Home > David does RWC, Rugby > RWC 2011 Finals Preview

RWC 2011 Finals Preview

On Sunday night we will finally crown our RWC champion. Four years have flown by in just about no time. It is guaranteed to be a nerve-jangling culmination of 7 weeks of ferocious test match rugby, with the victor deserving the title of world champion and number one team in the world.

 

Since the 9th September, twenty teams have been whittled down to just two. Reputations have been destroyed in the process, and others have been supremely enhanced. Wales have produced some scintillating rugby, the Irish fired memorably against Australia whilst England and Scotland produced a series of turgid and one dimensional display’s before catching an early flight home. Australia played some of the most dynamic rugby but was physically dominated by both Ireland and South Africa. The `minnow` nations showed a pleasing ability to fight it out for prolonged periods with the bigger nations, Georgia especially. Samoa and Tonga produced several magnificent displays of flowing rugby bookended by their trademark, bone jarring, teeth-rattling defence. The tournament has had its fair share of controversy and drama, but has generally been played in good spirits and most of the talking has been about what has been happening on the pitch.

 

Wales V Australia

But hold on just a sec, we have an intriguing game before the big match. The IRB has deemed it necessary to hold a third and fourth play-off match, and they can sometimes be just as good as the final.

Both teams will be disappointed that they didn’t get into the final, but they need to pick themselves up for one more game. The Wallabies were well beaten by the All Blacks and can’t have too many complaints about that, whilst Wales didn’t make the best of their opportunities to put away the French. They both have young sides and will do very well in the next few years, and will need to start now. This will be a good learning curve for both sides.

Wales have a full strength line up and will be looking to get more accuracy and ruthlessness into their game. This is what they lacked against the French. Yes, you can say that the red card affected them during the game (and it did to a high degree) and that they did really well to keep in touch but in all honesty, they should have won. If they had taken their chances they would be playing the All Blacks for a shot at glory. Instead, they are playing the Wallabies in a third and fourth placed match. They may have the edge in the forward pack and will want to lay a foundation for their backs to work with.

The Wallabies will be disappointed that they hardly failed to fire a shot in their semi final. They were out-muscled, outplayed and out-thought during the game. They are a young side and this will be a good lesson in how to deal with this sort of a loss and how not to get ahead of themselves. They have some outstanding backs, but they look much better with front foot ball. If they can get parity in the forwards, they will be able unleash this backline, who were not used well. Plan A, get some front foot ball to Digby, Kurtly and Quade and see what they can do in space.

So who is going to win? Well if history is anything to go by, the last time these two met in this match, Wales won a thriller 22 – 21. Can they do it again? I don’t think so, but then again these games have been unpredictable at best. The Wallabies to take this one out and finish third.

 

All Blacks v France

Regardless of the infamous ability of the All Blacks to ‘choke’ in the knockout stages of RWC’s, the vast majority of rugby followers will still back the ABs to be crowned champions on Sunday. This has reached the point here in NZ where for the first half of the week you would have sworn that there was no RWC final, as it had just been played.

The statistical evidence in favour of the All Blacks is overwhelming. The All Blacks are undefeated at Eden Park since July 1994; bear in mind that both Australia and South Africa visit Eden Park often through the Tri Nations. This stadium has legendary status in All Black mythology as the scene of some of their greatest ever victories from the savaging of the British Lions in 2005 to the Holy Grail that was the World Cup victory in 1987.

As the tournament has progressed, they too have gone from strength to strength. Dan Carter may be injured and Richie McCaw limping along but they remain a phenomenal outfit. Aaron Cruden has stepped into the Fly Half spot with aplomb and seems destined to write his name in the pantheons of `Great` All Blacks.  They have in the process scored 293 points, had 6 rampaging victories, and scored 39 tries and 2 drop goals are testimony to their dominance. All achieved with only one yellow card against them. They look overwhelming favourites.

France, by contrast, has been their usual bewildering and farcical selves. The French rugby team veer from mercurial to comical on a match by match basis.  This time around they have outdone even their own impressive history of sporting disasters. A heavy defeat against the All Blacks was followed by several underwhelming displays against `minnow` nations. Things went from bad to worse with an astonishing defeat to Tonga and reports of divisions within the French camp.

England was dispatched in an error-ridden performance where somehow England contrived to look even more shambolic than France. Next up was the semi-final and a bizarre encounter with Wales. The red card saved France from a potential hammering. Even playing 14 men, France had less possession and looked less threatening. Amazingly, they prevailed. Like a punch drunk boxer, the French keep picking themselves up off the canvas.

On current form, I would pick the All Blacks to win by 20. France is the worst team to ever contest a Final. Nobody has ever lost twice and reached this stage before. However, French World Cup miracles have happened before against New Zealand in 1999 and 2007. The Final is a one off match, nothing else matters. As punch drunk as the French might be, it now only takes one `punch`, one win, and they are World Champions. For rugby’s sake, the All Black’s deserve to end their 24 year wait and hold aloft the trophy.  Oh and for the record, that last defeat at Eden Park was against the French…

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