Saturday, October 06, 2007
The Rugby World Cup is over for the favourites All Blacks as their campaign comes off the rails at the hands of France yet again. The Tri Coloures join England in the semi finals, with the question remaining, why don't sides like England and France play the way they did last night, all the time?
The All Blacks and Wallabies are two of the top sides between World Cups and the All Blacks especially have hardly raised a sweat against Northern Hemisphere sides in the past four years. The stakes need to be raised between tournaments with the matches needing to be worth ranking points, with those points being used to decide Rugby World Cup pools in the future tournament. This would help the unusual situation where France, Argentina and Ireland are in the same pool, while both Scotland and Fiji qualify for the play offs.
The atmosphere at this quarter final was electric and I would love to see the French and the English play like this all of the time. I believe the rest of the world have got worse over the past four years, and not the All Blacks necessarily getting much better. The All Blacks were supposedly in line for their best World Cup shot in 20 years, yet it was their worst finish since the 1987 triumph.
The result in Cardiff shows what you get when you take a fired up French side, and combine it with some terrible refereeing. Wayne Barnes was out of his depth and received little help from his linesmen as the All Blacks received the rough end of the stick at the breakdown.
Other stuff ups include
- The sin binning of Luke McAlister when he turned to chase a kick and a French player dived football styles.
- The forward pass from Damien Traille to Frederick Michalak leading to the Yannick Jauzion try.
- There were obvious hands in the ruck when the All Blacks were on attack late in the game.
- Lack of any penalties against France in their own half (you cannot be serious!)
The referee isn't the sole reason for the indifferent result. The All Blacks struggled to play smart rugby in the final twenty minutes as stubborn French resistance repulsed All Black attacks. The inability of the All Blacks to realise they weren't going to be given penalties as they bashed away in the French red zone and the lack of organisation for some late drop goal attempts was disappointing. Sure both first five eighths Daniel Carter and Nick Evans went off early, but surely they should've done a Jonny Wilkinson and snatched three points in the last ten minutes.
Rugby needs England and France playing like they did this weekend, more often and more weighting of these games would not only increase interest in the game worldwide, but it would provide a fairer reflection of team abilities heading into the World Cup. This would ensure the best teams make the quarter finals.
Rugby is a religion in New Zealand, this defeat leaves New Zealanders searching for both answers and new hobbies with cross stitch, poetry and playing bridge the safest options.