Coffee time, mid-Monday morning in Wellington and a time to reflect on the weekend’s hectic activities at the World Cup quarter finals.
For every country eliminated at the last 8, Ireland, England, South Africa and Argentina, there will inevitably be a period of soul searching. Of those four, Ireland just didn’t quite get their game up to the previous levels it had achieved against Australia and Italy. But you have to say, Wales look a very good side indeed; well organised, resilient, extremely fit and always willing to embrace an attacking opportunity. They also play without fear, a notable attribute.
England have been a disgrace at this tournament and as I wrote this morning in the ‘New Zealand Herald’ it is a good thing they have gone. Unbelievably, even after all the bad publicity they generated and their defeat by France on Saturday night, they still couldn’t behave themselves whilst awaiting the plane home.
Manu Tuilagi’s indiscipline on a ferry on Auckland harbour yesterday just capped a nightmare World Cup for them. Someone somewhere should pay a price for this shambles.
Argentina were always going to struggle to hold the All Blacks yet they showed commendable courage and commitment. Unlike England, they have been a credit to their country and to themselves. They will be a welcome addition to the new Four Nations, southern hemisphere tournament next year.
As for South Africa, I cannot ever remember seeing a side so dominate a match in every aspect and yet end up losers on the scoreboard. They smashed the Australians at Wellington last night, forcing the Wallabies to make an incredible 147 tackles. Yet somehow Robbie Deans’ brave men survived to scrape through.
The rugby played in the quarter finals this weekend was mixed. Ireland never touched the heights and their growing sense of panic when they couldn’t break down the highly organised Welsh defence became apparent, leading to their self destruction. But we should not ignore their great performances against Australia and Italy. Ireland have graced this tournament with some fine play, even if they go home leaving their supporters frustrated that they couldn’t go further.
The less said about England the better; Argentina’s success was in reaching the last 8 and South Africa, the defending champions, came to the end of an era.
I think we all suspected that France, who put out England, were always likely to have at least one good performance in them after all the shenanigans in their camp these past few weeks. The question now is, do they have another? Can they get past that Welsh defence to reach another final? I’m not sure. Wales look a coming team to me and will be hard to crack.
It’s cold here in Wellington this morning but sunny. And lots of rugby fans are wandering around town, some looking a little heavy eyed after a long night. For those fans from Ireland, England, South Africa and Argentina who hoped and believed their team would be staying right until the end of the tournament, there is a sense of loss.
But that is knock-out rugby. As they fly home, starting later today, the four remaining teams descend on Auckland for the semi-finals and final. I head that way too, tonight, and the week that unfolds will be fascinating.