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,
Wales Head Coach Rob Howley talks to WRU TV's Sebastian Barrett about the 36-man squad he has just named for the forthcoming Under Armour series, which includes two uncapped players, Ospreys duo Sam Davies and Rory Thornton.
Head coach Rowland Phillips is deligthed he can now call BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park home for his Wales Women's side, who launch their international season next month with games against Scotland and UK Armed Forces in the heart of the capital city.
Wales Sevens star Sam Cross has put his home town club of Brynmawr on the map after winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics with Team GB. His club have now honoured him by naming their players bar after him, as WRU TV discovered at the official launch, recently.
One of the newest members of the Principality Premiership, Bargoed admit it's proving to be a steep learning curve at the highest level, but are determined to become a force to be reckoned with. WRU TV visited the club last weekend when they took on Llanelli.
Table-topping Aberavon travel to north Wales to tackle RGC 1404 as both teams defend unbeaten starts to the season in the Principality Premiership. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie visited the Wizards to see how their preparations were going for the game of the weekend.
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.