Rugby World Cup: Review/Preview

Rugby World Cup 2011

Quarter Final Review – Semi Final Preview

 There Were Eight – Now There Are Four

JJ Leahy



The Quarter Finals

The makeup of the final eight teams were as most would have expected, but not some of the results on the way through were not.


Wales 22 d Ireland 10

After an initial close loss to South Africa, Wales won their remaining games with impressive performances. Ireland started well when they defeated Australia. This match showed up Ireland’s attacking limitations. They won enough ball in the set pieces and the rucks and mauls. The forwards led by the admirable Paul O’Connell and the dynamic Sean O’Brien provided enough good ball, but the backline were incapable of penetrating a tight Welsh defence. Only, the venerable Brian O’Driscoll really looked like he might do it repeatedly. Ireland got one try , but they could not match the all-round dominance of Wales. The Welsh scrum is strong. The lineout is well-organised. Their backrow were quicker to the breakdown. However, it was in the backs where the Welsh stood out. Their young fly-half Rhys Priestland’s decisions on the run/pass/kick options were well selected. The inside centre Jamie Roberts was the standout. He is powerful, has acceleration, and is light on his feet. He got over the advantage line on numerous occasions. This sucked in the Irish backline defenders. It also meant that the forwards had to take a few extra steps and more time to get to the breakdown. Wales got quick release of the ball and were able to exploit the extra space available before the Irish defence could re-align. Out wide, the wingers, the veteran  Shane Williams and the giant 19 year old  George North are potent attacking weapons as is the slippery fullback Leigh Halfpenny. A good victory for Wales.


France 19 d England 12

France played the sort of Rugby they are well and truly capable of delivering for about 50 minutes of this match. It was enough to get them home against a plodding England. The French selected their great warrior No 8, Imanol Harinordoquy to start instead of come off the bench. He continually picked up the ball at the back of the scrum and ran to the blind side gaining considerable ground before the English defenders rounded him up. The big locks, Pape and Nallet decided to drive forward straight and hard. The French got momentum. They have genuine scoring ability once the ball can get past their pedestrian centres with a modicum of space. The dynamic winger Vincent Clerc, and the light stepping fullback Maxi Medard finished off good movements with tries. France led 16-0 at the break. This would not be too much start for a team like the All Blacks, but it was for England. France lost structure. England plugged on and score two tries in a scrappy and uninspiring second half. England can go home and relive the glories of their 2003 triumph just as their Soccer supporters are sustained by the performances of the 1966 World Cup.


New Zealand 33 d Argentina 10

The ageing Argentineans put in a spirited performance against the All Blacks. They scored a try and contested well. New Zealnd seemed content to work enough field position and rely on the boot of halfback Piri Weepu, kicking in place of the injured Dan Carter and Colin Slade. This was good enough to get them to a 21-10 lead. Piri Weepu is an interesting player. He is stocky and built low to the ground. Early in his career, he had a tendency to run with the ball too much. He often ran into dead ends. Now he is more selective and moves the ball well. He broke his leg at the end of last season and did not enter the Super Rugby competition until towards the end. He came on looking more like a barrel than a block. However, as each week passed, the weight melted off him, and he played better and better. Post football, he could have a career as the public face for some diet outfit in the way that Shane Warne has with hair care. The All Blacks have the ability to wear teams down, and they did this with Argentina. Two late tries to forwards, including a 25 metre stroll to the line by the 36 year old Brad Thorn, are testament to their fitness, their composure and their desire.


Australia 11 d South Africa 9

I watched this game with three mates at one of the blokes places. Wallabies’ games have been an enduring ritual for more than three decades with this group. The gathering was smaller than usual, and less beer and red wine seems to be drunk these days. We have seen the highs and lows of Australian performances. When this match finished, the sage sitting next to me said:  ” How the hell did we win that game?” Then the match stats appeared on the screen. Time in possession, time in opponents half, time in opponents 22, lineouts, scrums, 5 phase or more in possession, handling errors, etc. Then the clincher – tackles – Australia 147 South Africa 51. It wasn’t just the number of tackles made, but the quality of many of them. More importantly, it was the ability to slow the attacking momentum and to quickly re-organise the defensive line. This was a team with heart and belief in each other. South Africa pressured Australia in attack and the Wallabies were not able to use the small amount of possession they won. South Africa lacked that elusive spark required to get across the line. Australia lived o fight another day.


Semi-Final Preview

Wales v France

France have the ability to win this match. They have it in terms of power and technical skills in the forwards and creativity and attacking skills in the backs. Their centre pairing are a bit limited, but there is speed and flair out wide.

Wales have a mix of experience and youth They have been impressive so far and are getting better. They will contest all teh way.

Tip – Wales to prevail


New Zealand v Australia

Like Catherine Freeman at the Sydney Olympics, The All Blacks carry the entire weight of the nation on their shoulders. They are playing in their country, at their most successful venue, in front of their home crowd. They have huge depth in the number of Rugby players compared with Australia. Richie McCaw is playing injured. He is one of the great players of all time though his best days are behind him. He has only slipped a bit from the heights of his powers. There are some other players who have also played their best in prior seasons. Brad Thorn has won just about everything it is possible to win in both Rugby League and Rugby Union. He is going to give it everything to get his ultimate prize. Aaron Cruden has come into replace the injured Dan Carter and Colin Slade. He is a small player with the sort of defensive weaknesses that Quade Cooper exhibits. On the other hand, he has great attacking ability including being able to shift sideways as he is about to be tackled and free up an arm to off load a ball to a supporting runner. The Wallabies will have to watch this.

Quade Cooper will either win or lose the World Cup for Australia. If he can manufacture a couple of first half tries for the Wallabies, they have a chance. If his risky options backfire, the Wallabies will perish. Will Genia, Digby Ioanne,  and James O’Connor are capable of pulling off something special from open play where the defensive line is fractured. The forwards will give a wholehearted effort.

It will be a fascinating match.

Tip – New Zealand



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