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,
500 days to go to Rugby World Cup and SWALEC Finals Day on the Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. WRU chairman David Pickering and First Minister Carwyn Jones look ahead to the Rugby World Cup, while we hear from all three winners on SWALEC Finals Day, Pontypridd's Dafydd Lockyer, Merthyr's Lee Jarvis and Clwb Rygbi Caerdydd's Gareth Williams, as well as former Wales wing Simon Hill on coaching his village team Llantwit Major.
The Wales Sevens squad travelled to Aldershot yesterday for one last chance to stake their claims for a coveted Rugby World Cup spot. And as Wales Team Manager Dai Jenkins tells WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie, some tough decisions will have to be made before the squad is announced tomorrow.
Lions, Wales, SWALEC Finals Day, Rugby World Cup, Wales Sevens in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from Dan Lydiate on his Lions selection, Wales coach Robin McBryde on the squad to tour Japan, WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis and First Minister Carwyn Jones welcome the news there will be eight 2015 Rugby World Cup games in Cardiff. We speak to all six clubs involved in SWALEC Finals Day, Neath, Pontypridd, Rhydfelin, Heol-y-Cyw, Wattstown and Fishguard and Goodwick. We also hear from Wales Sevens coach Paul John and scrum half Tavis Knoyle.
World Cup draw reaction in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from Wales coach Warren Gatland, captain Sam Warburton, England captain Chris Robshaw and Australia coach Robbie Deans, as well as getting the views of former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio and former Wales captain Jonathan Humphreys. We speak to Wales duo Mike Phillips and Ryan Jones on the disappointment against Australia, as well as Ian Gough on the Ospreys, Simon Easterby on the Scarlets and Wales Sevens captain Rhys Shellard after their Plate success in Dubai.
Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton assess the daunting draw Wales have been given in the 2015 Rugby World Cup after England, Australia, Oceania 1 and the Play-off winner were all pulled out of the hat for Pool A.
Wales return from the Rugby World Cup in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from centre Jamie Roberts and backs coach Rob Howley, while Ireland wing Tommy Bowe gives his assessment of Wales. We also speak to Gavin Henson as he is unveiled by the Cardiff Blues, while chairman Peter THomas explains their thinking. It is time for the Movember campaign to raise awareness and money for men's cancers, we speak to Movember corporate manager Jonathan Simm and Blues back rower Andries Pretorious.
Pride, and heartbreak are the conflicting emotions from the Rugby World Cup in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from the fans at the Millennium Stadium, while Down Under we talk to Warren Gatland, Neil Jenkins, Robin McBryde, Dan Lydiate and Paul James, looking back on the lost of France and the play-off game against Australia.
There was no fairytale finish to the 2011 Rugby World Cup for Wales, although they won the admiration of fans around the globe as they ended a magnificent campaign with an 83rd minute try from Leigh Halfpenny.
There were more people at the Millennium Stadium watching the World Cup semi-final than they had in Eden Park and every one of the 61,543 early risers in the Welsh capital believed Wales could reach their first final.