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October 23, 2011

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Expat rugby fans psyched for final

SHANGHAI'S expat community has been going wild for the last six weeks as the Rugby World Cup has played out in New Zealand, a tournament that has largely passed over the heads of Chinese locals. On the eve of the France-New Zealand final this afternoon, Shanghai Daily gathered four rugby-mad French and Kiwi fans and asked: So what is it about rugby that gets expats so worked up?

On the New Zealand team:

? Ali Manning

A New Zealand government employee who has lived in Shanghai for seven years

? Kylie Bisman

Wine importer who has lived in Shanghai for six years

On the French team:

? Pierre Marchadier

Wine salesman who has been in Shanghai for 18 months

? Cecile Devaux

Insurance company employee who has been in Shanghai for four monthsCecile: It's because I've always seen rugby games, you know; my father was watching rugby since I'm a little girl. So you get used to watching the games.

Pierre: I'm from Toulouse, and there you can't escape rugby. Usually in rugby it's all about values - humility, we even say terroir, you know, people from the land, gentlemen.

Kylie: There is no other sport that gets me as excited as rugby does. There is no other sport that has me jumping up and down and screaming, that can make me hoarse, lose my voice, like rugby does. You can watch it and you'll think, yeah, this is just a game, you know; they pick up the ball, they run, and they just hit a wall of guys and they stop. And then they try again and they hit a wall of guys and they stop. And you're like, what's the big deal? And then there's that moment. You know what I mean, that moment where the guy gets through, and he's running down the field, and all of a sudden, you just can't control yourself.

Ali: It's like, run boy, run!

Kylie: And these guys, I mean they're powerful, they're fast, they're agile, they can duck and dive, it's incredible to watch. It's not only exciting, I think it's actually quite beautiful to watch them.

Ali: Well, you look at Sonny Bill Williams and his wardrobe malfunction right, how beautiful! Let's hope that happens again!

Kylie: All the females in O'Malley's, when this was happening, everybody went "aaah." I think there's an added dimension that female rugby supporters have that male rugby fans don't have.

Pierre: The French team, they had a calendar - "Gods of the Stadium" - and basically they're all naked, nice black and white pictures, using the ball, hiding.

Cecile: These kind of calendars make the rugby team more popular in France, because of course girls want to see it. So it's becoming more of a girl's game as well.

Ali: I suppose my love of rugby - I don't know, probably because my husband loves it so much. Especially because we've been offshore for so long, and it's something that gets the community together. You feel so much more patriotic when you watch the games here.

Kylie: Being part of the (expat) community, it really makes you feel close to home. Somebody said to me the other day, "Do you wish that you were back home to watch the games?" And I said, "Well, actually it doesn't bother me, because I have all these people here."

Pierre: I think patriotic feelings are stronger here. Basically, you're gathering for this.

Ali: We take great pride in our lads. And as a nation our happiness is tied to, intrinsically linked, to whether the team wins or loses.

Pierre: So lots of pressure on Sunday?

Kylie: Absolutely. You'll watch the stock market on Monday and you'll know, without even watching the game, you'll know what happened in the game. If we win on Sunday the stock market will go up, and if we lose on Sunday the stock market will go down. Guaranteed.

Ali: There's also been talk that if we lose the Rugby World Cup, there will be a change of government.

Cecile: No way!

Kylie: They did say if we win, the current government stays, and if we lose there will be a change of government. It'd be "We spent all that money and we didn't get the cup."

Cecile: That's crazy.

Kylie: That's how important rugby is.

Ali: Because we align our lives with rugby. How do you guys feel about Sunday's game, actually? Are you confident?

Pierre: For the French side? Yeah, I was looking yesterday on those betting websites, and they're saying France one chance out of five to win. Which I thought was pretty low! But France are never as good as after a bad game, so I think it should be good for us.

Kylie: Well, France has good defense. The French defense is outstanding.

Cecile: I've seen the All Blacks play. Your team is just amazing. They're fast, they're strong, they're just unbelievable. So it's going to be really, really tough for France. But I think we have a chance. You never know what we're going to do. And when we're under stress, we get better. And we don't have anything to lose in this game.

Kylie: Well, I hope there are no surprises on Sunday.

Ali: For us, anyway. But they reckon there's that home advantage thing as well. They say there's seven points in it for the home advantage.

Kylie: What you've got now is a feeling of quiet confidence, which is that we think we can win, but we're a little bit nervous. And I'm pretty sure at the starting whistle, both teams are going to come out fighting.Top 10 places to watch the final

Date: Today, 4pm

Cheers, tears and the Marseillaise - this is one game you will want to watch live.

However, if you wish to avoid boisterous Kiwis and Frenchmen, catch the final live from the comfort of your home on ESPN Star Sports.

Here are Shanghai Daily's picks:

? The Camel: This popular sports bar is bound to be packed with ruggerheads glued to its multiple screens.

Address: 1 Yueyang Rd, near Fenyang Rd

? Shanghai Brewery: Sip on one of six beers made on-site at this micro-brewery while the game plays on its 15 big TV screens and four projectors.

Address: 21C, Hongmei Pedestrian Street, 3338 Hongmei Rd, near Huaguang Rd, Hongqiao area

? Glo London: This swanky British eatery is not your average sports destination. Fans who prefer martinis to lager will be watching the final from its rooftop terrace.

Address: 1 Wulumuqi Rd S., near Dongping Rd

? The Shed: Catch the final in this cozy Aussie sports bar tucked in a courtyard off Kangding Road.

Address: 528 Kangding Rd, near Xikang Rd

? O'Malley's Irish Pub: Rugby World Cup "headquarters" for Kiwi fans, this Irish bar will be packed to the rafters this afternoon, despite its 100-yuan cover charge.

Address: 42 Taojiang Rd, near Hengshan Rd

? The Spot: This popular expat sports bar is guaranteed to be a party zone when the All Blacks face Les Bleus.

Address: 331 Tongren Rd, near Beijing Rd W.

? Big Bamboo: All three outlets of this sports bar are promising an electric World Cup atmosphere.

Address: 132 Nanyang Rd, near Tongren Rd

81 Hongfeng Rd, near Biyun Rd, Pudong

20 Hongmei Pedestrian Street, 3338 Hongmei Rd

? Gecko's: If relaxing rugby is your thing, kick back on Gecko's outdoor patio with a canal flowing by below.

Address: 319 Jinyan Rd, near Jinxiu Rd, Pudong

? Park Tavern: Fans are guaranteed great rugby-watching atmosphere on each of Park Tavern's four stories.

Address: 840 Hengshan Rd, near Tianping Rd

? Tam O'Shanter: A popular Irish drinking hole, which will be packed with fans for the final.

Address: 47 Yongfu Rd, near Fuxing Rd W.


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