The All Blacks won the Webb Ellis Cup, but France were victorious (kind of). It was a Final worthy of the name and while England couldn’t play a part in this one, Rugby Rugby’s Howard Johnson reckons we’ll be roaring at the next one!
So as expected New Zealand are World Champions, and good luck to them. But for me the real heroes 24 hours after the Final are in the team that lost. France started their World Cup campaign as chumps, but ended it as champs in all but name after a fantastic performance against the All Blacks that merited much more than a one-point defeat.
If France played against 14 players in their stuttering semi-final win against the Welsh, then it certainly felt like they were playing against 16 at Eden Park on Sunday. No-one is suggesting that South African referee Craig Joubert was deliberately biased in favour of the All Blacks. But his performance in a stadium where most people had come to see the home side fulfil what Kiwi supporters clearly felt was their ‘destiny’ left an awful lot to be desired.
The French are World Champions when it comes to blaming referees instead of looking at their own failings. But it was hard not to sympathise with them over Joubert’s performance when he seemed to have eyes only for French transgressions when New Zealand were clearly offside, entering rucks from the side and playing the ball on the floor on numerous occasions. French coach Marc Lièvremont refused to lay into Joubert, which was far more dignified than his daft moustache. But the ref’s undue influence on the game certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.
France’s performance, which was based on magnificent individual efforts from one to 15, has also forced a number of critics to eat humble pie. I myself had cross words with both Brian Moore and Phil Vickery earlier in the tournament when they openly ridiculed the French and suggested that it would be a cold day in hell before they beat either England or Wales and that New Zealand would win the Final at a canter. Well Les Bleus proved otherwise, backing up my not-very-complicated theory that form is temporary and class is permanent. How knowledgeable rugby folk could dismiss completely out of hand a team featuring players of the calibre of Dusautoir, Harinordoquy and Bonnaire is beyond me. France had far too many classy operators ever to merit being down so completely.
Anyway, none of this will matter in the long term. The scoreboard doesn’t lie and New Zealand are engraved on the Webb Ellis trophy as 2011 winners. I’m not as infatuated with them as everyone else seems to be, though. They are very good side, of course, but the cult of the All Blacks does get on my wick. They played some great rugby during the tournament, but to my mind they play the game with the attitude that they have something of a divine right to win. From the moment they take to the field and do that silly haka there’s an arrogance about them that I find unappealing. And while we’re on the subject of the haka, what happened to Richie McCaw’s threat to “do it in the shed” when the Welsh aired the view not so long ago that it was all about gamesmanship rather than culture? The IRB should step in and put a stop to this farce once and for all.
But I shouldn’t be entirely mealy-mouthed about New Zealand’s win, of course. After all, the country suffered badly after the earthquake and an All Blacks win in their home country will certainly unite the nation like nothing else and give all Kiwis a much-needed feelgood factor. Some things are more important than sport and we’d all do well to recognise that from time to time. The general feeling is that this 2011 World Cup was a good one, well-organised and played in the right spirit. I think the IRB need to look at some organisational issues for the next edition in England in 2015, especially the scheduling of the games for the so-called lesser nations in the pool stages, where the big boys clearly had advantageous recuperation time. But the gap between the powerhouses and the minnows appeared to be getting a wee bit smaller, which has to be good for the evolution of our sport. It’s not healthy to have the same five countries at the top of the tree all the time and greater competition at the World Cup would do much to attract and then retain those casual supporters who only tune in for the big event.
So everyone can pack up and go home now, another tournament under collective belts and just the four years to wait until we do it all over again on the other side of the world. As an Englishman 2011 won’t go down as a vintage campaign, but I’m not as gloomy about our prospects as many critics appear to be. We’ve got a good manager and a strong core of young players who will all be at their peak in four years’ time if they keep developing the way they have so far. This World Cup came too early for the men in white, but I have a sneaky suspicion that in four years’ time it may well be a different story.
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The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.