Tuesday, June 29, 2010
With the World Cup coming up in New Zealand next year and Italy having just finished a test series, it's as good a time as ever to post this amusing tale of what it was like for wing Marko Stanojevic to score a try against the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup in France.
Having made my international debut just 11 months before the 2007 Rugby World Cup, I felt that my chances of making the squad, let alone the Italian starting line-up, were pretty slim.
However, after working hard to impress the coaches in games against Australia, Argentina and Canada in the 2006 November tests, a shoulder injury sidelined me and the opportunity looked even less likely. I missed the Six Nations and most of the remaining season but, by July, I had recovered just in time for the World Cup training camp in Aosta.
After three months of grueling training and the warm-up games, I was called up to start in the opening game of the World Cup against the All Blacks at Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Despite the emotion and sense of occasion, the team understood the scale of the task ahead and, on the day, the harsh reality of playing such an impenetrable side soon hit home.
At 43-0 down, shortly before the half-time whistle, I was faced with five imposing All Black figures and very little hope. However, Byron Kelleher suddenly launched an attack from halfway, left to right, and I saw the long pass that was meant for Siviveni Sivivatu. I hoped for a man and ball tackle but soon realised that I could probably reach the ball and take a gamble.
I opted for the gamble and, after intercepting that pass and checking both shoulders around 30 yards later, scoring a try started to feel more like a probability than a possibility. The feeling of putting the ball across the line and under the posts in front of 60,000 supporters was incredible. The scoreline was barely affected but, for me, it was still a great moment!
Actually, one of my best friends made a bet before the game. He joked that if I managed to score a try against the All Blacks then he would have the Italian flag tattooed to his behind. He remained true to his word and now has the tennis-ball sized emblem decorating his right cheek!