It was off to Rochdale on Monday for probably the story of the tournament, so far at least.
The relationship between the town and Fiji dates back more than 50 years, and I suggest you read this fine article in the Daily Telegraph to get up to speed, if you’re not already.
My day started at 8am, putting together my World Cup diary entry and then typing up some of the reaction from the previous night’s game between New Zealand and Samoa.
That took me through to about 10am, when I had an appointment elsewhere. Having been working basically non-stop all weekend, I was able to have at least a few hours off during the day. Not that it meant a re-charge of batteries, given that I ended up at a soft play centre with my girlfriend’s two-year old niece.
I didn’t go too long without some World Cup related work though, as news of Sam Burgess’ one match ban filtered through. Got that up on the site, and it sat nicely around the scheduled pieces I’d already prepared.
Set off for Rochdale at around 4.15. Accreditation was opening at 5, and I wanted to try and avoid the M62 rush around Manchester. The last time I’d covered a game at Rochdale was back in 2008 when I saw Gateshead win there, and I’d only just about forgotten about how cold it was that night, so I packed a good few layers and chucked in the big coat.
Parked not far from the ground, and bumped in to “face of the tournament” Tom Coates doing his bit in the car park, and there was already plenty of people about, even at half 5.
It was very busy inside the main stand at Spotland, with people obviously there for the hospitality. Made my way in to the press room to be greeted by Nathan Lawrenson, who had saved me a seat.
There had been worries about where we’d all been sitting, as we were told there was about 47 press for 20 press seats, although a few extras benches had been put out. I needn’t have worried. Myself, Nathan, Gary Carter from The Sun and a handful of others watched the game from the comfort of the press room at the desks along the window (see pic). Big coat didn’t get used!
I’m not a massive fan of getting to games early, and here I was a good two hours before kick-off. Borrowed some headphones to type up some remaining interviews and press conference clips I had, but dodged the ever-increasing email build up I had in my inbox in favour of some very nice cheesecake.
There was a bit of a debate as to whether Fiji had a haka or not; turned out they didn’t.
The match was a bruising encounter to match that of the previous night, and it was another enjoyable World Cup experience, made all the more exciting by the occasion at Rochdale.
A late flurry of points meant match reports were ripped up a few times, as Akuila Uate crossed for a hat-trick, and then Ireland tagged on a couple of late tries.
Didn’t have to move very far for the press conference, which was held in the press room. Mark Aston and Liam Finn came to the room relatively quickly, but we were waiting for what felt like an age for Rick Stone and Petero Civoniceva.
I must say, I’m in awe of Steve Mascord, the Australian journalist. His professionalism, knowledge of the game and rapport with seemingly everyone from players to coaches, officials to other press, is incredible. I studied Journalism at university, but it’s only when you can be around people like Steve and see the way they work that you can learn what it’s like to be a “real” journalist.
Both press conferences were relatively upbeat. Mark Aston is always good for a quote or two, and the questioning was led by Championship expert and our podcast man Dave Parkinson. There seemed to be a little discontent, from Finn in particular, about Ireland’s preparation to the tournament in terms of the facilities they had for training.
That may well turn in to an interesting angle for a story at some point. As 11pm passed by, it was time to brave the rain and get back to the car. Sat in traffic for a bit, and then had to take a mini-detour as the M62 junction I wanted was closed. Got home shortly before midnight, meaning another World Cup adventure in the books.
Unfortunately, not making it to Workington on Tuesday due to other commitments; if I’m honest, had the accreditation email not had to have been confirmed before Sunday, I probably would have tried harder to find a way to get there and pass on my other work.
World Cup fever eh!