I can’t cheer for Team Canada because my mouth is full of poutine.

September 5, 2011

Imagine, if you will, combining the excitement of the Olympic Games with the Super Bowl, the seventh game of the World Series and the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final. And then multiply it by a million.

Welcome to the Rugby World Cup.

And welcome to New Zealand, which is hosting this wondrous event from Sept. 9 to Oct. 23.

A tree cosie shows its true colours on Dalton Street in Napier, New Zealand.

I had to make several adjustments when Viking Woman and I moved from Canada to New Zealand. Among those was learning to ignore the sports news.

Where, at home, I’d devour every story and game summary and relish every highlight of every game in the National Hockey League, I quickly discovered Kiwis don’t give a rat’s bum about my favourite sport.

“Too violent,” they sniff. “Too many pads.”

In fact, mention “hockey” in New Zealand and everyone assumes you’re talking “field hockey.” “Ice hockey” is the rather ignominious term Kiwis use on the rare occasion they bother referring to the fastest team sport in the world.

English sports reign here. That means the likes of cricket and polo and lawn bowling and rowing. All of which bow down to King Rugby.

“Husky men in tight jerseys and short shorts,” I sniff. “The very definition of macho, I’m sure.”

I don’t understand the game – if there is a difference between Rugby and Rugby League I’ve yet to discern it – and I don’t really care. But these days it’s all Rugby World Cup all the time.

Napier is, in fact, hosting two of the games, as  some of the lesser matches (read: any game that doesn’t feature the All Blacks) are being spread around the provinces so even small-town hicks like us can be fleeced by high ticket prices.

As it happens, both games in Napier feature Canada. I may not have any love for rugby, but I still have a maple leaf tattooed on my heart, metaphorically speaking, of course. So Viking Woman and I will attend one of those games – probably vs France on Sept. 18 – during which we will dust off our Vancouver Summer Games apparel, including the red mitts, the idea being to eliminate any doubt as to which country we are supporting.

The interesting part about Canada taking part in this tournament – apart from the fact there are actually enough players of this calibre in the country to make up a team – is the world’s perception of my motherland. And by world I mean those people who put together the program information packages about each of the 20 participating countries.

I particularly enjoyed reading the cuisine entries in each country’s fact box. Apparently, we Canucks tend to fill our faces with poutine, butter tarts and maple syrup. Say what? No pancakes? No Tim Horton’s doughnuts? No chocolate-covered jujubes?

Aside from poutine – does anybody outside of Quebec actually consume that crap? – our food loves are at least palatable. As opposed to, say, Scotland (haggis, oats, potatoes), Namibia (bush stew) or Wales (what the hell are cawl and laverbread?).

As for our American cousins, there isn’t a single slice of apple pie or a ballpark dog on their list. Instead, we are told Yankee Doodle dandies chow down on crab cakes and potato chips. Oh. Really.

So, yeah, the Rugby World Cup is already proving interesting even before the first ball is, well, whatever it is they do with their balls down here.

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