WE HAVE HEARD on the wires that foot soldiers have been sneaking bit-by-bit into the city over the past few days, gradually building a landing zone on the peninsula stuck right at the root of the north island.
Today however, the cavalry has well and truly arrived and Wellington is being hit by the full force of the world’s best rugby supporters.
They are driving from the north and sailing from the south: Australians, South Africans, Welsh and the most dominant group of them all, Irish.
The lunchtime sailing of the Interislander ferry was laid low in the water, heavy with the masses and consequently delayed. The bar was full by the time we boarded, standing room only, the restaurant was heaving too, leaving staff overworked but smiling “it’s a full boat today!”
If the population aboard the vessel was anything to go by then Ireland will once again be playing with the benefit of a massively partisan audience. All other nationalities are minority groups and the Welsh number on board ranked somewhere between the French (tardily making their way to Auckland) and the Aussies.
Only the high-cheekboned South Africans have mustered a significant presence, but they are still a distant second to us pasty Paddies.
The evening though, will wear on toward the morning; red jerseys will multiply as they snake their way down from Hamilton, where Wales hit Fiji for 66. The gold-shirted, kangaroo-waving Wallabies will mount a late surge too, with day-trippers arriving across the ditch into Wellington Airport. But it won’t be enough, Ireland will dominate.
There is only one slight worry, the Welsh (even accounting for their redoubtable optimism) will have predicted that they would end up in this match and snapped up the early tickets accordingly. Many of our kin are here with a seat still eluding them having understandably presumed that we would come second in Group C.
And so, there is a great ticket scramble going on (we’re looking to sell two for the Wallabies v Boks if you’re interested). Irish people all over town are trying to swap their tickets for the ‘wrong’ quarter-final for entry to ours. One van we saw had defiled his tricolour to bear one such advertisement, while another group we spoke to had mistakenly bought tickets to the semi-final on the All Blacks’ side of the draw.
It’s all very confusing stuff, but it is only adding to the craic around town.