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Part II - It's a long way from home for England's players

Phil Edwards Posted 4th September 2011 view comments

The final preparations for the seventh Rugby World Cup are almost complete.

As the eyes of the world focus on New Zealand, Sky Sports News HD rugby union reporter Phil Edwards will bring you the inside track on the biggest and best stories around - as well as some of the more bizarre - in his skysports.com diary.

Taken to excess: the Sky Sports News HD team go over their luggage allowance

Taken to excess: the Sky Sports News HD team go over their luggage allowance

Follow Phil on Twitter as he reports on the latest developments from the heart of the England camp and tackles the headline issues as the tournament unfolds.

Catch up with Part I here...

Saturday September 3

For the past four days we, and the England team, have been enjoying the sights and sounds of the wonderful city of Auckland.

But hang on a minute, I hear you say, isn't England's opening match against Argentina scheduled to take place hundreds of miles away in Dunedin on the South Island?

You're absolutely right, but the management felt it would be no bad thing if the players were given the opportunity to overcome the jet-lag associated with a 25 hour flight through 11 time zones, before the normal routine and structure of a Test week.

The players did have a couple of training sessions in Auckland and the encouraging news is that Lewis Moody was running around without the heavy strapping we'd been accustomed to seeing on his troublesome right knee.

On the subject of dodgy joints, Benny Youngs, who chipped a bone in one of his knees during a wrestling session (for heaven's sake) at England's training base in Surrey earlier this summer, is now convinced he'll be available for selection for Saturday. For the moment though, the "phoney war" persists.

All this week, Auckland has played host to New Zealand Fashion Week. The culmination of this extravaganza was, as the billboard right outside our hotel made abundantly clear, the lingerie exhibition.

For three of our number, who must remain nameless, this was too much of a temptation. They bought tickets and made a bee-line for the show's venue on the waterfront licking their lips in anticipation.

Inside, the place was full of the most beautiful women south of the equator and a roughly equal number of men who made Gok Wan look like Jean-Claude Van Damme. In other words our three colleagues didn't exactly blend in.

An elegant blonde woman of a certain age eventually sidled over to them to ask them where their wives or girlfriends were.

When told their better halves were all 12,000 miles away in the UK, the woman tuned away in disgust with her nose in the air, muttering something about perverts!

Sunday September 4

I have important news for those of you keen to hear the latest on the scandal they're calling "Applegate".

As you may already know, one of our number, Brendan Gallagher of the Daily Telegraph, was landed with a $400 fine for contravening strict import controls on arriving in New Zealand. Despite all the warning signs at the airport about bringing in foodstuffs, he had an apple in his backpack. Brendan refused to stump up claiming he'd have his day in court.

The so-called Auckland One has since received support from England's travelling legal representative Richard (Granny) Smith QC, who's promised to "come up with some juicy defence", while defending Brendan "to the core"!

What he should have said was: "Just plead insanity in the courthouse; they'll take one look at you and you'll walk".

Moving on and having paid an excess baggage surcharge of $1748 (TV equipment weighs a ton - literally), the Sky Sports News HD team are now at 32,000 feet on a flight from Auckland to Dunedin - and we've all just been blown away by the sight of Mount Taranaki, a vast and beautiful snow-capped volcano.

Our destination just happens to be, as far as Twickenham is concerned, the most remote city on earth. Dig a hole from HQ, straight through the centre of the earth's core, keep on going, and you end up in the South Pacific.

The nearest dry land is New Zealand's South Island, and the nearest city is Dunedin. If you went to the South Pole you'd be coming close.

Among the only people to have gone to work further from home than the England players are Apollo astronauts!

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