What a World Cup. It had it all. From Day 1 till the final it was played in the spirit that rugby should be played in. The minnows caused a few frights and even an upset here and there. The kiwis picked a public enemy number one, our own Quade Cooper. The Wallabies continued to show glimpses of what the next few years may hold, and not all of them were good. The final was something to behold and for my mind, was the best final in RWC history.
The minnows made this tournament what it was, and showed that even though they are less professional, heart and national pride can earn victory. Some of these teams I don’t know if we can class as minnows any more. Tonga beat one of the finalists and Samoa, who had a victory against Australia before the Cup, pushed South Africa to the end.
I knew this tournament was going to be something out of the ordinary when on just the second day Japan pushed France so gallantly. They moved the ball and asked questions of the French all game. They scored a few fantastic tries and you have to think, with the kamikaze spirit in which they throw their bodies around, were they a bit bigger race of people they could make a serious impact in Test rugby.
Georgia taking it to England was another great moment. Sure they lost, but the manner in which they physically stepped up to a far stronger opposition is why we love rugby.
The IRB now must nurture this. These can’t be forgotten nations for another four years. Get the Namibian national side into the Currie Cup. Give Romania and Georgia a game against one of the top tier sides at least twice a year. Tonga, Samoa and Fiji must have access to their national players whenever they are needed.
I know this from firsthand experience, as in the last two weeks I have played against some of these guys who would be walk-up starts for their national teams. Instead they are still here in France, turning down the opportunity to go to the World Cup in order to secure their futures. Its not the players’ fault, they have to look after their families, but something must be done. The IRB might have to lose the Tyrannosaurus Rex arms and delve into its deep pockets to sort this out. Compensate the clubs and they will have no problem letting their stars go play for their national teams, and the players won’t be left out-of-pocket.
Probably only one kiwi in the land was happy Quade Cooper was in town: Stephen Donald, as at last there was someone else to take the public scorn. Did he bring the booing on himself? Maybe. Did he have the greatest six games of his career? No. Would I change anything about the way he approaches the game… absolutely not!!
I would always want someone in my team who is antagonising an opposition. Getting into the head of someone like Richie McCaw is fantastic, so that instead of concentrating on his job he is worrying about getting Quade Cooper, perhaps opening up a hole in defence, or leaving them a man short in attack for the Wallabies to exploit.
Everything he did was done on the field. Richie, it turned out, is better than that. But there was no harm in trying to put the great man off his game. About time someone did. There was no cowardice involved. It was an arrogance that we have been lacking. Numbers 1 to 8 in the Wallabies could learn a thing or two from Quade’s attitude. We have been bullied around the field by the All Blacks for a lot of years now. Nothing wrong with tapping the bully on the head when you finally get one over him.
Quade’s play, however, was not his best. How could it be? When the quality of the ball received is either painfully slow, or at the very least scrappy, he can’t conjure miracles. Too often he tried too hard to make a miracle happen at the wrong times.
They get a ‘Pass’ mark, nothing more. We only really put one team, the USA, to the sword. Our best 40 minutes of the tournament was probably in the second half against Italy. But the first half of that game showed Ireland and later the All Blacks where we are vulnerable — that is, at numbers 1 to 8.
When I say that, it’s not individually thT our players are lesser. Definitely not. Steve Moore is up there with the best in world, as is James Horwill, and David Pockock is hands-down the best. But collectively, our eight can’t dominate. Only once in the last few years has our eight demolished a quality opposition and that was against the All Blacks in Brisbane this year — and I think we can all agree that wasn’t an All Blacks in the same state of mind as at the RWC.
Our forwards are generally just gaining parity and our backs are the difference. Against Ireland, we can’t just blame the injury to Pocock; collectively we were dominated. Likewise against the Springboks in the quarter final and the All Blacks in the semi, the Aussie forwards while courageous just weren’t at the same level.
It’s not technical deficiencies. It’s out-and-out hardness that is missing. We have to unearth a tighthead prop from somewhere, or build one from the ground up. We saw in the final the value of the scrum when the French monstered the Kiwi pack and marched them back a few metres to gain what could have been a match-winning penalty.
It was amazing. The right team won the tournament. However, I’m so happy the French silenced their many critics. ‘Worst team ever to make a World Cup final, the pundits whinged. Hardly! This team showed pure courage. From the moment they advanced on the haka you could tell the challenge was accepted.
The better team won. But what character it took!
Thierry Dusautoir was immense, a true leader. Richie McCaw was everywhere (legally or not) and the fact that he could barely walk onto the stage to receive the coveted prize showed what it takes to win a World Cup. The scoreline reflected not that it was a boring, low-scoring game but that it was a hugely contested, flowing, brave game where true passion was on show and by the end you simply could do nothing but applaud whats these guys just put their bodies through. Both teams. It was fitting of a World Cup final.
A few quick notes to the IRB and the referees. Harden up!
- A yellow card for Sonny Bill Williams in the semi — ridiculous.
- Three weeks’ suspension for Sam Warburton— ridiculous.
- Not liking it when a player calls you out on the unfairness of the draw to the minnow nations and then fining him — ridiculous.
- A $10,000 fine to a player for wearing the wrong mouthguard in a pool match — ridiculous.
Overall though, a great tournament.
Top 14 in full swing and the mighty Bordeaux just hanging in there. SupeRugby only a few months away. It’s a good time to be involved with rugby. The values of this game prevail. In one of the newspapers there was an image after the semi-final of the Wallabies clapping the All Blacks off the field. I noted at the time that that is why we love this game. Go to war on the field, clap the opposition off it!