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Super Rugby Final – Hurricanes v Highlanders

OPINIONSportsMay 13, 2016

Exposé: Leicester City stole their inspiring sports tale from the 2015 Highlanders

Super Rugby Final – Hurricanes v Highlanders

Everyone’s hailing Leicester City’s amazing Premier League victory as a one-in-a-million sporting tale, but James McOnie argues it was plagarised from the Highlanders’ 2015 season. 

Super Rugby Final - Hurricanes v Highlanders

While everyone thinks Leicester City’s fairytale Premier League victory will be turned into a movie, let’s just remember this rags-to-riches tale involves some players* who earn more in a fortnight than many All Blacks do in a year.

The Leicester movie also lacks any real peril. No-one came close to dying or losing the love of their life. Nobody found out their arch enemy was in fact their father only for him to chop off their hand. There was the recent suspension of Foxes star striker Jamie Vardy for abusing a referee. That’s about it.

But my biggest concern about the movie – suggested title Leicester City Quantum of Soccer – is it’s plagiarised.

Because aren’t Leicester just the 2015 Highlanders rugby team? You may recall last year was Highlanders: The Quickening, when a rag-team of misfits won the Super Rugby title against all odds.

Now let’s look at the two stories. The Fantastic Mr Foxes have two world-class stars of contrasting ethnic backgrounds: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) and Jamie Vardy (England). See Aaron and Ben Smith. Mahrez is the player who lived in the shadows, like Smith did as Jimmy Cowan’s apprentice, only to emerge as the most influential player in the league.

Vardy, like Ben, is a late bloomer. He was signed by Leicester at 27. Ben only became a regular in the All Blacks test side aged 27. They’re both fast and they score a lot.

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League

Leicester had an outstanding midfield general N’Golo Kante (France), who ran the gameplan and pulled the strings. The equivalent position in rugby is first-five where Lima Sopoaga was exceptional and did exactly that.

In football, the backs = rugby forwards and the Foxes had a couple  of rugged salty brutes in central defence: Wes Morgan and Robert Huth.

Captain Morgan is a 6-foot-2 centre back who was let go by Nottingham Forest. He’s an Englishman who plays for Jamaica.

Compare that to Highlanders co-captain, 6-foot-3 Nasi Manu who was let go by the Crusaders. He’s a Kiwi who hopes to play for Scotland.

Huth (31) is a big, blond uncompromising player who made his name at other clubs (Chelsea and Stoke). Same as Landers lock Mark Reddish (31) who made his name at the Hurricanes.

At Leicester, two tall foreign-born players Kasper Schmiechel and Christian Fuchs under-achieved with other teams before their crowning moment with Leicester. Two tall Fijian-born wingers Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo did the same thing.

One of the fan favourites at Leicester is Japanese player Shinji Okazaki. Ditto Highlanders halfback Fumiaki Tanaka who wore just his undies on TV at least twice and was prepared to brave an electric fence challenge mid-season. (subs: Highlanders TV on facebook have video of the electric fence thing and possibly a story in his undies)

I’ll admit the coach is where the problem lies. While both Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Joseph have previously had poor seasons where people questioned their ability, in Ranieri’s case he’s been sacked many times, sometimes unfairly (Chelsea and Juventus in particular) and the 64-year-old Italian only took over the Foxes last year. He’s also a fun and bubbly presence. Joseph, not so much. He is the snap, if you will, but the crackle and pop in the Landers coaching group does come from Tony Brown and Scott McLeod. That, allied with Joe Wheeler’s penchant for producing amusing videos and songs, shows that humour is a big part of the team’s ethos.

And then the two teams’ history. Neither had won the title before, although both clubs have produced great players: Leicester can lay claim to Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Gary Lineker while the Highlanders gave us Jeff Wilson, Josh Kronfeld and many more from the pre-Super Rugby era.

The population of Leicester is 329,000. Population of Highlanders region: 320,000. Leicester also has a proud university and I’m hoping they have 24 hour dairies too.

Oh and they both wear blue.

So which movie would I prefer to see? To be honest, neither. I liked the real-life stories. Also, no football movie will ever eclipse the war-time classic Escape To Victory starring Pele, Ossie Ardilles, Michael Caine, half the 1981 Ispwich team and Sylvester Stallone in goal.

Rugby is still waiting for it’s great movie — Invictus was a travesty and Andes plane crash drama Alive didn’t really feature rugby as much as cannibalism. I think it might take another story with Highlander elements… perhaps the life and times of Fumiaki Tanaka.

*Jamie Vardy’s mid-season pay rise took him to 80,000 pounds (NZ$168,000) a week

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