November 27, 2006

Should we all just give up now?: It is still ten months to the rugby world cup, but after the autumn international results it seems that no one can live with New Zealand. They won all of their matches with ease and the other big names of the Southern Hemisphere just didn't shine.

posted by Fence to other at 08:06 AM - 16 comments

And I am in the very rare position of sympathising with the English rugby players, especially their captain Corry who seems to be taking an awful lot of flak for their dismal run of losses. I don't like Robinson at all, but don't think he is to blame, well not entirely. Still he has to go, but the problem in English rugby goes deeper than just one man.

posted by Fence at 08:17 AM on November 27

10 months is a long time in rugby and New Zealand have perenially underachieved since their victory in the inaugural WC. Although one can never write off France and Australia (possibly even Ireland) in a one off knock-out game, I'd say the mighty AB's are as close to invincible that it's possible to get and I'd put their chances of winning at greater than 75%.

posted by niall at 12:03 PM on November 27

As a New Zealander, I would be very wary of writing off: South Africa - the only nation to be beating the All Blacks consistently. France - well known for their ability to go from complete crap to brilliant in the space of a game. Australia - irritating habit of stepping up for the big games. Ireland - best in Europe, good performers.

posted by rodgerd at 03:00 PM on November 27

As Hugo Porta once said, the All Blacks are the favourite for every World Cup, and should be. However NZ haven't so much as under-achieved, but have managed to time their peak between Rugby World Cups, rather than during them. Partly this could be due to other teams not taking the inter-RWC 'friendly' internationals (for that is what they have become) as seriously. Hence the experimentation of teams like Australia during the last few Tri Nations and European tours (Larkham and Tuqiri in the centres?). France, Sth Africa and Australia should be different propositions come next year. Which begs the question why NZ wants to win every single match every year, and seems to have a problem with tapering for the RWC tournament? Could it be that the All Blacks are all that NZ has really got on the 'global' stage, so they are under pressure from media, fans and themselves to win all the time? Given the results between RWC years, not winning the trophy since 1987 must really irk the whole nation. Ask Byron Kelleher what George Gregan told him in the semi final in 2003 :-). But if I was a betting man, I'd still have my money on them.

posted by owlhouse at 04:01 PM on November 27

In terms of what we saw in the Autumn internationals, NZ were frightening. Way, way ahead of the rest. But a lot can happen between now and the World Cup. I was a little surprised by the number of penalties they gave away against Wales, and an awful England team did score three tries against them. I think SA and Australia still have a few more gears to go up, and as rodgerd says, with France you never really can tell. One minute they're breathtaking, the next they are utter pants. Argentina in the opening match of the World Cup should be telling. I think you can pretty much rule out anyone else, including Ireland. They're good right now, and their performances against Australia and SA were impressive indeed. But can they get any better? And do they have strength in depth if a few of their key players get injured? As for England... I'm with Fence. It pains me to say this, but I actually started to feel a little sorry for them on Saturday! They have major problems everywhere. Their forwards are slow and lumbering and their backs can't pass or kick to save their life. Robinson needed to go, but what can a coach do if he doesn't have the players?

posted by afx237vi at 04:48 PM on November 27

Of course we can get better (we being Ireland), but I still don't think we can win the World Cup (but I'm hoping that I am wrong). As you say afx237vi there are doubts about the depth of the squad, and our scrum has never been strong. If anything were to happen to Hayes we'd be in serious trouble. Still, 10 months is a long time away, we'll aim for the Six Nations first and then see what happens. I'd agree with Owlhouse regarding the position of rugby in the New Zealand's psyche. It is their national sport after all. But at the moment they seem to have such a talented squad that they could almost field two teams and expect them to come 1st and 2nd in the World Cup ;)

posted by Fence at 03:32 AM on November 28

I hesitate to use words like "bottlers" lightly, but there is an argument that they might be where New Zealand rugby is concerned. It's not just that they sometimes peak between World Cups; to my mind they have been the best team in at least two World Cups and failed to win them ('95 & '99). They were also impressive in '91 and ultimately only thwarted in the semi-final by an Australian defence that resembled reinforced concrete. They were a big disappointment (for me) in 2003. The Rugby World Cup is an odd thing - the early stages consist largely of mismatches that (almost) always go to form and are won by the team people in the know would have expected to win, but then the semi-finals and final tend to produce strange results. Looking at the results from 2003, if you had started with a 5 bet on the favourite in the first game and rolled your winnings over onto the favourite in each subsequent game you would have made a few quid until Australia beat New Zealand (and then England beat France) in the semi-finals.

posted by JJ at 06:12 AM on November 28

As for Ireland being in the running to win the World Cup... If (and I think it's unlikely) we won our group (beating France and Argentina), we would most likely play Scotland in the quarters. Assuming we beat them, we would most likely play South Africa in the semis. Assuming we beat them, we would most likely play New Zealand in the final. If (and I think it's more likely, but still far from certain) we came second in our group (to France, having beaten Argentina), we would most likely play New Zealand in the quarters. Assuming the plot to poison them all the night before the game worked out, we would most likely play Australia in the semis. Assuming they were a bit tired by then and we somehow beat them, we would most likely play France, the hosts and a team who had already beaten us in the group stages, in the final. There's also a fair to middling chance that, having sustained a couple of injuries to key players (for whom we have precious little by way of back-up) in the period before the World Cup, we would fail to get out of what our coach is already referring to as "the group of death". Can we win the World Cup? No. Will that stop us from piling over to France in our thousands and having a crack at it and a bit of craic along the way? No. Does that mentality annoy me more than amuse me? Sometimes.

posted by JJ at 06:25 AM on November 28

Can we win the World Cup? No Of course we can. If everything goes well, and we have a perfect run with no injuries, then there is no doubt that we could win. Will we win? No. We won't have everything our own way. We'll have injuries, we'll have off days. And on our off days we aren't good enough to beat a lot of teams. And our injuries (because they are inevitable, no matter how the IRFU tries to wrap the players up in cotton wool) will mean we will be without key players in important matches. It'll be tough to get out of the group, no doubt, but no point in being too pessimistic about our chances. May as well aim for the stars ;)

posted by Fence at 08:50 AM on November 28

If we won the World Cup it would make this result look like the inevitable. More than one hundred thousand people claim to have been there when Munster beat the All Blacks 12-0 at Thomond Park, Limerick, even though the ground could hold only 12,000. The New Zealanders would go on to won 17 of their 18 matches on tour, but against Munster they were, in their own words, 'lucky to get nil'.

posted by JJ at 09:05 AM on November 28

Great link JJ, I got the dvd a while ago but haven't had the time to take a look at it yet. Might pick up the book too, wonder can I write it off as a library purchase...

posted by Fence at 10:01 AM on November 28

As for the whole England debate, I'm sorta hoping they do pick Martin Johnson as replacement for Robinson, then I can return to cheering on their opposition. And all will be right with the world ;)

posted by Fence at 05:30 AM on November 29

I have to confess that I really don't understand all this sympathy for the England rugby team, unless it is some sort of insidious attempt to make them feel even worse about themselves because they are pittied. The current crop had big boots to fill without question, but their failure to do so still tends more toward making me laugh than cry.

posted by JJ at 06:18 AM on November 29

I just don't like kicking them when they are already down. Far better to be magnanimous in superiority don't you think? Plus my flatmate is English and I don't like laughing at her team.

posted by Fence at 08:43 AM on November 29

You're a bigger man than me, Fence. I live in Oxford and am surrounded by them day and night. It might be easier to be magnanimous in superiority if they a) had ever remotely threatened to be the same when they won the World Cup, or b) actually recognised the fact that they are now inferior. As with many English teams that are crap (I'm thinking of football in particular), they seem to maintain a certain sense of entitlement and somehow be both rubbish and at the same time remarkably convinced of their own superiority, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I will confess to having bellowed "Come on, England!" several times in a pub during the last RWC final mind you.

posted by JJ at 06:33 AM on November 30

Well, it might be hard for me to be a bigger man seeing as I'm not male at all :)

posted by Fence at 09:29 AM on November 30

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