Belfast Telegraph

They think the Rugby World Cup is All over - at last

By Billy Weir

And so, like that annoying relative who outstays their welcome, the World Cup 2015 (which I think refers to how many days it was actually on for) is all over.

There were tears of joy and pain, screams of delight and agony, vast outpourings of unbridled celebration and tangible despair and that was just Gareth Thomas in the ITV studio, and at the end of it all, a highly predictable outcome.

But there were a few shocks along the way. Japan defeated South Africa, Ireland, like a rotund child in a sweet shop, still can't get past a quarter, Wales won the World Cup by beating England and then stopped and as for the hosts, well, the sight of thousands of punters crying their lamps out at Twickers made the eight weeks we had to endure worth it.

Here's my A to Z of how things panned out with some fleeting mentions of TV people for contractual reasons.

A is for All Blacks: We could all have been saved a lot of time and effort by just giving them the trophy eight weeks ago and confirming that Dan Carter is the best player in the world, Richie McCaw is the best captain, they have the best coach, best kit, best names and best wee dance. Simply the best.

B is for Bod: No, not the strange little cartoon chap all dressed in yellow from the Seventies, no, this was Brian O'Driscoll, one of ITV's big name signings for the tournament, and sadly nowhere near as exciting as he was when he was carousing about in a green outfit. Also appeared to have been dressed by his mammy for the final in his school trousers and jumper.

C is for Cheerio: Talking of legends, it was a sad farewell to Paul O'Connell who left in typical Irish fashion, flat on his back in agony wailing about what might have been. Expect a folk song to be written any day now. A number of other big names left the scene too and we wish Sam Burgess well in his retirement after a glittering 16-day Rugby Union career.

D is for Dirge: There are still moments in the wee small hours when I wake up in a cold sweat and clutch my pillow in terror as Paloma Faith's wail of 'world in unnniooonnnn' just won't leave my troubled mind. Was awful at the start, stayed awful throughout and ended awfully. Mind you, it's still better than Ireland's Call.

E is for England: Now, stop it, just stop it. It's not nice to laugh, especially when it's the hosts leaving the party early. The only really sad thing is that the BBC weren't covering the tournament to allow us all to see Brian Moore combusting like a pit bull with a firework lodged in a very awkward spot.

F is for France: They're a bit rubbish really, aren't they? Like a garlic éclair, they promise so much more than they deliver, but it was worth having them along just for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen mentioning the blowing up of Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior in his quarter-final pre-match press conference. Les Bleus came out like Rainbow Warriors too, only it was George, Zippy and Bungle.

G is for Gareth: One of the hits of the tournament, Mr Thomas, despite having more tattoos than the entire All Blacks squad, was the star of ITV's coverage. Witty, knowledgeable, passionate, wise and Welsh, he is rugby football's answer to football's Robbie Savage, except he's witty, knowledgeable and wise.

H is for HRH: Wherever you looked there was a royal in town, Prince William in a Wales shirt, Prince Harry bedecked in England garb or Princess Anne dressed in tartan like that wee doll your granny used to have on top of the cistern to hide the spare toilet roll. Even Prince Philip turned up for the final, even though Greece were nowhere to be seen.

I is for Inverdale: And talking of Inversoft, sorry, Inverdale, a pleasing return to our screens for the presenter with a penchant for saying the wrong thing. Thankfully bawdy remarks and sexism are positively encouraged in this sport but let's hope he doesn't get confused, belch, moon and chuck a dwarf onto centre court at Wimbledon.

J is for Japan: You had to feel for them a little as they produced the best display of the tournament to beat South Africa and still didn't make it out of their group. Perhaps next time don't all come dressed as Where's Wally and you may beat Scotland.

K is for Keith: Not having access to TV3 up here, it was nice on my much deserved holiday down south last week to see Keith Wood being his usual informative and entertaining self on their coverage. Just a shame he wasn't still playing, but then again, he's probably about as mobile as Mike Ross.

L is for Leinster: Joe Schmidt was so panicked at one stage during the World Cup that he actually turned to players from other provinces, and indeed other countries, to try and rescue the situation but to no avail. Iain Henderson is believed to be taking out dual citizenship for Dublin and Australia/New Zealand/South Africa in an effort to secure a starting spot next time around.

M is for McCaw: He's certainly come a long way since his days of advertising Crazy Prices back in the Eighties. What's that? Oh, McCaw, not Megaw? I'm sure the All Blacks captain came out at the tournament and said "don't you miss it". Or perhaps not.

N is for Namibia: Such hilarity from a missed kick at a World Cup hasn't been witnessed since Chris Waddle in 1990, Diana Ross in 1994 or David Batty in 1998, but the Africans' decision to allow prop Johnny Redelinghuys to take a last minute conversion with a highly predictable outcome was a classic moment.

O is for Owens: It says much about the state of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere that the most talked about man was a referee. Nigel Owens was magnificent, and his telling off of Scotland's Stuart Hogg at Newcastle's St James' Park was priceless. "If you want to dive like that again, come back here in two weeks and play, not today," he said. Top man.

P is for Pumas: I've said it before and I'll say it again, Northern Hemisphere teams will achieve nothing until they adopt an angry animal as their nickname. Look at Argentina, for years they were rubbish, suddenly they become Pumas and they're world beaters, or Ireland beaters to be more precise, and so good they have Diego Maradona jumping up and down for the first time since he indulged in something else from South America. Allegedly.

Q is for Quality: Not only are they first class on the pitch, Sonny Bill Williams proved they are just as good after the game when he handed his winner's medal over to an eager fan after beating Australia. Little John Terry was over the moon.

R is for Referee: Or one in particular, South African Craig Joubert who replaced David Cameron as Scotland's Least Favourite Man when awarding Australia a questionable last minute penalty in their quarter-final. An official hasn't departed the scene of a World Cup scandal with such haste since a Russian linesman fled down a tunnel being chased by angry Germans.

S is for Scotland: And while we're on the subject, it was nice to see the Scots, who many of us thought had stopped playing the game when Andy Irvine retired, making an inspired return to the big stage. Watch them go now in the Six Nations, there's no reason at all why they can't clinch fifth.

T is for TMO: Is there a more pointless person at a rugby match than the television match official when they aren't allowed to be used for decisions that really matter? Sorry, didn't wish to sound all Scottish there, the poor chap who was responsible for not making that decision is still being force-fed deep-fried objects and questioned at Holyrood by Nicola Sturgeon.

U is for Uruguay: You've got to love Uruguay. Just when any A to Z writer is struggling to come up with a 'U' along they come and offer up not one, not two but three of the little blighters in one lovely word. Rubbish at rugby, but just make sure you get through in four years, unless Uganda make it, then you can stay at home.

V is for Volume: This is two-fold, the noise Ireland's fans made in their all-too brief spell was phenomenal, as was Wales' against England, but calls for a secondary Plate competition to run alongside the main one for the first round losers is ridiculous. You came, you saw, you got gubbed, you go home.

W is for Woodward and Wilkinson: Sir Clive of Twickenham and Lord Jonny of Kickinghamshire were ITV's two prize assets to ensure top level English punditry all the way to the warriors in white picking up the Webb Ellis Trophy. It's just a shame someone forgot to tell the England team that this was the plan.

X is for X Factor: One Direction may have called it a day but pre-pubescent girls across the land can celebrate again that Saturday evenings will no longer be filled with big burly, hairy creatures stomping around and ruining songs. Still, nice to see Little Mix back on again last week.

Y is for Yellow: You had to feel for Australia as the men in yellow (or is it gold? And if it is then I need to swap Gareth Thomas down here) were left feeling green by the men in all black. They deserved to win the tournament for that few minutes against Wales when every available Aussie popped up like an angry crocodile in Yabba Creek (that starts with a 'Y' so I'm in the clear) to stop a try.

Z is for Zinzan: Thank you Dan Carter for that drop goal in the final to remind us all of another great All Blacks' drop goal when No.8 Zinzan Brooke scored against England in the 1995 World Cup. Not only was this very memorable and funny, it also meant I didn't have to try and make something up about a Zebra. We wish Niger, known as the Zebus, well for qualification in 2019. Oh, and I forgot about Simon Zebo.

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