Thank you Hamilton for another 'Epic' weekend; Epic is now well and truly ingrained in my vocabulary... the group stages, the welcome, the road trips, the match day atmosphere, the hospitality, the supporters, the parties.. EPIC!!
It was a busy week following the Namibia game; black water rafting, caving, sand dune tobogganing, 90 mile beach driving, hiking, road tripping and deep sea fishing!
We arrived at our Hamilton hosts Paddy and Cecile home in time for lunch and chilled beers and the first game on the tele Aus v Russia, the generous couple put five of us up for the weekend and fed and watered us well.
A quick shower and change and into town to meet up with Welsh supporters, family and friends at House on Hood where Trudi Gatland had again organised a supporters party with free food and drinks for us Welsh.
The unofficial Welsh Embassy was jam packed with a sea of red and pretty much stayed that way all weekend, with Wales supporters taking over the Fan Zone on Hood street. Trudi and friend Basil had worked long and hard to ensure the traveling Welsh were given great hospitality and had homes to stay when in Hamilton and New Plymouth and the hosting was a success, so much so that they had more Hamiltonians wanting to host than supporters taking up the offer!!
In return many signed a card with messages and thank you's and performed our anthem at full voice to show their gratitude, it was a great opportunity to meet and mix with locals and everyone involved has had a great time and is ready to repay the favour in 2015. Focused then turned to the rugby and we thoroughly enjoyed Tonga beating France and then the whole crowd naturally became Scottish as we belted out Flower of Scotland and everyone desperately wanted Scotland to win their game with England.
Match day buffet brunch was prepared by our hosts on their decking... next to the pool!! Pancakes, hash browns, sausage, bacon, eggs, bread, mushrooms and cold beers and wine... isn't that what every match day needs?
We donned our gear, the usual flags, jerseys and scarves and joined our new friend Dawn Daniels; who moved to Hamilton seven years ago from Wrexham and is a typical 'you can take the girl out of Wales but can't take Wales out of the girl' kinda gal, dressed in welsh gear from head to toe including dressing up her husband, son and house, she even won tickets to the final for being Best Dressed at a rugby match. We headed to the fans zone to watch Canada take on the All Blacks and then to Hamilton Old Boys Rugby Club to catch up with the usual crowd... we are all now the best of friends; we'll always have the World Cup!!
A 20second walk to the stadium to watch a very good looking Welsh side beat the Fijians, we were more than happy with the score and for Wales to keep the pressure on and score so convincingly and most importantly keep a clean sheet... surely the people talking up our chances of getting to the final can't be wrong!?!... the mood at the ground 'we're unstoppable', we'll just have to wait and see, but as someone wrote on the dirt and dust ingrained on our camper 'God loves an optimist' so with him on our side we're in with a chance.
Every one celebrated long and hard into the night, Mark originally from Cardiff but now living in Perth, has become the travelling superstar with his and his mates rendition of Sloop John B, the chorus goes 'call for the captain ashore, we'll take the cup home... with Sam our captain, we'll take the cup home'
Everyone is loving it and the guys are being hiked up on stage wherever they go... if Wales win the World Cup - these boys are going to number 1.
It's sad to see the back of the group stages, there have been great banter and fun with other nations and with five rugby free days until the quarters, I don't know what to do... but sleep sounds good.
Yours in rugby and with a prized quarter final ticket,
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
Both Bargoed and Swansea were seeking their first win of the Principality Premiership season this afternoon. It proved a fruitful day for the hosts - not only did they win, but Bargoed claimed a try bonus point.
Cardiff managed to keep their unbeaten record at home intact, but only just as Bridgend made them work extremely hard before the Blue and Blacks secured a hard fought Principality Premiership win at the BT Sport Arms Park last night.
Former Wales back row Andy Powell gives a guided tour of The Wern, home of Merthyr RFC, who are determined to prove a lot of people wrong and make their mark in their first season in the Principality Premiership.
Wales Sevens head coach Gareth Williams looks back on the Rio Sevens success where he helped GB win silver. He believes the successful campaign is a huge boost to his Welsh squad as they prepare for another World Series, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will be heading back home to take on the All Blacks next year where for him, success for 2017 is all about going to New Zealand and winning a Test Series.
Last week all roads led to Eugene Cross Park where defending champions Ebbw Vale hosted this season's launch of the Principality Premiership. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie was there to capture the thoughts of Damien Hudd, captain of Ebbw Vale, and WRU Head of Performance, Geraint John.
Llandovery made it three in a row when they defeated Aberavon in the final of the National Foster's 7s at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday. On another eventful day of sevens, Newport claimed the Plate and the Dragons won the women's crown
Last week saw Cardiff welcome players from around the world for the 21st Golden Oldies Festival. The tournament features players over 35 years of age, and this year's event saw a select few represent the WRU in a 'friendly' against the Wooden Spoon.
Wales Under 18 captain Callum Bradbury is delighted to have seen his side claim a narrow 18-17 victory against a strong SA Schools 'A' side to end the three-match Under 19 International Series in South Africa on a high note.