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McKenzie focused on job at hand

Canada's Lesley McKenzie starts at hooker today in the match against Scotland. She tells us how disappointed her team are to not be in the semis but that the focus on finishing fifth remains strong.

By Leslie McKenzie

In the words of Jimmy Buffet: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

The fact that this World Cup comprises five stages, from first pool game kickoff to cup final, in just sixteen days means that the turnaround between matches is three days, making that stretch (clich imminent) a 3-day rollercoaster of emotion (told you).

I happily agreed to do this blog while we were still in the training stage; I cant remember if it was while we were still in camp in Cardiff, but that particular Groundhog Day seems so far distant now that its irrelevant. Nothing upsets your sleep-eat-train-eat-ice-eat-train-eat-ice-sleep rhythm like reflection, so I absolutely have been avoiding this, claiming its just too mentally and physically taxing. Ha.

So after losing what was essentially our quarterfinal to France, I havent exactly been chomping at the bit to review what Im feeling, but in the words of the infamous Ken Laban (my coach at JVille and Wainui in Wellington) go hard or go shopping. I went shopping yesterday; today I am sucking it up and doing this.

Its funny how perspective changes, how necessary it is that it does so: this summer I had an injury in a warm-up game against the States that made me wonder not only if Id miss my World Cup but if I was done playing rugby for good. From dreams of world-beating to just desperately wanting to make it on to the plane. I was fortunate that, after a few training sessions, I was sound enough that the scope of my ambitions could go from I want to be able to train to I expect to start all games and beat the worlds best.

Not just days and weeks but minutes, seconds, can take you from feelings of the most invincible self-assurance to the most devastating void of despair. And it can take days, weeks, months, hours or years to regain some equilibrium.

With all of the preparation time and focus required to get bodies on track for each international here, teams have essentially only a few hours to absorb the shock or elation, and basking or wallowing must be done efficiently.

I was devastated after our loss to France. The misery shocked me to my core, and the morning after, I was still in denial of the whole situation. I wont lie: at the start of our recovery session that morning (we do an on-field session rather than swimming pool-ing it) it took a very pointed McKenzie, get your shit together from a teammate just to manage my face.

By the end of the session, howevernot a long oneI was amazed that Id actually managed a turnaround (I wasnt even faking it). To be sure, Ive stuffed a lot of it deep down somewhere, but thatll go in my To Do list for September (deal with soul-numbing grief, pick up dry cleaning) but right now Im truly, wholly and completely psyched to play Scotland. At the end of the day, what better gift is thereand what other reasons to show up to any park, whether for club or for countrythan the blissful possibilities of 80 minutes of clean blank slate?

A demonstration of how bloodthirsty Pool C is: one of ours came home from Guildford on a bus with one of the Swedish players, so this is second-hand, but the gist:

Swedish House has been progressively tea-cozied since weve got here. Blue and yellow wool sleeves cover the railings, the posts outside the entrance, and SWEDEN is woven into the grating in blue yarn (I bet this happens at the mens World Cup all the time). I have been speculating how to effect something similar with bits of wood, maple syrup and live beavers for Canada House but this has me stumped.

Anyway, just before the Sweden-Scotland clash a hand-knitted flag of Sweden shows up outside the Scotland house. Intimidating stuff. The same flag is returned to Swedens house in a box, accompanied by some ceremonial feathers, flowers, etc. Next thing its back in Scottish territory, marked with an RIP. At which point apparently certain groups got officially reprimanded for woolen, handcrafted threats.

Not that we are suffering for the new and extraordinary at all here: each day kicks off with a breakfast that sometimes starts at 7, sometimes at 7:30. Then come meetings, trainings, lunch, trainings, ice baths, and dinner. These sometimes have varying start and finish times as well, which really keeps us all on our toes. Every day I am thankful for the abundance of carbohydrates available to me, the exciting range of low-fat yoghurts in the dinner hall, and the fact that Harlequins train at the Sports Park as well during the week.

At least the scenery is fantastic.