Enduring allure of all-conquering All Blacks makes them big in Japan | Andy Bull

Reigning champions have a huge following at this World Cup but not that many of them are from New Zealand Three hours before kickoff, the little square outside Tobitakyu station was already overflowing with New Zealand fans, spilling out down the road towards Tokyo Stadium. The ground holds 50,000 and by the time it was full you could see at least three-quarters of them were wearing black, mainly branded All Blacks swag. Jerseys, jackets, caps and flags. It didnt matter that most of them have never even been to New Zealand. Its been like this at every game the All Blacks have played. They had the best part of 65,000 at Yokohama, almost 40,000 at Oita, where they were packed …

‘Big Basta Big Apple’: Mathieu Bastareaud comes to New York

The giant French centre will play Major League Rugby next year and Samu Manoa, for one, is readying a very warm welcome Mathieu Bastareaud arrives at the hotel on Lexington and 57th with a stiff neck, but its not something to worry the French selectors. In Manhattan for the first time, he has simply spent most of his time looking up at buildings even bigger than he is. This is maybe the city that is the most attractive in the world, says a man who started his career in Paris and has spent the last eight years in the Mediterranean port of Toulon. I know from the TV shows, CSI and Friends and things like that! I was very excited …