Bit of a sad week for Australian rugby and I’m not sure the future is going to be any easier. However, it’s Wednesday so time to forget the past and start looking forward to the weekend where we again have an excuse to get up early and watch some rugby. It’ll be interesting to watch knowing that while you still have teams you support and will want to win over others, there isn’t the same emotional attachment that you have to the Wallabies and just maybe this might make it easier to watch.
So who do we support now?
Nathan Williamson at rugby.com.au has put out a good article here asking who you should support now the Wallabies are no longer in the tournament. It’s an interesting conundrum for Wallaby supporters. From previous matches and games in Australia we get people ranging from “I support Australia and anyone playing (one of) New Zealand/England South Africa” to the “Scotland/England/Wales” are where my family comes from and so are my second team, to “I support the underdog so Fiji! Bula Vinaka!”
Nathan looks at it slightly differently giving pros and cons for each of the teams, which I’ve summarised for you as well as adding a bit of opinion from reading between his lines.
France. They’ve put on a good show, have built up to this point with a clear plan over the last few years and with an inured captain, home support and some great stadiums they deserve your support. Plus if we copy what they’ve done for 2027 we might win again too.
Ireland. Current No 1 in the world. Beat those nasty Boks and are continuing a great run that started when they beat NZ in NZ. With Hansen playing so well they help broadcast to the world how awesome Australian rugby players are.
Wales. They were in the same position as Australia and demonstrated how to overcome the problems rather than add to them and make it worse. Like Australia they brought in some youth to get things moving, but unlike Australia they also kept experience in critical positions – 10 anyone? Get stuffed over by the other 6Ns and we secretly love the underdog.
England. Have steadily improved and while not pretty, they’ve done enough to get them through the pool stage. Admittedly they haven’t met any of the top teams yet, but that’s not their fault and they’ve shown an ability to play a game based on who the opposition is. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have Jones.
New Zealand. Anzac brotherhood for a start. Started slow but building and wouldn’t a win for them be a great advertisement for the Super Rugby Pacific competition (and might get more sponsorship for the Wallabies).
South Africa. Current RWC holders, they’ll create a dynasty if they win this tournament and with experience of players and teams in the NH tournaments as well as the Rugby Championship they know how the game’s played. But, they wrongly criticise Australian referees, try to influence other referees to be nice to them and have damaged the game more than any other side with their outlandish management and less than honest approach.
Fiji. Such a good story with a team from the lower echelons of World Rugby rankings beating teams above them and clawing their way into this tournament. Play a really good brand of rugby with an infectious attitude that makes it easy to support them. Plus they beat the Soap Dodgers in Twickenham and we loved that.
Argentina. Done well through being in a weaker pool and have flown under the radar and got to the semis. Since losing to England all their games have been knockout and they’ve adapted well to the pressure. But why couldn’t Cheika do this with us when he was in charge?
So there you go, reasons for why you should support one of the other teams and I’ll leave it to you to decide who. Personally, I’ll support the ABs and fully expect to be watching them beat France (again) in the finals.
‘I can die tomorrow’
Demonstrating just why we love this game so much, and while breaking a few Wallaby hearts in the process, it was just fantastic to see the joy within the Portugal camp and supporters following their win against the Fijians on Monday.
As written here in rugby.com.au their first win in a RWC match in only their second tournament and to be against the giant killers Fiji is a special moment. The game will be the final game for a number of the Portuguese players and hooker Mike Tadjer asks Portugal to find a way to keep this momentum going, although that’s a question for tomorrow. “I can die tomorrow. It’s going to be an awesome day for me,” Tadjer said demonstrating the joy and passion that comes through in moments like these. “To finish like that, it is unbelievable. For four years we built towards this. I hope we continue to work in a good way for the next generation” Portugal needed a last-gasp kick to earn their qualification for the tournament in France via a draw with the United States, and got their first World Cup win with virtually the last kick again. But for a missed kick at goal they might also have beaten Georgia in this tournament. Their halfback Samuel Marques, who delivered on both the previous winning occasions is also bowing out of the national team after this tournament.
A lot of credit for the win must go to their coach Patrice Lagisquet who also leaves the team on a massive high after what has been a hugely successful tournament. “It’s unbelievable, (the players) always find resources I never expect,” he said. “I am so lucky to train a squad like this one. I am so lucky to finish with this victory, it’s a great moment.”
I’ve loved watching the so called minnows in this tournament. In some ways the lopsided draw has helped them immensely as it has meant they haven’t had the 90+ blow out games that many of them have experienced in the past. But watching teams like Portugal and Chile play with such an attacking care free passion has been one of the highlights of this tournament for me and demonstrates how things might be if World Rugby actually put time into these teams and gave them games to allow them to grow.
This was actually a theme for me throughout this tournament. Teams who have not been hugely successful like Tonga, Samoa and Japan leading into this tournament have really grown and developed as they have played more together and developed their play. While I think the lopsided draw has also played a big part of this, it does demonstrate how much better this game could be if we gave these teams more quality games.
The not so glamorous side of the league deals
With the deal breaking down and some accusations from both sides as mentioned here in Fox Sports rugby, the situation demonstrates how fragile the recruitment of league players can be. It’s been revealed Rugby Australia’s offer to Roosters star Angus Crichton was worth less than half the reported two year, $1.6 million that circulated. State bosses raised concerns regarding the contract; however, the real value has been revealed to be worth $400,000 per season as well third party bonuses for appearances.
Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh was forced to reveal the real value of the contract during the meeting and the offer was also retracted on Tuesday. Crichton’s manager, David Rawlings, slammed Rugby Australia’s dealings with his client, labelling negotiations “bad business”. “It’s not much of a surprise to us that negotiations have fallen over given the manner in which they’ve been handled since we began discussions,” Rawlings said, following this up with “Within 12 hours of us receiving an offer, I was getting calls from journalists who were aware that the deal had been tabled. That didn’t come from us, I can assure you.”
Waugh has also responded to Rawlings’ comments, explaining Rugby Australia’s side of the story. “RA was approached numerous times by Angus Crichton’s management, trying to pressure RA,” Waugh said. “Due to the manner in which the discussions progressed and the significant inaccuracies in the numbers reported, we have ceased conversations.”
Now as most of you know I am hugely against the idea of bringing in league players to Australian rugby. I know a lot of them have been wonder boys at schoolboy rugby and some of them do continue to demonstrate some great athletic skills at times. However, the game of rugby union and rugby league are fundamentally different, with different skill requirements, different tactics and different levels of intensity. The idea that a player can stroll across, especially into rugby where he plays at either Super or the Wallabies as there’s nothing below that, is just ludicrous and undermines everything that the players who stay in rugby have done. Even those players who were ok at rugby once (and sorry no schoolboy wonder is anything ever more than ok. They become good through the development and application of skills as they grow older) take years to relearn the game of rugby union, and sorry but most of them remain as abject failures at it.
But the seemingly unprofessional way this deal has been managed, along with the timing of it has really indicated just how out of touch some of the people managing this game are. I mean we were all focussing on France, we saw the Wallabies lose to Wales, after also losing to Fiji and were hoping that some of the big talk that Eddie had been spouting was going to finally start showing.
After months of speculation from both Eddie and Hamish McLennan about what league players might come across and how, according to Eddie, they are so much better than any rugby players, as well as having two league coaches in the group failing abysmally and contributing to the losses, we now get RA wanting to throw more money at a 27 year old league player who might have once been ok as a schoolboy playing other schoolboys.
This just beggars belief, and honestly it’s no wonder that there is such a lack of trust between the franchises and supporters of this great game and Rugby Australia.