14 Jun 2017

Did this man get you into the 2007 Rugby World Cup final?

6:18 pm on 14 June 2017

Lions fan Robin Hughes is searching for a needle in a haystack.

Lions fan Robin Hughes is hoping to be reunited with the four New Zealanders he gave Rugby World Cup final tickets to in Paris in 2007.

Mr Hughes is hoping to be reunited with the four New Zealanders he gave Rugby World Cup final tickets to in Paris in 2007. Photo: Supplied / Robin Hughes

Back in 2007, the then 61 year-old Welshman gave four beleaguered All Blacks fans tickets to the Rugby World Cup final.

Ten years on, Robin is heading south to tick a Lions tour off his bucket list, and he wants to meet up with them to mark the occasion.

The only problem? He can't remember anything about who they are.

Mr Hughes and his friend Alain were sitting in the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris on Saturday 20 October, 2007, waiting to go to the World Cup Final, when four dejected, black-shirted New Zealanders walked through the door.

"They were as miserable as sin," he said.

And we all remember why.

"I asked what the matter was, and it turned out that the finals tickets they had purchased at the Gare du Nord Station on arrival from Cardiff were forged."

"They'd saved up a lot of money to go to the World Cup. They'd waited 20 years."

"We had no involvement in the final - and neither had the Kiwis - but we had not travelled thousands of miles, and spent a small fortune getting there."

Mr Hughes made the decision without even consulting his friend.

"I said, 'Look, I've got four tickets. Would you like them?'.

"My colleague and I are Welsh and French, we don't care about South Africa and England - I'd back Albania against England in any sport."

It was, he said, a no-brainer. The pair gave the Kiwis their tickets, wished them well, and watched the final - bleary-eyed - over a bottle of Gascon brandy.

Ten years on, Mr Hughes is a 71-year-old jetsetter, dividing his time between Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines, while also ticking items off his fast-receding bucket list.

One of the three or four items left is to go on a Lions tour - something he's in a position to rectify this year.

But he thinks there could be more to this trip than just rugby and sight-seeing.

"I thought, well hang on, that'd be a good idea - why don't I try to catch up with the people we met 10 years ago?"

Lions fan Robin Hughes is hoping to be reunited with the four New Zealanders he gave Rugby World Cup final tickets to in Paris in 2007.

Robin Hughes Photo: Supplied / Robin Hughes

But Mr Hughes cannot remember who those four fortunate Antipodeans were.

Nothing. Not a name, not a face, not a place.

"I've got a sneaking suspicion in my memory that they may have come from Hamilton. I don't know why, it's just something that triggers in my mind. But they may not have done, I'm not sure to be honest."

"It was two husbands and two wives, in their - at that stage - late thirties or early forties, I would suggest."

So, here we are: two men, two women - probably in their late-forties or early fifties - who made it to the 2007 World Cup final after being given tickets by a short Welshman and a tall Frenchman at a hotel in the Place de L'Opera.

Possibly from Hamilton, possibly not.

Mr Hughes said he was attracted to the serendipity such a meeting would offer.

"If it's possible to catch up and have a beer or a good glass of sauvignon blanc, that would make my trip. That's almost as important as going to the game, I think."

"Catching up and renewing and reviewing the experiences of life is something that not many people get a chance to do."

Mr Hughes will arrive in New Zealand on 4 July, and will be here for nine days.

Are you Robin's long-lost acquaintances? Or do you know who they are? Email the author at emile.donovan@radionz.co.nz and he can put you in touch.

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