The Rugby World Cup 2015 has been going for a little over 3 weeks and a lot has happened since I last blogged on the subject, looking forward to the feast of rugby to come. I haven’t been disappointed other than not always being able to see all key games (like Ireland versus France this afternoon). Nor am I surprised with the quarter final line-up that doesn’t include England. Whilst the benefit of hindsight is lovely, few would have argued over who would qualify other than with the group of death that included three heavy weights (England, Wales and Australia) – with only two going through.
England not qualifying was a disappointment. They started and finished well but it is what happened in-between that did for them. They were outplayed by the Australians and with a ten point lead into the second half against Wales they must feel disappointed they managed to lose that game, especially at the end. If they had taken and converted a penalty, they would have drawn and qualified. But nothing can be taken away from the Welsh, who were magnificent. As for England, my verdict is brutal – by losing two games fair and square they and their fans do not have cause to complain.
As I survey the qualifiers, I have to confess that I would have to back one of the Southern Hemisphere sides (New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) to become champions. After their initial set back against Japan, the South Africans have improved with each game and have impressed. New Zealand have done enough to overcome inferior but still testing opposition. While showing signs of vulnerability, they give the impression they can always up their game should the need arise. Notwithstanding my poor record as a pundit, I fancy Australia. Their convincing victory over England showed attacking play at its best but when the need arose against Wales, and two players sin binned, their defence was outstanding and looked as if it could withstand anything. As for the other five sides, I like Argentina and am pleased how their game continues to develop. But for today’s defeat against Ireland I might have fancied France. I wonder though, as we look forward to their quarter final against Argentina, what impact having some of the Irish stars out due to injury will have? As for Wales and Scotland, while worthy qualifiers, I don’t think they quite have the quality and can’t see them getting any better or progressing any further. When I come to think of it, looking at the quarter final line ups, it wouldn’t surprise me if all the winners will be southern hemisphere sides.
Overall, I have enjoyed the rugby that has been played, which was of a good standard but likely to get better as the stakes are raised. The games were well refereed, with the help of video technology, with a surprising number of players sin binned. There is still a largish gap between the big guns and the minnows, but the lesser sides still acquitted themselves worthily and justified their inclusion in the competition. The game of the tournament so far has to be Japan against South Africa, where they pulled off a surprise win. The way they orchestrated a winning try in the dying minutes of the game was simply magnificent. Sadly, having played out of their skins, they couldn’t sustain that level of performance and are now out of the competition. I look forward to the remaining games, all of which promise to be crackers. Now, I just want great rugby to be played and in the right spirit, hoping that the best team will win!