Just 48 hours before the final test of an arduous season, almost all of the All Blacks have been struck down by sickness.
Only two members of the extended 34-man playing squad escaped the potentially debilitating bug, which first swept through the team in Cardiff last week.
Coach Steve Hansen said, “It’s been a difficult week with a lot of people being sick. We’ve had guys go down with diarrhea and vomiting. There’s only two that have missed out. Just getting that mix right has been difficult. Hopefully we’ve been smart enough to keep the energy tank full. … Apparently half of the UK has got it. Hang around here long enough and we’ll give it to you,” he joked to media.
All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read said, “Personally I’m feeling a lot better today. I know the boys had a good guided tour of their bathrooms yesterday on their day off.”
The sickness shouldn’t be anything like the “Suzie the waitress” food poisoning that ripped through Laurie Mains’ All Blacks before the 1995 World Cup final.
Don’t eat poop. And if you do, cook the poop. Thoroughly.
Which is why I don’t eat raw oysters. Who knows what poop they’ve filtered through their bivalves.
In 2009 public health authorities traced the source of two outbreaks, in Auckland and Waikato, back to the Coromandel, according to today’s New Zealand Medical Journal.
Ten people were infected at a catered event in Auckland and three at a Cambridge restaurant. Four more at the Auckland event ate oysters but did not fall ill. Neither venue nor the oyster farm is named in the journal report.
In Cambridge, two of the unlucky diners ate their oysters raw while the third consumed cooked oyster Kilpatrick but complained the shellfish was undercooked and sent it back for re-cooking.
The Food Safety Authority closed the growing area where the oysters came from in late July 2009 following the Auckland outbreak but eight days before the Cambridge diners had their contaminated meal.
The journal report says the leaking sewer was found only by chance. In early August 2009 the Thames Coromandel District Council reported the sewer had been disturbed during maintenance of the wastewater treatment plant near the oyster growing area.
"The pipe had been leaking partially treated effluent into the stream that flowed into the affected growing area," says the report by public health doctor Richard Wall and colleagues.
Dr Wall and colleagues say temperatures above 60C deactivate norovirus, although cooking oysters has not been shown to reliably inactivate viruses.
In 2006 imported Korean oysters were blamed for five outbreaks of the disease. One of these was at Eden Park in which it was estimated more than 300 corporate guests at an All Blacks-Ireland test were poisoned after eating the raw oysters.
Susie is a mysterious waitress who allegedly served the New Zealand All Blacks a dinner of food poisoning 48 hours before the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg, which felled 27 of the 35-member squad. Or so the story goes.
As the 2011 Rugby World Cup approaches, the Food Safety Authority has revealed that samples of food served to the team will be frozen to provide a record for food safety.
And to ensure a level dietary playing field, Rugby World Cup 2011 will document all meals provided to all teams at the tournaments.
But it’s not because of Susie.
"We are following best practice,” said hospitality and logistics manager Ian Crowe, “so it’s unrelated to those issues."
Tournament organisers had been working with the authority for the past four years to ensure the best possible food safety.
Teams and officials will be served 103,000 meals during this year’s tournament.