Wow the best ever Rugby World Cup has come to an end but it will live long in the memory. Here’s my review of the good and bad bits along with how the teams did.
Clearly there was the overall performance of the tier 2 nations and the closing margin of their losses. The games that stand out were Japan’s win over South Africa, Georgia beating Tonga and the final it’s self.
What really made the tournament special were the crowds. Not only were the grounds just about full for every game but also the fan zones were a great success.
Not everything was rosy though, having no Northern Hemisphere teams in the semifinals felt very strange. Also the TMO initially slowed games down too much but at least this was rectified.
There was also a worry trend of World Rugby trying to be popular rather than doing the right thing. There was the farce of the man of the match awards being done by a public vote on a smart phone app. Then there was the unprecedented comment on Joubert’s penalty decision in the Scotland v Australia game. No other decisions were discussed by the governing body but due to the outcry they decided to say he got this one wrong. Finally Sonny Bill Williams gave his winners medal to a pitch invader and World Rugby made a big song and dance about replacing it. Hopefully in the review that they will do of the Rugby World Cup, they will realise that this isn’t how a governing body should behave.
Let’s now run through how the teams did and if they exceeded, met or fell short of their expectations.
Australia – exceeded expectations
A year ago the Wallabies were a mess with off field scandals and their coach leaving. Roll on 12 months and they came out on top of the toughest pool and made it to the final.
Wales – exceeded expectations
A quarter-final would normally be considered par for Wales. This time round though they had a very tough pool and a whole host of injuries. The only down side is that they put themselves in a position to win against both Australia and South Africa but couldn’t finish it off.
England – failed expectations
Many pundits had England down as possible champions and I had them getting to the semi final. A combination of confused selection poor decision-making saw them failing to qualify for the knockout stages before their last game.
Fiji – met expectations
There was talk of upsetting one of the tier 1 teams but that was always going to be a tall order. They put in spirited displays but were beaten by short turnarounds and better teams.
Uruguay – exceeded expectations
They did lose all their games but not by as large margins as expected. Put up a good fight in all their games and won many new fans.
South Africa – met expectations
This is a really difficult one to categorise. They lost to Japan which was the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history. However they went on to top their group, pushed the All Blacks close and come third overall.
Scotland – exceeded expectations
This was a tough group for Scotland but they managed to navigate their way out of it relatively easily. In the quarter finals they were the northern hemispheres last hope and were only defeated by a late controversial penalty. Feet do need to be kept on the ground as they lost both their tier 1 games and profited from intercepts and Australian mistakes.
Japan – exceeded expectations
Japan were targeting the quarter finals and they did everything that they thought would get them there. They were the only team not to make it out of the pool stages with 3 wins. Add to that their win over the Boks and the stock has never been higher.
Samoa – failed expectations
Samoa had the best chance out of the pacific island sides to make the quarter finals. In the end they never looked like making it and didn’t even qualify for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
USA – failed expectations
Some pundits had the USA finishing above Japan even though they had finished below them in the Pacific Nations Cup. Lost all their games but did have some good performances. If their professional league gets off the ground will expect to do better next time round.
New Zealand – exceeded expectations
Did they exceed or just meet expectations? Winning the whole thing undefeated doesn’t leave any upside. Doing it back to back, overseas and for a third occasion for the first time ever is impressive.
Argentina – exceeded expectations
Came up short in the bronze final but not only exceeded expectations to get there but also in their style of play. The Pumas run up to the tournament had been poor, except for one game in South Africa. Somehow though the pulled it all together when it mattered.
Georgia – exceeded expectations
They targeted third place and qualification for the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Those outside the squad weren’t expecting it. Georgia helped to set the tournament alight on that opening weekend, with their win over Tonga.
Tonga – failed expectations
Along with Samoa and Fiji they came fourth in their group and failed to qualify for the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Their big game was that one against Georgia on the opening weekend where they came up short.
Namibia – met expectations
Perhaps I’m being harsh with met. They did lose all their games, as expected, but put up a good fight in all their games.
Ireland – failed expectations
This was going to be the year when they finally made it to the semi finals. I even had them making the final. Everything was going to plan until they suffered a couple of injuries and got blitzed by Argentina.
France – failed expectations
Expectations weren’t very high after a poor four years. There were signs of improvement heading in to the Rugby World Cup. Then the real games arrived and they didn’t turn up to play either Ireland or New Zealand.
Italy – met expectations
Beat the teams they should and lost to the two bigger sides. A relatively quiet and uninspiring Rugby World Cup.
Romania – exceeded expectations
Didn’t have the luxury of playing five other teams heading to the Rugby World Cup like those in the Pacific Nations Cup. Still put up a good fight and won their tier 2 competition with Canada.
Canada – failed expectations
Had a poor Pacific Nations Cup coming last and carried that through into the Rugby World Cup. They did score some scintillating tries which points to the 7s conflict that is going on in Canadian rugby at this level.
There are already people counting down to 2019 and Japan, but can the administrators step up like the players did?