Phil Mackenzie - The Road to the RWC 3

Phil Mackenzie - The Road to the RWC 3

Well, I guess that's it. I'm no longer writing my blog in a luxurious plane seat bound for a foreign country, nor am I writing you from a hotel room with 2 bedrooms, a living room and water front views. Unfortunately, I am writing you from home. Myself, and the rest of the Canadians, returned home only 24 hours after playing the All Blacks. Harsh, I know but that's the reality of the World Cup competition. If you're not winning then you're packing your bags and heading on the next flight out of there!

Within our team, we knew of and believed in our capabilities. Therefore our expectations were high. Two of our main objectives were to make the quarterfinals and to be ranked 12th or lower by the time we left. We managed to reach the 11th spot but unfortunately, due to some other results that were out of our control, we left ranked 13th in the world. Needless to say we did reach not the quarterfinals. However, despite the fact we did not achieve either of our goals, we managed to show the world that we, as players and as a country, are making progress and are capable of playing some good rugby.

There were many highs and lows throughout the world cup, a lot more highs then lows to be exact, and as a result I have diagnosed myself with post tour depression. Now, post tour depression is rarely the case. Usually, when its time to leave tour the boys are looking like kids on Christmas day. Many of them, myself included, can't wait to eat a home cooked meal, see friends and family, and a fair few enjoy the possibility of meeting up with lady friends again.

Why, for some strange reason, unlike ever before, am I missing tour so much? Well, that's easy. As Jason Marshall so elegantly put it, "it was the best experience of my life.  This was the case for numerous reasons, for example, things as little as chilling in the team room arguing over whose fantasy football team is the best, or going for coffees in Napier and watching Chauncey embrace his stardom like never before. Shooting shotguns off the back of a yacht in the middle of the ocean, and getting the opportunity to play in front of thousands of people week in and week out, also contributed to making this tour one of the best experiences of my life.

Now, if we rewind a little bit I will describe the build up to the Japanese game. Prior to the Japanese game we had a great shot at realistically coming 3rd in our pool, which, needless to say, would be a big step forward in terms of funding for Canada and not just because we could buy new rugby balls (I'm kidding, we have new ones) but because it would guarantee us more tests over the next few years. We knew the importance of the game and personally I think it was the most prepared team I have ever been a part of. We approached the game with a must win attitude and a subtle confidence. We knew if we played how we are capable of playing, we would win the game.

However, kickoff rolled around and the mistakes started to pile up. One after another, continually shooting ourselves in the foot. We went into the changing room down but as soon as we took the field in the 2nd half you could see the "never say die attitude  within the squad begin to shine. After a fantastic scrum and a great pass from our 10 I managed to score a 40m try within the opening minutes after half. It seemed as though this would be the turning point in the game, however, we continually struggled to get a strong hold on the game and inevitably it came down to the dying minutes.

We found ourselves down by 8 and after a magnificent try from our 10, Ander Munro, we were within 3 points with only a handful of minutes to go. Eventually, we got a shot at goal which we capitalized on and consequently ended the game in a draw.

Now, initially I was extremely disappointed, as no one likes a draw. It can be awkward and mildly embarrassing depending on how you assess the situation. In some ways it's worse than losing but regardless, we still sat in 3rd position in our group and baring a major upset (cough, cough) we were looking good.

After the game there was no time to relax and reflect as we had the mighty All Blacks in 4 days time. Now, as I am sure many of you have heard, the tier 2 nations had quick turnarounds and although I wouldn't compare a quick turnaround to some of history's darkest days, like our outspoken Samoan friend, it certainly isn't ideal.

However, we had no choice but to bite the bullet and get on with it. So, myself and the rest of the team did our best to focus on the task at hand, which admittedly was tough at times as by this point our bodies were beginning to give up on us. With that said we emphasized our remaining days on mentally preparing and trying to recover as much as possible. Unfortunately for me, due to my body's inability to "man up,  I was put in the ocean recovery group. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of cold water but this New Zealand water was much colder than cold, it was ice cold and I can think of about a million ways I would rather spend 10 minutes than chilling in ice water.

It was the night before the game and there was only one thing left to go until we played the All Blacks and that was to watch Tonga play France. Now, I won't go into all the minor details of how the point systems worked but like I said earlier, baring a major upset, we were looking good to retain the 3rd position.

So, the game began and I waited and waited for the Frenchies to show up. Eventually there was 10 minutes to go in the game and I had realized the French weren't showing up at all. They had put in an awful performance and had just ruined our chances of finishing 3rd in our pool. On a side note, Tonga played extremely well and beat everyone's expectations. They played with a lot of heart and came out on top. It was a hard game to watch, as France needed to come out with the W for us to remain in third. Spirits weren't high after the game but I had to force myself to sleep and deal with the fact that it was out of our control.

Game day vs All Blacks arrived and excitement was high. The opportunity to play against the number one ranked team in the world doesn't come around very often. I won't describe what happened next because it wasn't an ideal situation but I will say that our boys showed a lot of courage and heart right until the final whistle.

Post game, I think myself and the boys were overcome with mixed emotions. It had certainly been a wild few days, hence leaving myself somewhat uncertain as to what to think. To commence our World Cup trip we had a meal with the All Blacks, had a good chat with Ma'a Nonu (he's much friendlier in person than he looks on TV) and then headed back to the hotel to wrap up our tour.

It was an experience of a lifetime and I would have to write about a million blogs to describe the experience in enough detail. However, I am not nearly a good enough writer nor that fast of a typer to do so. All-in-all, it truly was the best experience of my life playing and traveling with the group of 45 Canadian members.  I don't even know where to begin in thanking everyone who supported us throughout the tour, but I'll start here.

Thanks so much to everyone who supported us!!!!!