So it’s goodbye to those plucky minnows who have fought hard, and with a certain grace, throughout this Rugby World Cup, often showing more ability and decidedly more passion than some of the so-called ‘better’ teams (England). They have once again provided the World Cup with their own vibrance, blend of culture, passion, and lots of face-paint. In particular we have seen unreserved courage and zeal from the French-beating Tongan team, who, if they’d shown similar resolve against a spirited Canadian team could have found themselves in the Quarter-Final match against England next week.
The ever-abundant might of the Samoans has been a pure delight for all, with them overcoming their normally entertaining Pacific Island neighbours, Fiji. They also displayed probably some of the finest spirit this tournaments seen, dishing out their trademark hits by the plenty in their bruising final encounter, against the Cup-holders, South Africa, only to come up a few points short in the end.
…a match that ultimately decided their fate.
Surely the biggest upset of this tournament has been the exit of Scotland, failing to reach the Quarter-Final stages for the first time in Rugby World Cup history. Disheartened they will feel, having battled unequivocally in both their final match against the lacklustre English, and in their previous match to the feisty Argentineans – a match that ultimately decided their fate. Plaudits, however, to the South Americans, who have once again laid down their intentions to prove that they can match the mightier Northern Hemisphere sides, in terms of skill, tenacity and all round play.
Their tournament may end against the home-favourites, New Zealand, but they have certainly shown that they fully-deserve their selection for participation in next year’s Tri-Nations (now Four Nations) Southern Hemisphere tournament.
…we have another tournament, and yet another disappointment.
Poor old New Zealand. They never seem to have much luck in World Cups. Year-in-year-out they dominate the international scene with their blend of high-octane and thrills-galore rugby, possibly epitomising the art of rugby in the process. And yet, failure to succeed due to misshapen circumstances over the last few years has increased the pressure on this much-appraised team. Again, we have another tournament, and yet another disappointment. Losing Dan Carter is a massive disappointment (for all really – he is a delight to watch). He needs little in the way of description, other than he controls the game superbly. Without him, the door is not necessarily open to the other teams, for the All Blacks have a respectable replacement in Colin Slade, but it is slightly ajar. The rest of the team are of course still up to the task of appeasing their baying public, with the likes of Sonny Bill, McCaw, Nonu, (the list goes on really) able to overcome the world’s best on any given day. However, it’s from the No. 10 position that the spark is created and on this occasion the brightest spark in the game has been extinguished.
It is now down to the knock-out stages and my money’s on Ireland. Oh yes, those perennial under-achievers (with regards to the World Cup – not including the Six Nations) have apparently saved all their worth for this very moment, displaying no real cause for alarm leading up to the World Cup, but flipping that completely on its head and showing us some of the most lively play and hardened determination of any rugby side so far. A gritty over-throw of the reigning Tri-Nations champions and a comfortable victory over the Italians has awoken people to the fact that Ireland may well prove to be the team of the tournament.
…boasting a plethora of attacking talent.
South Africa v. Australia should be the game of the week, with the sides looking fairly evenly matched, and both boasting a plethora of attacking talent. England v. France should be entertaining, but only because it could be a game of ‘who makes the least mistakes in a match.’ Ireland v. Wales will, without doubt, be as compelling as the Southern Hemisphere battle (perhaps even more so!). New Zealand v. Argentina – well all I can say is, ‘Good luck to the Argentines.’
Roll on the Quarter-Finals…
Images courtesy of Dan Carter and The RWC