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New Zealand expats who call Northern Ireland home give their predictions ahead of World Cup clash

Emma Campbell from South Auckland, now lives in Belfast. She is pictured with her boyfriend Aaron.
Emma Campbell from South Auckland, now lives in Belfast. She is pictured with her boyfriend Aaron.
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

As the Ireland rugby team prepare for their do-or-die quarter-final clash with the All Blacks in Japan on Saturday, New Zealand natives now living in Northern Ireland said they remained confident of regaining bragging rights over their partners.

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Software designer Emma Campbell (25) from South Auckland moved to east Belfast after meeting her Co Tyrone born boyfriend Aaron in New Zealand.

“New Zealand is going to have to beat Ireland for the sake of my relationship,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“This will be only the second Ireland-New Zealand match of our relationship, with Ireland winning the first one in Dublin.

“Our bet was that the loser had to wear the winner’s jersey for the rest of the day. So I actually had to wear the Irish jersey but it was also our leaving day in New Zealand.

“So I had to wear it in front of everyone. So I think we’ll have a similar bet this time around as well.”

She added: “My boyfriend rang me yesterday and suggested watching the game at home. But I said no, I’ve got to go out and assert my New Zealandness in the public sphere with my All Blacks scarf and shirt. I think we’ll have the same bet this time as well.

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“But at the same time if there’s one team I don’t mind losing to it’s the Irish. I hate losing to the English and the Australians, but if it has to be one team it’s Ireland but unfortunately, it’s not going to happen this time around.”

She said a similar landscape and sense of humour had helped her adapt to Northern Ireland life.

“Sometimes when I look outside I feel like I’m back home,” she said.

Conna Nagle from Wellington now living in Newry.
Conna Nagle from Wellington now living in Newry.

“The stone walls are the only things that make a difference. It was easier than I thought to settle in here as my partner’s family are here.

“So that felt really welcoming, the only thing that’s very different in terms of how Northern Ireland works in terms of religion but it’s never been an issue for us.

“A lot of people back home say the British don’t get our humour, but I’ve found when I’ve cracked a joke in Northern Ireland people completely understand what I’m talking about.”

Judo instructor Zane Lightfoot (49) from Christchurch first moved to Northern Ireland in 2003 to take part in competitions and training camps, with the hope of qualifying for the Sydney Olympics.

While that dream was not to be, he stayed for his job in the construction industry and soon met his wife Gillian from Saintfield.

The couple now live in Comber and Zane is hoping to train for a ministry in the Church of Ireland.

Lyam Buchanan from Auckland who now lives in Banbridge.
Lyam Buchanan from Auckland who now lives in Banbridge.

“It’s not something I’ve always thought of. I was running a cross-community project through Judo and when I first moved here I was aware that was what my calling was going to be.”

He said the largely friendly nature of Northern Ireland locals had encouraged him to make the move.

“We did a camping trip around Ireland for our honeymoon as well. Travelling through the landscapes you did feel you could easily have been driving through New Zealand.”

So assured of an All-Blacks win this weekend, Zane said he is recording the match so as not to miss his golf tee-off.

“I think the last win that Ireland had came after the All-Blacks celebrated winning a record 18 games in a row.

“They were probably celebrating for a week and were below par when they played Ireland.

“They had also had quite a hard game against England, this time they’re well-rested and might just edge it.”

He added: “My wife wouldn’t say too much. But the last time she watched the All Blacks play she heard them sing the national anthem and said they should stick to rugby, so I had to defend their honour.”

Youth worker Mark Reader (44) from Taranaki moved to Ireland 13 years ago after meeting his wife Yvonne

He now lives in Donegal and works in Londonderry.

“My wife’s from up here so that’s how I ended up getting stuck here like most of us,” he said.

“I would say you get the same good old twisted sense of humour here.

“There’s a resilience to people here that appeals to me too despite the history of the place.

“I also find the landscape in places like Co Tyrone very similar to Taranaki where I come from.”

Looking to Saturday, he said:  “I think New Zealand will win quite comfortably to be quite honest. It’s been ten years since they lost to the same opposition two times in a row.

“I think they had done a lot of travelling before that match in Aviva in Dublin. Our captain Kieran Reid was returning from a career-threatening injury and wasn’t anywhere near his best, but he’s definitely back to his best now.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but the All Blacks are just very hungry and angry after what happened last time.

“Ireland will put up a good fight but will still be beaten by around 15-20 points.”

Not above superstition, Mark is strictly avoiding contact with all Ireland fans.

“Me and a fellow countryman from Wellington, what we’ve done is booted the wife out of the house.

“Because every time we’ve watched Ireland play New Zealand with her they’ve lost. So I’ve kicked her out of the house and any other indigenous people.”  

Conna Nagle (37) from Wellington moved to Newry five years ago after meeting her husband David.

She now runs a business selling hairpieces for women with hair loss.

“My husband’s from Newry, we met out in New Zealand and just decided to come back here because the way of life isn’t quite so expensive,” she said.

“There’s definitely a similarity between Irish and New Zealand people. I’ve lived in England before as well and notice the difference.

“People here are very friendly, even when you drive out of the city to the countryside there’s a lot of similarities with New Zealand.”

Having to watch the match from work on Saturday, she gets to escape any rivalry at home.

“The All Blacks are playing pretty well so I do think they’ll win. My husband asked me for my score prediction and I said 32-16, but he tells me that would be a good victory for Ireland so there’s a bit of rivalry.

“I think the All Blacks won’t let Ireland win again but it definitely will be a good game.

“The Dublin match, I don’t think they put their best players forward. So we let Ireland have that one I think.”

Pharmaceutical researcher Lyam Buchanan (22) from Auckland lives in Banbridge and moved to Northern Ireland in March this year to pursue his career.

“I knew the field I was looking to get into was bigger over here and there’s more opportunities.

“So I just thought ‘why not, I’ll give it a go’.

“I’m loving it over here, I’m working in diagnostic research in Belfast. It’s the dream really.

“Life here is good, but I can’t get used to how short the sun is up during the day. Other than that it’s been very good, everyone’s got great chat so it’s easy to get mixed in.”

He predicts a New Zealand win over Ireland by at least 15 points.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting game. Even with the All Blacks only winning once in the last three clashes, I’m still backing them to come out on top.

“But I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket, Ireland could easily come back out and take it from us.

“I’m just going to put on my All Blacks gear and take it as an excuse to have a few drinks in the morning.”

Bridging the gap between the two sides is Professor Sinclair Stockman (63), the honorary consul for New Zealand in Northern Ireland for the last three years.

Although born in Tobermore, his home in south Belfast has signed jerseys from both the All Blacks and Ireland proudly displayed on the wall.

He said the number of Kiwis in Northern Ireland was in the high hundreds, with many cultural similarities making their new home an ideal fit.

“I think I have a special dispensation this weekend,” he said. 

“I support the All Blacks except when they’re playing Ireland.

“So I have a long history of following the teams through peaks and troughs.”

He also noted the considerable historical links between Ireland and New Zealand.

This includes a former Prime Minister, John Ballance, born in Co Antrim and the first-ever All Blacks captain David Gallagher from Ramelton in Co Donegal.

“Ireland has significantly improved since the last world cup, winning two out of three games, so they do have a chance,” he said.

Next week he’s travelling to Japan for the semi-finals and is still holding out hope Ireland will still be there.

“We have a great bunch of New Zealanders here in Northern Ireland and really they’re an awful lot like us,” he said.

“I think they’re people who are still close to the land, that family is very important and they embrace visitors with their hospitality.

“Their whole approach to life is about honesty and decency and when things go wrong the come together to sort it out. I would say the same of people here.

“When the Women’s Rugby World Cup was on in Belfast we had all the families over and they had a great time.”

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