WEB DESK: Rivalry ahead of the Rugby World Cup final has hit the stratosphere as airlines, celebrities and media trade jibes over the tournament decider between Australia and New Zealand.
Defending champions New Zealand are the bookies’ favourites and Air NZ declared their confidence in the All Blacks by challenging Qantas to paint a plane in the winning team’s colours.
Using the hashtag #AirlineWager, the Kiwi carrier posted an image of a Qantas aircraft painted black and covered with slogans such as “Go Richie!!!”, “Dan’s the man” and “Team All Blacks”.
Qantas responded with a picture of an Air NZ airliner in Australia’s colours saying: “While black is slimming, we think it needs a golden touch.”
They appeared to settle on flight crews of the losing airline wearing rival jerseys the day after the final, although it is difficult to determine after the feud went “offline”.
Australia showed its support for the Wallabies with a spectacular lighting display that flooded the Sydney Opera House in the team’s colours of green and gold.
New Zealand and Australia have each won two World Cups, but Sydney Daily Telegraph columnist Richard Hinds was quick to point out the Kiwis have gone into all seven editions of the tournament as favourites and failed to deliver five times.
“A gentle reminder that the mighty, all-conquering, we-are-not-worthy-to-wash-your-socks All Blacks froze like rabbits in the spotlight at the site of the William Webb Ellis Trophy in five World Cups between 1987 and 2011 remains somehow reassuring,” he wrote.
The tabloid also dubbed Kiwi captain Richie McCaw the “Richetty grub”, a reference to the fat, white witchetty grub eaten by Australian Aborigines.
“Adept at using its knees and elbows freely on a rugby field, it has been officially registered as a pest in Australia,” it said in a front-page story last week, alongside a photoshopped image of McCaw’s head on the bug’s body.
Not to be outdone, a Radio New Zealand host acknowledged the Wallabies were underdogs but said they could still “steal” rugby’s showpiece trophy “given their convict past”.
– Chuck Norris v the haka –
The showdown has even pitted celebrities against one another, with Hollywood action movie legend Chuck Norris declaring his support for Australia.
“The New Zealand Blacks have the Maori war dance but the Wallabies are going to have the power of Chuck Norris’ spirit there to help them win the game and they are going to win the World Cup,” he told Sydney’s Nine Network.
Kiwis may point out their haka challenge has a history dating back centuries, but they also have Robbie Williams’s tonsils to counter Norris’ muscles after the British singer arrived in Wellington sporting an All Blacks shirt.
Williams will no doubt be catching up on All Black history through a local pop-up 24-hour television channel showing nothing but New Zealand-Australia games from the past decade (which have been dominated by the Kiwis).
New Zealanders are also claiming support from Oscar-nominated actress Kate Hudson, who Instragram-ed a haka as the “highlight” of a product launch this week.
But there is one vital area where even Australians concede superiority to their Kiwi cousins, access to alcohol in a timezone-challenged Southern Hemisphere environment.
New Zealand’s parliament changed the law to let pubs show matches during the tournament in the rugby-mad nation, despite objections from morals groups.
There has been no such change in Australia, leaving patrons in Sydney’s nightclub area King’s Cross struggling to find a venue to watch the match in the small hours of Sunday morning.
“Before a whistle is blown over there, these premises have already been penalised,” Douglas Grand, of the King’s Cross Liquor Accord, told the Australian Associated Press.