; Peter Keen and Steven Smith the Lion Nathan Supremus.

Friday night in Wellington saw a great dinner at Shed 5 with Stephen Overend, New Zealand’s most friendly maitre d’, in charge. Murray Mexted, an All Black legend and No. 8, put together an entertaining table headed by Dave Loveridge, probably New Zealand’s greatest ever halfback, and along with Gareth Edwards, one of the two best halfbacks the world has ever known. Nigel Melville, ex-England Captain, British Lion and USA Rugby CEO, held up the Northern Hemisphere’s end and, we were joined by the most passionate rugby guy I’ve ever met, Bill Middleton, another Kiwi who is on USA Rugby’s Board. A bunch of old Wellington and All Black players also joined us, including Earle Kirton who was my boyhood hero. Families being what they are, his younger son Dan was having a few beers with my eldest son Ben in London as his Dad and I were pouring them back in Wellington. Graham Henry, Wayne Smith, Steve Hanson, Mike Cron and the All Black coaching team were also at Shed 5. Even the French coaching team showed up there, but they took one look around at their Kiwi counterparts and headed to another restaurant. I guess being in such close proximity the night before a game was too much even for rugby families to endure.

Saturday came with a lot of catch-ups with ex Lion Nathan friends such as Dennis Pickup, Peter Keane, Steve Smith, Fraser Holland and other Steinlager advocates. Steinlager, New Zealand’s finest beer, has been revamped brilliantly with a new flanker called Steinlager Pure. It comes in very modern packaging, with no additives or preservatives, and beautifully captures New Zealand’s pure green global positioning. For those of us brought up on Steinlager, it has suffered over the years from its reputation for delivering the most potent of hangovers. When I worked for the company, our brewers always told me this was not justified and had more to do with the quantity consumed! Steinlager Pure, however, really attacks this issue head-on and in a positive way. It is a terrific piece of positioning. Unfortunately, Sod’s Law kicked in and I wasn’t wasn’t able to taste it as the product didn’t arrive in time for the Wellington test. They did have some in the Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge on the way home, but 8:30am on a Sunday morning was too much for even for me.

The global rugby community is something special and is unparalleled in sport. Our dream at US Rugby is “to inspire Americans to love rugby the way we do”. A big part of that is the lifelong international community that goes with the game. If you’ve got kids, throw them an oval ball and get them a DVD of Dan Carter. They’ll thank you for life.


Susan956 said...


May I strongly recommend that in any promotion footage for rugby you work to include footage of the paralympians rugby teams? The wheelblacks from NZ have a site:

I know that several British teams are in rigorous comps leading up to Beijing 2008 and the sport is wonderful to watch.

To be honest, I had not thought of this until recently when I was composing questions for a show and trying to locate more original topics. I realised how often the paralympics are left out of sporting topics and when I watched various pieces of footage the dexterity and skill really hit home.

Of course, making parents feel good and welcome is always going to be an aspect of encouraging a kid's sport. I belong to one of the best US based knitting forums and the women there often (!) speak of baseball games where they are actively encouraged to knit. They call it "pitch and stitch" (play on stitch and bitch generally applied in knitting circles).

I just love hanging around different topics - you learn so much about what makes people feel good and what they'd love to have!

Kempton said...

Thanks Kevin. You made Rugby sounds interesting and exciting to someone (aka me) that hasn't seen a single complete game of Rugby. Well done. May be I will check out a game next time I see it playing somewhere (in the field or on TV).

Susan956 said...

kempton..what was it specifically that Kevin expressed or 'wove' that led you to feel that way?... because (to my mind) he spoke minimally of the game itself but strongly of the friendships (which as I have said before is thematic for Kevin). This in itself may have been enough for you of course.

For the sake of discussion, there are only a few sports that can really draw me in to watch a full game of, however, that said, one can still be a supporter of a sport without necessarily being a devoted fan or regular watcher. You can support each week and yet rarely watch a game. Perhaps 'support' is more head/intellectual/cause/goal based and being a devoted 'fan' is more emotion. Some people display both, some can be a fan and never really support as such and so on.

Kempton said...

Hello susan956,

I think you got it, it was the people, friendships and passions described in the blog entry that got through to me about Ruby. My rationale (good or bad) was -- Hmmm, all these passionate people play this game, Ruby could be interesting, lets check it out.

It is mostly this paragraph, "Murray Mexted, an All Black legend and No. 8, put together an entertaining table headed by Dave Loveridge, probably New Zealand’s greatest ever halfback, and along with Gareth Edwards, one of the two best halfbacks the world has ever known. Nigel Melville, ex-England Captain, British Lion and USA Rugby CEO, held up the [...] I guess being in such close proximity the night before a game was too much even for rugby families to endure."

Mind you Susan, I will check out "a game" but I don't know if I will keep watching. But from zero to one, thats a big jump.

Susan (and Kevin), please allow me to go on to a tangent for a moment. I don't gamble on horses and don't know anything about horse racings, but when the well loved Hong Kong horse racing commentator Bill Tung
gave his speedy and distinctive delivery of a race commentary, I always stop to listen. Even I had no clues of the whole race nor care about the outcomes. Bill was that great.

I think Kevin's "achievement" here is he managed to get me try to watch "one" match. Will see if I get hooked.

Susan and Kevin, thanks for indulging my tangent for letting me talk about Bill Tung. I am sure Bill's commentary had added over the years a few billion dollars into the account of the Hong Kong Jockey club (a charitable organization) for use to help the poor and needy.

Best Regards,

Susan956 said...


Thank you for the fulsome and educative response. I absolutely understand your commentary about Bill Tung albeit I have never heard him. I believe as children we learn a certain reverence towards icons and iconic moments thus I would have to think most in my generation would recall Bob Hawke's response to us winning the America's Cup 'that' year oh so well.

I can think of several race or event callers (Indi is one) who I know the voices of but perhaps not the name although most in Australia over 20 would know the voice of Richie Benaud.

I can think of another commentator (two!) who gets so emotional many find that person someone 'lame' (to use contemporary vernacular) and yet his emotion seems so real and so well intended you begrudgingly have to love the guy. In a way this is what I meant by a comment some blogs back about the role of 'forgiveness'.

You Kempton, as you have stated in part, warmed and responded to the friendship and passion as evoked by Kevin. Yet I know people who would want to feel they could enjoy the sport in relative peace and without necessary social interaction - certainly interaction that was not intense. This latter group would be much smaller than the first but does exist, and, is sometimes pegged to a given generation.

So, in composing say a television advertisement to encourage watching rugby, would you correlate that to passion/social or enjoyment/relative social silence? and so on.

Of course much depends on budget and whether a series of ads will be encouraged or a single power ad created.

My first thought would be to spend 75% (or a little more) on the passion/social but to allow moments of relative silence. I mentioned the wheelblacks earlier and I would consider whether an excerpt from their play would 'fit'. This 'stuff' can be breast swelling material and thus draw evocation and attention. There is also some marvelous historical film footage around (some INCREDIBLE archival footage for NZ across various fields). Perhaps a few frames of someone simply enjoying a game solo in their living room, on their yacht, or dare I say it *glancing around for Belot* on their laptop in an airport lounge?

30secs is a short time but a lot can happen in 30secs.


Simon said...

Hi Kevin,
My 13 year old is a mad-keen rugby player. Is there really a Dan Carter DVD, or were you generalising? If there is, I'd like to get hold of it for him.

Tony said...

... and it was good!

Just had my first bottle of Pure, and I can give it a big "thumbs up". Well done Steiny!

Andy Meachen said...

It seems slighly stange to me that I should be commenting here years after your initial blog, especially as I am not normally given to such actions. However my search online for "Jock Hobbs Vale of Lune" provided only one result that matched 100%; your blog.
I remember watching Jock play for Vale in, I think, 1980. Before he retured to New Zealand to Captain the All Blacks, he was a fiercely detirmined played and made a real impression upon me, a young schooboy learning the game at Lancaster RGS.
Your reference to the rugby family is spot on. The friendships I have, have bonds that do not exist commonly beyond the game. The game makes you selfless the team is the thing that matters.
The most important thing though, is the Game. Rugby. It's interesting that my search has led me to someone who developed their passion for the Game on the same fields as I did.
I wish you well in your efforts to grow the game in the USA.
Rugby is the Game they play in Heaven, and today the standard will have lept. Jock Hobbs was a great player and a great contributor to our Game.