Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Jocks, Boks and a Toon Full of Fun; St James' Park Proves More Than Up to the World Cup Challenge Five Things MARK SMITH Learned When the Rugby World Cup Came to Newcastle's St James'Park

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Jocks, Boks and a Toon Full of Fun; St James' Park Proves More Than Up to the World Cup Challenge Five Things MARK SMITH Learned When the Rugby World Cup Came to Newcastle's St James'Park

Article excerpt

NEWCASTLE'S FOOTBALL CATHEDRAL IS A FITTING HOME FOR RUGBY IMMENSE. That is the only word I can find to come even close to describing the atmosphere as the home of Newcastle United staged World Cup rugby for the first time.

It is quite fashionable these days to pick fault, to play down and to sneer at someone trying something new. Not here.

Make no mistake, bringing three World Cup games to Newcastle was a risk. One which has paid off handsomely as the region again showed its ability to stage the big events.

From breakfast time onwards they came to party, Boks and Jocks worshipping the oval ball in glorious unison.

They went wild when the team buses pulled into the stadium, they raised the volume during the warmups and I don't mind admitting even as a neutral journo I was holding back the tears when the anthems blared out.

For those used to attending such occasions, this was something else. A moment truly to savour.

Now they have won the game and pulled out of Central Station, I can come clean and say I had a few beers with the South African management during the week and they were taken by Tyneside like no other place they have been.

"I will definitely come back here with my wife, this area is amazing," said one team official to me over a cold one overlooking the Tyne Bridge.

It was not just window-dressing and anyone who played any small part in making this occasion a reality must be smiling right now.

PITCH A CONCERN FOR MAGPIES FANS OK, I know. I said Newcastle United fans need not worry about their pitch due to millions of plastic fibres holding it together underneath the natural grass roots.

Maybe I spoke too soon.

Even after the first scrum, the turf was coming up like slabs or laminate flooring, the grounds staff frantically trying to remedy it at half-time.

Two more games will be played on it next weekend and then there is a full week before the Magpies kick a ball in anger on it.

Hopefully, that will be enough time but I am beginning to wonder about a backlash.

THE SPRINGBOKS MEAN BUSINESS Head coach Heyneke Meyer reckons South Africa had God on their side in Newcastle. …

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