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From the Touchline: Speedway drivers, class gestures and ears hanging on by a thread

World Rugby gathers some of the best off-field tales from Rugby World Cup 2023.

Speedy Roigard

New Zealand scrum-half Cam Roigard impressed against Namibia on Friday night, scoring two tries and controlling the game well in the All Blacks’ 71-3 win. Defence coach Scott McLeod says Roigard’s accuracy and awareness in high-intensity moments could be credited to his former career as a speedway driver.

Roigard started at Huntly International Speedway at the age of 10 and pursued speedway and rugby simultaneously until 2021 when the Hurricanes offered him an injury replacement contract.

He took it and then was offered a full-time contract in 2022. McLeod said of Roigard: “What stuck out for me was he seems to have so much time on the ball. It almost goes in slow motion for him and he’s not rushed and he makes really good decisions, he executes in those moments.

“For Damian McKenzie’s try, he made the line break, assessed what was happening and just changed an angle and left the ball in the space. I don’t know whether that is due to his speedway experience and going fast with everything in danger moments. He looks quite comfortable.”

Ear-ry tales for Frost inside the Wallaby camp

Spare a thought for Nick Frost, or his mother at least. On Sunday the second row – long heralded as Wallaby legend and Rugby World Cup winner John Eales’ natural heir – will take to the field against Fiji hoping, among other things, that his right ear stays in place.

Back in late July, the 23-year-old ripped the webbing while playing against New Zealand and he has been having some wince-inducing trouble ever since – as he explains with admirable nonchalance: “At the moment I am trying to protect it, I’ve re-opened it a few times. Every time you do contact, in a contact sport, against the side of your head, it opens back up.”

Three bouts of stitches and 24 hours in hospital following an infection later, Frost has been spotted sporting a natty water polo cap in training. But with rules preventing him wearing such fashionable gear on the pitch, the 10-cap man is having to make do with a scrum cap, padding, tape… and a few prayers.

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 15: Nick Frost poses ahead of the Rugby World Cup France 2023, at La Charpinière on September 15, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
For the ‘lovo’ of good food
France might be one of the gastronomy centres of the world but the Fijians have been bringing a little bit of their own flavour to Bordeaux, and in some style too. ‘Lovo’ is an underground oven used in traditional Fijian cooking to bring large numbers of people together to feast and having secured permission to dig down in a local park, close to the team’s base, the Pacific Islanders have been doing just that.

“We did cook a lovo for the team,” assistant coach Graham Dewes confirmed. “Management jumped in and prepared it with some of our non-players.”

There is no word yet on exactly what the dish contained – Lovos can vary from types of meat to traditional vegetables – but players Isoa Nasilasila and Eroni Mawi confirmed it was “very good”. Should the team prevail in their crunch Pool C match against Australia on Sunday, perhaps there will be another underground barbeque on the way…

Touch of class

Namibia head coach Allister Coetzee revealed that the New Zealand team showed their class with a post-match gift for Le Roux Malan, who left the field on a stretcher early in the first half of their Pool A match in Toulouse on Friday night.

Malan had successful surgery on his ankle after the game, but has been ruled out of the rest of Rugby World Cup 2023.

“What was actually very good, and I hope it will help in a way, is the gesture from the All Blacks to hand him a signed jersey, a number 12 jersey signed by the whole team,”Coetzee told journalists on Saturday morning.

“It says a lot about the sportsmanship of this World Cup, it’s a good gesture from the All Blacks.

“That is not just saying the ethos and the culture and the values of rugby, but actually living and feeling it. That to me is unbelievable of the All Blacks to do something like that.”

French roots

Romania prop Thomas Cretu has been sharing his knowledge of French culture with his team-mates after growing up in the country.

Cretu said of his heritage: “My mother is from Guadeloupe, so that’s my link with France, and my father is Romanian who came to France when he was 17, and that’s where he met my mother. So I grew up in France but I would spend all my summers in Romania, with my grandparents. I don’t speak a lot of Romanian but I’m learning more and more. My brothers speak a bit better.”

And on helping his team-mates with French food and culture: “Yes of course, the food, and the wine, whether it’s the culture or language, they like to learn. We’ve discovered a lot of French dishes so far.”

Cretu added his mum will be in the stadium to watch her son take on South Africa on Sunday.

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