Rugby World Cup Sevens

40,000 fall for announcer's joke

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am

Nearly 40,000 people rose to celebrate the founding father of rugby yesterday and then were left standing . . . 'April Fool', boomed announcer Dave 'Willo' Williams.

'On April Fool's Day at the Sevens, it's tradition for me to play a joke on all the crowd in the stadium,' said the long-time Sevens commentator.

'It must happen before midday. This year, I told the crowd it was the anniversary of William Webb Ellis picking up the ball for the first time and running away with it, thus creating the glorious game of rugby,' he explained.

'I asked the crowd to be upstanding for this auspicious event, and left 40,000 standing for 10 seconds ... before I announced April Fool's Day and went straight into playing Hey Baby.

'In my time of Sevens commentating, only two Sevens have fallen on April Fool's Day. Last year, it was on the Saturday that I got everyone looking under their seat for a HK$50,000 gold ticket.'

Gag-chief Willo is one of five 'paid voices' at the Sevens. As stadium announcers, it is their job to keep the crowd informed and keep the mood up.

Along with Willo in the commentary box near the stadium's entrance are Richard Cooke ('Cookie') Phil Whelan from RTHK Radio Three, Phil Campbell and Siu Lung ('Little Dragon') who does the Cantonese component.

'When everyone else is partying, we're not,' says Cooke. 'That means no big nights out in the lead up, as we must protect our voices at all costs.

'We have two announcers on at a time and do three games on, then three games off to even out the workload. As things hot up, we do two games on, two games off.

'Some of the other challenges are getting the correct pronunciation of names of players from places like Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Sri Lanka.

'Also, I always make sure I put a smile on my face when I announce things that I personally wish hadn't happened. I had to particularly make sure I did this when I called a sudden death in the Rugby World Cup in 2005 in a game between England and Fiji. It was a bit like that today when England went out too.'

Says Phil Whelan: 'I've been doing this gig since the 25th Sevens. When we get to the time of day where we play Sweet Caroline there's an unexplainable buzz, everything just clicks and it's great. The Sevens is Hong Kong's main attraction.'