So it’s finally here. After months of preparation and anticipation, the World Cup kicks-off at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff this Saturday afternoon. Over the next few weeks, read my World Cup diary as Love Rugby League covers the tournament.
Travelled down to Cardiff on Friday morning, via an appointment in Birmingham, with the aim of arriving before 3pm to pick up my World Cup accreditation. The queues at the Severn Bridge toll put paid to an on-time arrival. But the World Cup was already well in the mind, thanks to a surprise feature on BBC Radio 1 with none other than Sam Tomkins.
The first rugby league related item I came across in the city centre was big Eorl Crabtree, who let me go at a junction not far from the ground. As the stadium came closer, there were banners and signs adorning the streets.
Arriving at Gate 4, the Italian team were there waiting to get the bus back to their hotel, and there was a real buzz about the place and all sorts of people about.
I bumped in to the RFL’s Rob Singleton, who seems to be following me everywhere since I first met him while judging the Kingstone Press King of the Fans competition at the end of August.
While waiting for the ever efficient Hannah from the RFL’s media team to bring my accreditation down, spied the World Cup’s marketing chief Mark Foster at the top of the stairs holding an impromptu meeting with several others, just before Anthony Minichiello brushed past me to get to the bus.
Came across another familiar face in the shape of the guys from Panoramic, who sort out the branding at games and events, having sat with them at the RFL Community Awards at Old Trafford on the day of the Super League Grand Final.
Accreditation in hand, I set off to my hotel. Took about 40 minutes to go five miles. The first rugby league shirt spotted in Cardiff was a Leeds one – so if you’re “Smudge” number eight, you’ve been spotted.
As I entered reception at the hotel, saw a couple of Widnes shirts, before the receptionist told me they were expecting very bad weather, akin to an apparent hurricane they had back in the 1980s. Thank god for the roof at the Millennium Stadium.
The receptionist did point out that I can get the train to the ground from the station around 200 yards up the road, so that solved my whether to drive / where to park dilemma.
It’s been a mad week trying to get things in place and promoting all the elements of our coverage. Our first podcast was recorded on Wednesday night, and then knowing that I was travelling down on Friday, I had to schedule a number of stories to appear on the site on Thursday evening.
The site is pretty much run wholly by myself, with the odd freelance contribution, so when I’m on the road, keeping up coverage can be a challenge in terms of breaking news. Fortunately, on the eve of the World Cup, there wasn’t too much coming in from the clubs, the main story being confirmation of Kevin Larroyer’s loan move from Catalan to Hull KR.
There was also the very good news, which we reported earlier in the week, that Virgin Media will broadcast Premier Sports during the World Cup, opening up the television coverage to another four million households.
I sat down in the hotel for an evening of work to the news that Steve McNamara had stormed out of his press conference. He was always going to be asked about the absence of one of England’s best players, and the reaction was disappointing. The post-match press conference later today should be interesting, whatever the result.
Took a break for an evening meal and caught Ospreys against Dragons in the RaboDirect Pro 12 league. Ospreys won relatively comfortably, and there were good showings from forward Justin Tipuric and Matthew Morgan at fly-half.
Then it was back to the room to complete my match previews for Sunday’s games, having given up earlier in the day while waiting for France and Samoa to send their teams through, and work through a mountain of emails.
Hit the sack at around 1am, full of anticipation for the opening day of the World Cup.