Reluctant Rush one of the crowd

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 12:00am

With the mad scramble for tickets, there was one reluctant spectator yesterday - Eric Rush. New Zealand's captain fantastic was missing in action for the first time in 13 years due to a broken right leg and hated his unofficial role as 'motivator in chief' for the largely unblooded All Blacks side.

Rush is hobbling among the throngs on crutches rather than making incisive runs through opposition defences. 'It really hurts now - I did not enjoy it at all,' said Rush after watching from the bench as New Zealand beat the Arabian Gulf 43-5 in their opening game. 'It is hard just watching rather than being out there playing.'

Rush, the centre of attraction for autograph hunters and happy snappers, has not given up hope of gracing the tournament again next year. 'I will be able to start running again in two months and hopefully I can get another crack here,' he said. 'I will get the plaster off and see what happens - I would love to come back and play.'

Like hundreds of others, Rush was caught out by the sellout signs going up at Hong Kong Stadium. Two of his brothers, in town for the Hong Kong 10s, were outside the ground during New Zealand's match as he hunted for spare tickets.