I was disappointed to read several articles from the New Zealand press regarding abuse by All Black fans against rival supporters. http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11272092 I found it surprising as it is not something that I have ever experienced when watching rugby – even in Wales! Respecting the opposition fans is a trait that we tend to be proud of in our game – in fact there was a big outcry recently when it was suggested that fans should be segregated at the World Cup next year. I think this was for the benefit of TV – to show solid blocks of colour- anyway the IRB swiftly denied this and it has since been confined to the box of stupid ideas. I’ve been to Internationals in Australia, NZ, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and at home (Twickenham not Turnip Town, obviously). There is always a lot of piss taking – but never once have I ever been abused or felt intimidated. Quite often sitting amongst rivals is more fun than having to join in that bloody awful ‘Chariot’ song that originated from Alabama and is only mildly less irritating if you include the rude hand gestures. I’ve shared lots with rival fans – Steinlager in Christchurch, Bundeburg in Brisbane, Red wine in Paris, Beamish in Dublin and a sheep in Cardiff! Only joking – we couldn’t find a half decent looking one so we shared Brains – which combined gave us a bit more than my budgie. My experiences in New Zealand were positive and after the second Lions’ test in Wellington (2005) we spent a long night with some All Black fans who insisted on buying us drinks long into the early hours – reluctantly I managed to go along with this! – details are at www.rugbyoldbloke.wordpress.com
The only time I felt even mildly nervous was watching an All Blacks v Wallaby game. We were filming some ads in Auckland and I went with Brian, our New Zealand producer, to watch the match in a bar. What he hadn’t told me is that it had barmen who were Maori transvestites (I promise you this is true). Just before we went in Brian told me “Shutey, for fuck’s sake don’t take the piss!” He really needn’t have worried – especially when I saw the size of the bastards. It would have taken a very brave man to engage in light hearted banter with them – they were not only quite unattractive but their dress (sic) sense left quite a lot to be desired. I’m not sure Terry quite believed me until on another trip to NZ we met up for lunch with Brian and he told her I wasn’t telling porkies (although I do like to snack on them). Let’s hope that this was an isolated incident and that football style segregation is something that is never ever required at rugby games.