No sleep for All Blacks as Cardiff celebrates famous Welsh win

Welsh fans celebrate the victory over England at the Rugby World Cup.

Welsh fans celebrate the victory over England at the Rugby World Cup.

Suffering sleep deprivation was a small sacrifice for the All Blacks in Cardiff.

Let's face it: the timing of their arrival in the Welsh capital couldn't have been better. Within hours of arriving in the city, where they will be based until they play Georgia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday morning (NZT), they flicked on their TVs and sat riveted, like the rest of the rugby community, and watched Wales beat England 28-25 in their World Cup pool match in London.

Mayhem ensued. Cardiff doesn't just party. It goes ballistic. The All Blacks, housed in a central city hotel, tried to bury their heads under their pillows as the raucous celebrations dragged on through the night but some admitted they had little success in blocking out the wild noises that echoed through the streets.

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How big a deal is this in Wales? Massive. It is difficult to overstate it. The emotional post-match speech given by their New Zealand coach Warren Gatland was just the start of it.

You only had to listen to Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards to understand what beating England in the Pool of Death meant to this rugby-mad nation.

Edwards, who must have only got a few hours sleep given the squad only got back in Wales from their successful smash-and-grab raid in London at 3am, attended church on Sunday morning.

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When the priest sighted the former rugby league tough nut who had carved out an illustrious career with Wigan and Great Britain before working for Gatland as Wales' defence coach, he raised his arms to the heavens in celebration.

"That's when you know you are making a difference to the nation," Edwards laughed. "My mum's brother was a priest and I was an altar boy until I was 21. I was captaining Wigan and I was still an altar boy."

Listening to him tell this anecdote encapsulates how much the Welsh love to beat the English, especially when it is at Twickenham in front of around 80,000 of their fans.

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards: "I was captaining Wigan and I was still an altar boy."
Rebecca Naden

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards: "I was captaining Wigan and I was still an altar boy."

At times Edwards' demeanour at press conferences can be as animated as a stone gargoyle, but he became excited as he relayed the tale and imitated the priest by raising his fists to the ceiling.

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While the team counted down the hours until kick-off epic at Twickenham, their fans flocked in to central Cardiff and got the party started early.


As early as five hours before kick-off, some supporters were already well lubricated. Twelve hours later they were still rocking.

After the game the local pubs, clubs, kebab shops and Balti houses were inundated by men and women dressed in red rugby jerseys. Some, unable to contain their enthusiasm or wanting to burn off all that nervous energy, got a rugby ball from somewhere and started passing it around on the pavement outside a pub.

This was new territory for many New Zealanders. Usually they travel to Cardiff as All Blacks supporters and it is they, not the Welsh, who have cause to celebrate.

On this occasion the Kiwis joined the revelry and saluted the Welsh conquerors.

The next morning Cardiff's inner-city streets were strewn with litter and the excessive consumption of alcohol contributed to the ugly picture.

A taxi driver ferrying a couple of correspondents to the All Blacks' training at the nearby Sophia Gardens, summed it up succinctly: "Collateral damage," he said.

Wales, who have lost eight backline players - four of them British and Irish Lions - from their World Cup squad because of injury, know all about collateral damage. For now it seems a small price to pay for such a famous victory.

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