As many settle in to focus on rugby for the next few weeks, Dr Matthew O’Meagher hopes the Rugby World Cup will help pique New Zealander’s interest in the global connections of the game—particularly links to Latin America.

Victoria University of Wellington Principal Advisor, International Reputation, and director of the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPE), Dr O’Meagher features in a new series screening on TVNZ on Demand, called The Story of Rugby.

The series is produced and directed by his brother Steven O’Meagher, an award-winning documentary maker who travelled to more than 20 countries and interviewed many people to probe the history and politics of rugby.

“As the series looks into the history of rugby as a global game, and as it covers both New Zealand and Latin America, Steven was looking for a historian who could speak about both regions, to balance the northern hemisphere historians featured elsewhere in the series. I’ve lectured and researched on both subjects so I could be that historian.”

Dr O’Meagher’s work on the series relates closely to his role at the CAPE, which aims to help New Zealanders engage and do business with Latin America. “For this to happen, we need to put the region on more New Zealanders’ radars. And rugby is one of the biggest links we have—we have been playing the Pumas [the Argentinian national team] since 1976,” he says.

The sports-mad fan says it was an amazing opportunity to be on a series that featured icons of the game—“people I woke up to watch at 3 am in the morning for live screenings of tests on TV when I was a kid”.

Dr O’Meagher says while he is looking forward to the Rugby World Cup, he would equally watch cricket, soccer and other sports at that level. “I love the mix of cultures in such tournaments.”

So who is he backing to win the Rugby World Cup? New Zealand first, followed by Argentina, Ireland and then France—“who, as Episode 3 shows, were the team who brought flair and romance to the international game when I was growing up. I even cheered for them rather than the ABs at Eden Park during their famous win over us in ’79. Allez les Bleus!  And ¡Vamos los Pumas.”

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