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Huw Richards
Huw Richards | Columnist Index
Huw Richards is qualified to play for either Wales or England and was only prevented from doing so by being slow, short-sighted, averse to pain and lacking in any compensating talent. Denied sporting success he became a journalist and, after contributing to the demise of several short-lived rugby magazines, was the FT's rugby writer between 1995 and 2009 and currently writes for the International Herald Tribune and the Sunday Herald.
World Cup Postcard - The big kick off looms
Huw Richards
September 6, 2007

Images that remain from World Cups are not just those of matches. Publicity forms part of the backdrop, particularly when you are overseas. Huw Richards reports

New Zealand in 1987 cannot be separated from the memory of British jaws dropping at television adverts in which 'Andy Dalton - farmer' drove some piece of motorised machinery, neatly evading the still pervasive rules on amateurism so long as they did not mention his alternative identity as an All Black.

In South Africa in 1995 there was the Bank who set their pitch to pictures of the haka, concluding with the words 'and when you say jump...!' and Francois Pienaar playing the Billy Crystal role in a reprise of the restaurant scene from 'When Harry Met Sally'.

Here you can't go far, particularly on the Paris metro, without encountering the poster blitz conducted by French bank Societe General, one of the six main tournament partners.

Concorde station, just below the former site of the revolutionary guillotine, on the tourist-trapping line, has a particularly fine array.

They're colourful, with bold and elegant images and stylishly dated lower-case lettering. I can't say I care for the one of two men scrummaging - four legs and no head suggests a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong - but the rest have a certain charm. Whether they'll still seem that way after seven weeks of relentless exposure is another matter.

There was a time, early in the 1991 tournament, when 'One World in Union' seemed quite tolerable, particularly as it was sung by Kiri te Kanawa.

By that year's final I was thinking ' Pity it's all over, but at least I'll never hear that blasted song again'.

The other inescapable image at the moment is of the expressively characterful features of French captain Raphael Ibanez, who has temporarily displaced President Sarkozy from the magazine covers.

Sarko, who has been claiming a previously unsuspected interest in the game - his bailiwick of Neuilly is hardly a rugby hotbed, even if Serge Betsen learnt the game there - won't mind so long as those same covers are showing him with Ibanez plus trophy in seven weeks time.

He'd be ill-advised, though, to follow Nelson Mandela's example from the competition's iconic player and president image - he simply hasn't the build for it.

The ex-boxer Mandela looked the part in Pienaar's shirt, but the diminutive French president would simply disappear in the folds of anything designed for Ibanez.

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