20 things we’ve learned from the Rugby World Cup

RSA win RWCAnd so, it comes to an end. After weeks of mismatches, good matches and classic matches the Rugby World Cup packs up it’s suitcase and heads to New Zealand in 2011. Four years and depending on your team, it could mean four years more experience (Portugal, Romania, Georgia, Fiji), four years of building an actual team rather than one held with sticky tape (England), four years of gentlemen classes (Australia), four years of finding a coach that can’t be sacked within a few months (Wales), four years ruing such a good chance (Scotland), four years knocking on the door of the Six Nations and Tri-Nations (Argentina), four years planning on getting it right… again (New Zealand), four years polishing the gold (South Africa) or four years picking up the smithereens of an awful tournament (Ireland).

Nonetheless, Waffler thinks that one must pause and reflect on what we’ve learned over the past four weeks. Think about the big questions, like is the kicking game back en vogue; and the little questions like Chabal, would he look as dangerous without the hair…

So 20 things we’ve learned…

1. What happens in the Six Nations counts for little in the RWC : Hmmm a 30 point hammering in Croker on a cold February night, England are ruled as also-rans. They may even struggle to get out of the group! Shock horror! So much for that. They were there on a cold October night. Nuff said.

2. The Northern hemisphere v Southern hemisphere debate will drag on : Waffler doesn’t think the RWC has provided the definitive answer. Although New Zealand and Australia lost at the quarter-final stages to northern teams, their tri-nations buddies the Springboks won the whole thing. Really, neither can claim it to be their best tournament.

Bertie and Sarko3. No political leader proves ‘lucky mascot’ status : Bertie. Sarkozy. Gordon. Mbeki. Clark. Waffler refuses to see any political leader to have extremely good powers in rugby matches. Chirac had it in 1998. Sarko doesn’t in 2007. We reported at the start of the tournament that Bertie’s trip to the French game could have been disrupted by Mr. Justice Mahon. Not even Bertie could master the task of forgetting how awful Ireland played this autumn. Unluckiest politician? Helen Clark, the NZ PM who traveled all the way from Auckland to Cardiff to cheer on the All Blacks, only to see Sarko with a cheesy grin apologising for her trouble.

4. Bryan Habana was not the fastest man in the tournament : That title will go to US Eagles’ Takudzwa Ngwenya who outsprinted Habana when the two sides met in the pool stages. Can we classify Ngwenya as faster than a cheetah? Habana failed… twice.

PichotPinochet5. Matt Cooper should stick to the radio : Guff of the tournament came on the very first night when TV3’s Matt got to grips with the Argentine team. He earmarked the scrum-half as one to watch… but proceeded to get him mixed up with a Chilean dictator. Pichot… Pinochet…. happens to the best of us.

6. Martin Johnson isn’t quite the gruff patriotic guy we thought : When Mark Cueto went over in the corner in the final and the long wait took place for the TMO to give his decision, Miles and Stuart on ITV told the audience there was no doubt, it was 100% positively, undeniably a try. Of course it wasn’t and most other people knew it… including ITV analyst Johnson. Yes the man who insulted the Irish president was on the side of Stuart Dickinson. Who would have thought it…?

7. Ronan O’Gara looks painfully sick : As Waffler stood and watched as those rugby strongholds Namibia and Georgia cut into the Irish team, you couldn’t help but wonder about Ronan O’Gara. He really did look flushed. This was not Stan-in-midday-Orlando-sun-1994 sick but he actually looked as if he was gonna throw up all over Peter Stringer everytime the two went near each other… or anyone else for that matter. Which leads us nicely to…

8. Never trust the French press : Gambling! Women! Sex! The French press had a field-day with the Irish team and poor sickly-looking Ronan in particular. Waffler had his own theories about it all but hey, I think we’ve all settled on one particular excuse. The French were jealous of all those Samsung televisions Ronan kept stacked underneath his bed. Simple really.

9. Never trust the English Press : One tabloids reaction to Saturday night’s defeat? ‘ROBBED BY A BLOODY AUSSIE’ Another tabloid’s reaction to the defeat? ‘ENGLAND ROBBED BY THE AUSSIE VIDEO REF’ Indeed. No need to say that England lost by more than 7 points or anything…

Habana10. The more unusual you look, the better you’re remembered : Now, Waffler isn’t gonna simply focus on Sebastien Chabal – that’s just way too easy. But it just seems that the more unusual you look, the better you’ll be remembered. Take Bryan Habana for one. A very fast boy indeed, can’t pass the ball but who needs to when etc., etc. Anyway, Habana looks like he should come with the tag ‘now with extra padding’. We knew the Canterbury jerseys would be tight but Bryan just looks like a blow-up doll where there’s a problem with the air reaching the head. As for Chabal – well, would he look scary without the hair? I doubt it. Then there’s Percy Montgomery – the opposite to Chabal – he seems to groom that hair to absolute perfection. It never moves – Waffler thinks it’s hairspray.

11. The IRB shouldn’t reduce the tournament’s size : Georgia, Portugal, Romania. So much heart and so glad to be at the biggest rugby party in the world. Then why would the tournament’s blazers want to get the axe out and get rid of some of the most promising rugby nations on Earth? It beggars belief. Let’s take Portugal as an example. One of the most heartwarming features of the RWC was when they scored a try against the All Blacks. They lost by 100 points but this is a country in their first tournament – and boy, did they celebrate.

12. The All Blacks really can be sore losers : A forward pass! A yellow card! A referee who was too young! The last time Waffler heard so much whinging was the hullaballoo surrounding the 1995 final and whether or not there was food poisoning. This time ref Wayne Barnes was the butt of the Kiwi vitriol. So it may have been a forward pass, but you can’t discount the fact that the All Blacks have come out on the favourable side of refereeing decisions on more occasions than you dare to think about. Waffler still asks why there was no drop goal attempt in the last 2 minutes of the France game…

Sinead Kissane and friend13. Sinéad Kissane is on Eddie O’Sullivan’s ‘people I hate’ list : We can’t let a review of the RWC go without mentioning that ‘Work Experience girl’ Sinéad (pictured right with friend) from TV3. Credit has to go to her for having the sheer cheek to ask Eddie nanoseconds after the team lost to Argentina if he would ‘reconsider his position’. That stare will stay with me for a long time. Today FM’s Gift Grub did a pisstake of Sinéad asking high profile people if they were ‘reconsidering their position’. Waffler’s favourite was the Pope. “Benedict? Sinéad Kissane, TV3 News. I know it’s been good so far Benedict, but, y’know, what happens if it all falls apart?”

14. Argentina fully deserve their third place : El Mago Hernandez really was magical, Pichot fantastic, the Contempomi brothers awesome. And as if beating the French wasn’t good enough to get them noticed – they did it twice!! What more do those in the Six Nations and the Tri-Nations want? Chances are they will be brought in in the next few years and while the southern hemisphere is their natural home – the potential of a Spanish-based Seven Nations seems to make financial and logistical sense. They’d probably win that if it were held now…

15. George Hook: Goes down well on Newstalk, not so on the Guardian : It was George Hook’s big tournament. Gone he was from our screens as the mouthpiece for the rugby nation and on he went with Newstalk’s exclusive radio commentary. But he caused more of a stir on the Guardian website when giving his two cents on why Ireland had been so miserable in the RWC. Instead, the clever people at the Guardian flicked through his bio and decided to start with ‘America’s former coach George Hook…’ It really wasn’t a good start. One poster said: ‘America’s former coach? Giving advice? On rugby? Thanks for that.’

16. Teams need to come up with a second kit that doesn’t look like their first kit : New Zealand are particular culprits in this regard. Waffler still maintains that their second kit isn’t ‘silver’ but bloody grey! What’s worse it’s grey with black stripes on the top and bottom, black shorts and black socks. Yes it’s the Not-Quite-All-Blacks. Anyway the match between Scotland and New Zealand was rightly agreed to be ‘hard to watch’. Next time, think about an alternative jersey colour… like pink. Any suggestions?

17. The TMO provides great drama : However, this is not always of their own making. This World Cup saw the introduction of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire-esque’ heart-thumping music as the TMO’s decision was awaited. Ooh, the excitement. Although the TMO for the final, Stuart Dickinson has revealed that the 3-minute delay on the Cueto decision wasn’t because he kept examining the evidence but because of a language barrier between him and the match producer. Don’t ruin the magic, Stuart!

18. Too many celebrities spoils the broth : We’ve already looked at the remarkable presence of political figures in France during the RWC but celebrities also seemed to jump on the bandwagon – especially those who wouldn’t know a rugby ball if they were attacked by one. The most worrying of course was Kenny Rogers who was given an England rugby shirt and asked to give his support… while managing to insult Australia and France in one foul swoop. Fair play Kenny, I’m sure you thought Cueto’s foot was in too….

Irish fan at RWC19. The Irish people don’t believe in moral victories anymore : Who knows what it is anymore. Irish journalists have spent the last while looking just as much at why Ireland didn’t cheer their men back as why Ireland played badly in France. Is it because the economy isn’t as strong? Has the money gone to our heads? Is sponsorship ruining world-class players? Hmmm, whatever it is, and I’m pretty sure Stan can vouch for this too, we don’t do middle-of-the-road anymore. And here’s a politicians telling us to calm down…

20. Never write off the underdogs : Waffler is still in a state of shock regarding South Africa’s win. He had so many people telling him that the Springboks, as the ‘dark horses’, were a fantastic outside bet. If anyone told me that they’d play England in the final I would have laughed. From the moment Argentina beat France to throw the whole RWC wide open, you kinda knew that the tournament was going to be a little special. So many close matches that shouldn’t have been. Think how close the USA came to beating England in their opening game? Think how close Fiji came to knocking out the eventual winners? Think how close Georgia came to humiliating Ireland? Crazy stuff. But overall, the script for the RWC was thrown out the window from kick-off.

We’ve had highs, we’ve had lows but it’s been some tournament. Au revoir Coupe du Monde, full steam ahead for NZ in four years…

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~ by waffler on October 23, 2007.

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