Monday, 12 September 2011

Strange tail from the Rugby World Cup: Forget Paul the psychic octopus, it's time for Billy Wool, the paranormal sheep. Would ewe believe it?

Forget Paul the psychic octopus, meet Sonny Wool, the three-year-old paranormal sheep. Dyed-in-the-wool rugby fans are going to love him and his ewe-phemisms.

Yes, the 2011 Rugby World Cup has it’s own psychic match predictor. And in a nation besotted – and heavily populated - by sheep, it had to be a woolly one. Don’t go off to the baa... I’m not flocking about.

Last year, Paul the psychic octopus correctly predicted results throughout the FIFA World Cup in South Africa before succumbing to a premature end, presumably exhausted by his efforts.

But Sonny Wool – named after dynamic Canterbury Crusaders centre Sonny Bill Williams - is alive and well, and wearing a customised All Blacks jersey in suburban Wellington.

How does Sonny Wool operate? Why, he decides between two bales of hay, each bearing the flag of rival nations. Last week, he chose the New Zealand nosh, and turned up his nose at the Tongan offering – much to the delight of the largely Kiwi crowd.

After a slight hesitation, he confidently settled underneath the standard of his home nation with one fan insisting: "Billy Wool sniffed around Tonga and then it walked to New Zealand, with a bit of coaxing from the fans. It would have been in the oven if it chose Tonga, so it chose wisely.”

Similarly, Paul the Octopus chose between two flags flying over his lunch – a mussel - in his tank in Germany.

Paul (born 26 January 2008, died 26 October 2010) was born in Weymouth, England but moved to the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany where he correctly predicted the winner of each of the Germany's seven matches – and the final, where Spain beat Holland.

Sonny Wool – born in rural Dannevirke, the son of a humble ewe, in 2009 – is not just following in Paul’s erm... tentacle steps. He actually goes a step further than Paul, and is a bit of a player. His “owner and agent”, Dan Boyd insists he enjoys chasing rugby balls in his pen.

Boyd also points out: "He's the black sheep of the family. The other sheep don't like him at all. He hangs out and likes humans more. He also likes to predict when it’s going to rain. He taps on the door to get inside the house when he feels it coming.”

Since Paul the Psychic Octopus emerged last year, the animal world has seen a host of imitators, including a somewhat clairvoyant crocodile in Australia and Bo Si, China’s psychic panda.

But with New Zealand running out 41-10 winners over Tonga in their opening World Cup clash last Friday, Sonny Wool is on the path to fame and fortune-telling.

Kiwis can be a little sheepish about the subject, but in a nation of just over four million people, there are an estimated 40.1 million sheep, giving a ratio of 10 sheep per person - though the Rambo movies were not filmed there.

Billy Wool is now the most popular sheep in the capital, Wellington, but that may change. Boyd warns: "Our next game is against Japan and if he picks Japan over the All Blacks, then they will be the team to win. No question."

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