It’s difficult to write about Rugby World Cup highlights when, as an England fan, there were so few. In fact the front page of the Sunday Telegraph sports section summed things up aptly with the words ‘humiliated’ and ’embarrassing’.
An ‘absolutely gutted’ Stuart Lancaster has apologised to the nation, the question remaining whether a man of such honour and integrity will stand down after hopefully regaining some small smidgen of pride in the fixture against Uruguay next week. This blog actually thinks he’s the right man for the job but the players weren’t experienced enough. Let’s just hope the fallout of ‘rumours’ from within the camp is curbed in the media.
The Tournament is poorer for the host nation’s absence from the knock-out stages, not due to the lack of English rugby – which has been at times as awful as Joe Marler’s hair – but quite literally half a billion pounds ‘poorer’ apparently. Fewer Heinekens will be drunk, less stash will be worn and fewer people will attend the fanzones. Fortunately it won’t affect ticket sales too much and at least there’s one thing we’re good at; throwing one hell of a party. Take the Olympics. And the record breaking numbers at the Tournament already.
And because we’re English and have a stiff upper lip what what, and because we have a jolly good sense of humour what what, I suppose we should have a chuckle about it. So:
Q: What’s the difference between a teabag and the England Rugby team?
A: The bag stays in the Cup longer!
And this from RugbyLAD is up there with the best we’ve seen:
Australia, pretty much generally. Let’s face it they were bloody brilliant. Pocock was a class apart at the breakdown, with Hooper not far off his pace. The Wallabies pack as a whole was hugely dominant, at the set piece and in the loose, giving their very classy backs quick ball all game. Bernard Foley is not a flashy player but he sliced like a hot knife through English defensive butter on a couple of occasions and casually clocked up the highest ever score by an Australian individual against England (28 points). Matt Giteau showed why Michael Cheika moved heaven and earth to have the rules changed to allow for his inclusion and the question remains whether Lancaster should have done the same for the very-much-in-form Steffon Armitage.
That Saturday was the largest ever loss to Australia at Twickenham highlighted the gulf in class between the sides; in fact if the Wallabies continue to play like that they’ll win the Tournament as the All Blacks have yet to hit their best.
On the subject of the All Blacks, the highlight of their Friday night game against Georgia was Mamuka Gorgodze being awarded Man of the Match and seeing the Georgian behemoth descend into a bumbling mess at the standing ovation he received. Bravo.
Saturday saw South Africa punish another slow start by Scotland. Despite poor discipline by the Springboks, they ran in three tries meaning the runner-up position in Pool B is still up for grabs by Japan, providing they beat the U.S. and Scotland slip up against Samoa.
Tonga put up a brave first half resistance against Argentina but the islanders were eventually put to the sword, much to the appreciation of an animated Diego Maradona. Despite less territory and possession, the Pumas were more clinical, running in five tries including one for fly-half Nicolas Sanchez who also kicked 20 points.
The big game to come this weekend will see Ireland (who confirmed their place in the quarter finals with a win – albeit ugly and unconvincing – over Italy on Sunday) face France at the Millennium Stadium, to determine who will win Pool D, and face Argentina in the QFs, and who will finish as runner-up for the honour of meeting the All Blacks. Who remembers New Zealand v France, QF at RWC 2007? Wayne Barnes does.
Hero of the weekend:
This somewhat lively fan who we saw tucking into to the Guinness and supporting the All Blacks in a London pub:
Villian of the weekend:
David Facey, rugby correspondent of The Sun newspaper, for the allegation that Billy Vunipola questioned the selection of Sam Burgess. I just hope it’s not true as such a rift within the squad totally contradicts everything Lancaster set out to achieve.