Rugby World Cup 2015. Week One. “1989” by Ryan Adams

I spent Thursday night watching a replay of Australia play Fiji in the 2015 rugby world cup pool match on my phone while listening to Ryan Adams cover Taylor Swift’s hit album “1989”. Yes, he’s covered every song on the album. That’s how I roll.

Like Australia’s match, the album had a better first half and then everyone started going through the motions once the game was won and the musician’s point was made. Australia didn’t get out of third gear and didn’t really need to.

The album is worth a listen though, a good song is a good song after all, and Taylor (and now Ryan’s) album has some crackers. You can tell Adams has been listening to plenty of Nebraska era Bruce Springsteen, and can work his own take on the Blank Space of the music.

As I lay there, listening to my wife and sick boy struggle for sleep I started remembering world cups, their moments, their Style*. For whatever reason they have become a marker to think back on, a four yearly focal point that neatly summarises the journey I’ve been on.

In 1987 I vaguely remember my Uncle visiting from America to watch some matches. No idea if I watched or not. Serge Blanco knocked Australia out and the kiwis won at home.

Serge Breaking Hearts

In 1989, I woke up in the middle of the night to cheer at the same time as my father and watch us lift the trophy after practicing Campo’s no look pass to my brother in the backyard all week.

In 1985, I heard about Jonah trampling Mike Catt and then Rob Andrew’s drop goal in the early morning at camp sites somewhere in the middle of the outback while camping with my family. All You had to Do Was Stay near to a town to get the radio signal. I didn’t appreciate the effect Nelson Mandela had on that tournament until years later.

In 1999, the year was spent in a drunken haze of university parties, cheering Bernie’s drop goals, a rampaging Tim Horan, Ben Tune, Owen Finnegan and filling up on triumphant complacency about Australia’s place in the sporting world and desperately wondering How You Get the Girl.

In 2003, I watched most of the world cup in a 3m x 5m “cell” in the Single Person’s Quarters of a pre-mining boom camp in Far North Queensland. The only pub in town begrudgingly showed Johnny’s drop goal and then everyone immediately started talking about Rugby League once again.

Weipa SPQ

In 2007, I watched Australia and New Zealand’s almost concurrent exits in a pub in Clapham in South London, marvelled at South Africa’s luck of the draw and cheered against my hosts when Cuerto put his foot into touch.

In 2011, I was back in Brisbane, married with a mortgage and watched New Zealand triumph once again with a few beers at my parents-in-law’s place.

Now it’s 2015, I have my own son. The game goes on.

Week one is finished. I managed one live match, albeit while entertaining toddlers already up at 5am, a couple of replays and the highlights for most of the other games. I don’t think you can tell much from these early stages, coaches are keeping things very close to their chest, and even the amazing upsets like Japan over South Africa probably won’t matter in the grand narrative of this tournament, South Africa will still go through to the knock-outs, though they are not Out of the Woods, and the Cherry Blossoms probably won’t. A great game though.

The maul is going to be a such a major tactic in under current referee interpretations. Teams that can setup and execute a 5m lineout maul are almost unstoppable, especially when they become obstructive battering rams Cleaning out whomever is in their path seemingly against the laws of the game but tacitly allowed by the referees. I Know Places where supporters, especially those in the north, won’t hear any criticism of the tighter parts of the game, the scrum or the maul, and this Love has its place, they can be an amazing spectacle, but only if it’s legal.

England looked nervous. By a quirk of the draw, Fiji’s tournament is effectively over midway through the first week. France did enough against Italy as the normally do. Ireland cruised and Scotland crushed the Japanese dream. New Zealand reminded everyone who the favourites are with a strong victory over upstarts Argentina, they will have to Shake it Off. What’s left of the Welsh team did what they had to, Samoa put away the Eagles and Georgie beat Tonga in what looked like the closest match of the week until Japan defied history, expectations and so much else to triumph. Watching them gather together and deciding to go for the win rather than take the penalty and draw the match was worth the pay TV subscription on its own, the world look on a and yelled I Wish You Would and it must have been better than their Wildest Dreams.

It doesn’t feel like the tournament has really started yet. Like Tay-Tay’s album the first track isn’t what you are there for, though Welcome to New York is a lovely little call back to an earlier time for Ryan Adams. Wales v England in the Group of Death kicks off at 5am on Sunday morning here in Brisbane. That’s when it really starts getting serious. There will be Bad Blood.

*Fun gimmick challenge. Find all of the song titles…..