Friends unite!

There are a few reunions taking place at Rugby World Cup 2023 matches around France this weekend.

Consulting for Romania is Vern Cotter, who coached Scotland at Rugby World Cup 2015, while also on the Mighty Oaks’ staff is Paul Larter, a former Edinburgh and Scotland performance analyst. The pair will be plotting Scotland’s downfall when the teams meet in Lille on Saturday night.

In another Pool B affair, South Africa take on Toutai Kefu’s Tonga at Stade de Marseille on Sunday. At a media briefing on Tuesday, Springboks scrum coach Daan Human said he was wary of the Tongans in no small part due to his memories of playing for the Bulls against the Reds in Super Rugby some years back.

“I played against him. He was a hell of a player,” Human said of Kefu. “The Tongan team is a team at the moment which is very well coached.”

Meanwhile in Lyon, Kieran Crowley is hoping to catch up with his old friend Ian Foster after Italy’s Pool A clash with the All Blacks at OL Stadium on Friday.

"I know Fozzy quite well. We played against one another, way back many years ago,” Crowley said.

“We'll catch up for a chat and hopefully we might catch up next week after the game is over. They are here in Lyon and we are about 40 minutes out.

"The way rugby is now, you don't get a lot of interaction [with other coaches] but we'll be looking to catch up, have a beer afterwards."

Supports for Boks

When South Africa arrived for their open training session at Stade Mayol in Toulon on Thursday, they were cheered on by a huge contingent of local schoolchildren who had come out to catch a glimpse of the defending champions.

While there were plenty of signs welcoming the South Africans to the rugby-mad city, the biggest cheer was reserved for three players who have worn the colours of local side Toulon in previous years; Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth and Cheslin Kolbe.

“Duane, Eben, Cheslin - Toulonnais forever,” read one sign.

Support for the Springboks in Toulon has been a theme of past Rugby World Cups, according to former flanker and Rugby World Cup 2007 winner Schalk Burger.

“It reminds me of when we travelled here in ’07. Our first training session had a similar turnout to this - about 8,000 people. It hasn’t changed, and this Boks side are serious contenders for this Rugby World Cup so for these kids it’s amazing.”

And Burger, who has been co-hosting the Boks Office podcast with former team-mate Jean de Villiers from their base in Toulon during the tournament, says the feeling is mutual.

“I played at the Stade Mayol once for Saracens - quite a few years ago now. It’s an amazing place to come play rugby,” he said.

Tribute to Griffiths

Wales may have been celebrating becoming the first team to qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-finals, but there was also some sad news for the country’s rugby followers.

Glanmor Griffiths, the man seen as the driving force behind Wales hosting the RWC in 1999 at the magnificent Principality Stadium in the centre of Cardiff, has died. He was 83.

Griffiths defied the doubters to ensure that the roofed stadium, which replaced the ageing Cardiff Arms Park, was delivered on time and within the £130million budget. 

It has since hosted pop concerts, a Champions League final in football and major World Championship boxing nights.

WRU chairman Richard Collier-Keywood said: ”At the time it was one of the biggest engineering projects in western Europe and what it has delivered to the nation since 1999 has been incredible.

"Having filled three of the highest chains of office at the WRU - treasurer, chairman and president - over a period of more than 20 years of service to the game in Wales, his imprint will forever be evident in the history of the WRU.”

Faf in Speedos

When South Africa won Rugby World Cup 2019, one of the enduring images from the post-match celebration was that of Faf de Klerk in a pair of Speedos adorning the South African flag. 

Fans of the Springboks have taken to wearing the same outfit to matches, which Marvin Orie says adds to the match day experience.

“I think it’s a fantastic thing. It’s a fun thing,” Orie said. “If that’s going to help the fans to have a good experience in coming to watch the match, then of course it’s something good.”

Speaking on the craze, Willie le Roux said: “People love Faf because he’s got the nice blond hair and you can’t miss him. People are catching on to it and loving it.”

However, Le Roux stopped short of joining in. “I’m an old man, I don’t wear those things,” he said.

If the Springboks make it into the quarter-finals and beyond, their fans may want to make some changes to their fashion choices in the somewhat cooler October climate in France. 

Friendship blossoms

New Zealand Rugby gifted the city of Lyon a Maori bench as a symbol of their friendship after it hosted the All Blacks team in the pool stage.

The bench was carved by New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute in Rotorua and in Maori culture, carving is how they tell stories. It depicts the relationship between the people who support the team and the rugby.

Current and past New Zealand players presented it and two-time Rugby World Cup winner Dan Carter said: "It's very special, bringing a little bit of New Zealand culture and history to the city of Lyon.

"They have been fantastic hosts for the All Blacks throughout the pool stages of this Rugby World Cup and it is a real symbol of friendship, the bench we presented today. It's great it was really well received by the mayor of Lyon."

Baby on board

It's easy to get swept up in the fervour of a Rugby World Cup but Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey got some time away from it all recently as he headed home for the birth of his second child.

He is now back in the Irish camp but assistant coach Simon Easterby said: "All good news. He is a happy man now."