On Oct. 22, an estimated 2.2 billion people watched, myself included, as the New Zealand All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup for only the second time in World Cup history. They beat the French 8-7 in the finals in New Zealand. It was a momentous occasion for this small island nation, considering it is our national sport and the All Blacks are as well known around the world as New Zealand’s unusually high sheep population.As hosts to this year’s World Cup, it seemed to be the perfect time for me, a New Zealand ex-patriot, to return home and see our team show the world and our country that they really were the best. For anyone who knows me, however, the idea of me going home to watch Rugby World Cup was a little bizarre. I really didn’t know anything about rugby. Even as I walked to my first live New Zealand rugby game ever against the French, I was practicing the All Blacks Captain’s name, much to my father and my South African friend’s amusement.For me, though, going home for the tournament was less about my love of the game (obviously), and more about enjoying my country at its best. It was about reconnecting with my country, friends and family as well as watching the rest of the world enjoy my country through our national sport.Nothing however could have prepared me for the unique experience of this event in New Zealand. Unlike any other sporting event I have seen, it was not about supporting only your team. This was about supporting the event and the countries that participated. The love of the game crossed cultural barriers and I watched as fans waved flags for their own country, as well as other countries.It’s the faces of those I met who will stay with me: the French man I met in a bar who told me how much it would mean to him to see the All Blacks, who he believed represented the soul of rugby, win the World Cup on their home turf. And the Samoan supporter standing behind us with his family who sang an operatic version of his national anthem before singing as much of the South African national anthem as he knew in the same booming voice. Then there was the man wearing South African colors, who sounded like a kiwi and was rooting for Samoa because he bet money on them; or the Canadian who was less upset his team was losing to the All Blacks and more excited he got to see the All Blacks play.Watching the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand taught me how and why to love my country’s national sport. More than that, it overwhelmed me with national pride, not just for how well we played the game, but how well we hosted the world and how much they appreciated New Zealand. I love a good party and New Zealand proved that it knows how to throw one hell of a world-class party.
to see more photos from Dominique’s trip to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Vail Daily Photo Editor Dominique Taylor is a New Zealand native and (now) avid rugby fan. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.