Rugby World Cup
Action hots up on frozen wastes
September 9, 2011
The Glacier Country Cup is contested each year between teams representing the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers © Glacier Country Tourism
Spain may not have graced the Rugby World Cup stage since 1999 but one side from the Iberian Peninsula is causing quite a stir in the shadow of the latest tournament.
The 'Spanish Conquistadores' are seven rugby-mad women from the Unio Esportiva Santboiana club near Barcelona who won a YouTube-based competition organised by the West Coast region of New Zealand's South Island. Designed to lure visitors to an area of the country not invited to the World Cup party in terms of hosting games, the competition asked entrants to film themselves playing a short game of rugby, with creativity encouraged - "just make us laugh and you're on the right track" ran the promo.
Entries flooded in from around the globe but it was the Conquistadores' entry, 'It's not a girls' game, it's a women's game' that unsurprisingly caught the eye of tourism chiefs.
"The idea came to life after reflecting on the importance of rugby within our own lives, over which we sacrifice our bodies on and off the field," explained keen player and director Anna Paloma.
"We are tired of the misconception that rugby is not a sport for chicas ... this game is not for girls, but a sport for women. Real women. Strong women that always want to succeed."
Glacier Country Tourism spokesman Chris Alexander was full of praise for the winning entry's production values. "We received many entries, all very well produced," he said. "However, the Spanish girls went a step further in developing his story and the professionalism of the production their film."
The team's reward for stripping down to their underwear for a game of beach rugby was a NZ$50,000 (£25,000) prize package including an all-expenses paid tour of the region plus the chance to challenge the holders of the Glacier Country Cup - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a game of rugby at an incredible 2340m above sea level on the Franz Josef Glacier.
The Glacier Country Cup, like many great ideas, was the result of a conversation in a pub and has since evolved into an annual seven-a-side fixture contested between locals representing two of New Zealand's most stunning natural attractions - the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. Victory for the Fox Glacier side, the Cunning Foxes, over the Franz Josef Eagles in the latest instalment of a not-so-fierce rugby rivalry ensured they would play host to the competition winners and a suitable weather window allowed the game to go ahead earlier this week.
As you may imagine, staging a game on a frozen plateau miles from anywhere brings with it a host of logistical problems. Players flew in via helicopter while makeshift posts also made the trip along with fluorescent cones and rope to mark out the pitch and a highly-visible green ball. Then it was up to the players to weather the freezing temperatures and the ankle-deep snow in the quest for glory - but the extreme playing conditions did little to phase the visitors who pipped the home side to the spoils.
The beach-rugby themed film caught the eye of the Glacier Country Tourism chiefs © YouTube
While the Conquistadores would have been suitably attired for the game on a frozen playground, they will be shedding their clothes once again for the latest stop on their headline-grabbing tour. The media magnets that are the Nude Blacks - the world famous side from the University of Otago - will be rolling out the welcome mat at Dunedin Rugby Club on the eve of England's World Cup opener against Argentina on Saturday with the Conquistadores set to join the ranks of the Nude Poms, Le Coqs, and Welsh Leeks in going toe-to-toe and then some against their clothing-shy hosts.
The Nude Blacks, who saw their own competition entry beaten by their European rivals, will no doubt relish the chance to settle a score against a Conquistadores side set to opt for a nearly-nude approach when it comes to attire - or lack of.
"Our expectations are they won't be fully nude, but we haven't had a chance to fully brief them yet," organiser Ralph Davies commented this week although the prospect of a now traditional fully-clothed streaker is much more likely.
Either way, Davies is confident of victory in the latest of several clashes scheduled to coincide with the World Cup. "It'll be one thing playing rugby on the ice but we wonder if they will keep their eyes on the ball when they front up against the Nude Blacks.''
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.