The kings of round two roll out red carpet
Expecting some of the in-form Flying Fijians to be in attendance, RNS attended a media briefing in Bordeaux on Friday to be greeted only by the team's strength and conditioning coach, Nacanieli Cawanibuka, because the players were "all tired". From celebrating their Pool C victory over Australia just a little to much? No, "from meeting the king" earlier that day.
Certainly a precious moment for Flying Fijians and Fiji Rugby as whole. Our team was greeted by His Majesty King Charles III.— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) September 22, 2023
His Majesty also wished good luck to the team for the upcoming matches.#RWC2023#duavataveilomanirakavi pic.twitter.com/4w7dfqgYkK
Cawanibuka picks up the story: "It was a great experience. We formed a walkway for him and escorted him out and the boys sang a prayer song for him... what the warriors back home in their villages would do to protect their chief. It was quite special.
"Before he boarded his car, the boys all stood there and sang a prayer song. I'm not sure if King Charles understood the words but that's what's special about Fiji culture, we sing a prayer hymn that has a lot of deep meaning. He quite enjoyed it and the boys really enjoyed the experience.
"We never dreamt as rugby players to experience something like that, but it's the blessing of the talent that these boys have. It was a cool experience."
Change of career
Tonga's defence coach Dale MacLeod has not always been in the business of rugby. He was an automotive and marine engineer and he used to race boats before the 2011 earthquakes hit in Christchurch, New Zealand.
He said: "I was self-employed, I had 12 staff. So how you interact with them and how you treat them, no different to a rugby team. Being well organised and well planned. I used to race boats, that was the same, everything had to be right.
"So everything I was learning then I can apply here. I suppose it was the earthquakes that really made me have to choose one, as the earthquakes in Christchurch brought my businesses down. So from there I was at a rugby club and they said, 'We want you to come here full-time'. Once I found my staff new jobs that was it and I turned to rugby.
"That is how all of that happened otherwise I don't know what I would be doing right now. I could be racing boats, working still - well this is work but I don't see this as work."
Lowe gives it some lip
Ireland wing James Lowe was in typically sparky form as he spoke to journalists in the build-up to Saturday's pivotal Pool B match against South Africa.
After ribbing team-mate Andrew Porter, sat alongside him, as the prop addressed questions about his willingness to play a full 80 minutes against the Springboks' 'nuke squad' - "He’s a freak, he can go 80!” - and Porter's fitness - “Have you seen the Instas he puts up of himself with his top off and stuff?!” - Lowe was asked about his new moustache.
“I got bullied into it!" he said. "My wife was well pissed off this morning when I Facetimed her. She was teasing all the other girls and partners, saying her husband hadn’t got a tache yet. She was surprised when I rang her but that was only because I had a moustache. But it is here to stay!”
Luc Alphand may not have played rugby to a high level - his only two matches as a school kid ended in a broken rib and a broken finger respectively - but the man who won skiing's overall World Cup title in 1997 and then grabbed the famous Dakar Rally title in 2006, knows exactly what it takes to win. And he has no doubt Les Bleus are on course to raise the Webb Ellis Cup in Paris on 28 October.
"We have the spirit, we have the crowd and we have this feeling. The French population is feeling it," Alphand said after watching Argentina hold off Samoa in Saint-Étienne on Friday. "With the crowd we have, the players, Antoine Dupont is one of 15, he is fantastic but he cannot win alone without the team. With the team spirit we have at the moment, we can do it."
A downhill superstar in his day, Alphand is particularly taken by a certain, perhaps surprising, aspect of his new favourite sport.
"The physical impact, you can hear the noise from the stand. They are tough, I love it because you know to be a downhiller you have to be tough, to deal with crashes and everything," he laughed. "I love it because nobody complains."
Should France fulfil his predictions, the 58-year-old, who has been planning his Rugby World Cup schedule "since the spring" will be there to cheer them on.