Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Get used to forever

Horrible day for Australia and New Zealand

Ruthless Redcoats crush green and gold army

Chokers and jokers

Australian rugby blog

"There will be suggestions that "the Wallabies didn't want to win as much as England." Nonsense. The passion and desire was there, as the tears after the game showed. But, as the France-New Zealand boilover showed as well, momentum in sport is a mighty engine. England and France got momentum, a belief that they could and were, in fact, going to win.

The momentum in the end was irresistible. You could see it in the last plays of the match when England were in their own 22 and attacked the rucks and mauls and made telling tackles as if the game had just started.

In a sense, it has for England and France. No team has won a World Cup after losing a group match. Who is to say that one of these two teams, probably France, will be the first to emulate Saint Denis and achieve what has seemed to be impossible?"

Get used to forever

Well written but depressing piece on the All Blacks loss.

"The All Blacks had just lost 18-20 to the French in Cardiff, blowing a 13-0 lead. Luke McAlister had been put through a yawning gap after a superb delayed pass by Dan Carter, and with the timely support of Jerry Collins had scored a sensational try, but after half-time the youngster was sitting on the sideline taking a ten minute spell while the game changed.

The French exploited their numerical advantage and flanker Thierry Dusatoir levelled the scores. Rodney So’oialo drove over to regain the lead but McAlister’s almost first act upon returning was to miss the conversion. Carter and Collins by this stage had limped off along with Byron Kelleher, Anton Oliver and Keith Robinson.

While New Zealand’s power diminished, the French Bench had them going from strength to strength. First came Sebastian Chabal then Frederic Michalak. With every All Black that limped off and fire-breathing Gaul that ran on, the pendulum kept swinging France’s way. Michalak’s first touch was to collect a forward pass from Damian Traille, gallop through the blindside hole where Collins would have been and give Yannick Jauzion a clear path to the line, setting off wild scenes of celebration and the horns of about five million Peugeots, Renaults and Citroens all over France."

Here is another one, I think perhaps this one is a little too scathing :

"To win sport's biggest prizes, you have to absorb and learn, not lecture and preach. You must be humble. The All Blacks have never been humble. They are told they are special from the moment they first pull on the famous shirt and they expect special treatment from the rest of the world. The All Blacks ethos is their Achilles heel.

They are huge fish in a small pool and everything they do or say goes unquestioned. If Graham Henry and the New Zealand Rugby Union want to rip up the Super 14 and take their top 22 players out of the competition for special fitness training for two months, they plough right ahead. If you happen to be Sky television, or the Australian and South African rugby unions, it is tough. The All Blacks have spoken.

That haughtiness and insularity explains why they blindly defended Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu when they nearly maimed Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll. They would have done New Zealand rugby a much bigger service by banning the duo for two months apiece. Dream on."

It does however offer an interesting insight...the quiet confidence England showed last time round was roundly dismissed and the old 'arrogance' brick-bats were brought out of the locker. In 2003 it didn't serve the hosts as well as they hoped...A seige mentality helped England, coupled to this Woodward had everything planned to the nth degree and so when Australia equalled the scored in extra time the team stepped up to the plate and went through the motions. They were criticised all year for taking the flair out of the game but at the end of extra time in the world cup final no-one panicked...they just put into motion a set of well rehearsed mechanisms for getting that winning drop goal.

This time round it's difficult to disagree with the notion that the All Blacks are the best team in the world with Australia rated, perhaps generously looking at South Africa, as number two and yet both are sharing a plane home after the quarter finals (against teams that scraped through as runner-up in their groups remember). Whilst this plane-sharing is great for reducing their carbon footprints it's caused a lot of soul searching back home.

I do think Australia's problem was that although they were a better team overall than England they were unforgivably inferior in the front-5 department. Scrums were a nightmare for them and that left 5 players basically out of the game. Does the fact that they allowed this situation to arise hint at under-estimating England? They do like their sledging and pre-game sneers...perhaps this time they just made the mistake of believing them.

New Zealand's problem I think was more internal...perhaps they believed their own press...in not replicating Woodward's minutae approach they were possibly a little quixotic. You can always say The skills will pay the bills, New Zealand had the skills in spades but when it goes off the rails you need a clearly laid-out plan for recovery. France's forward pass will be remembered as the thing that put the much vaunted best team in the world out of the World Cup but the reaction to that score was far too cavalier. It's sad to say it dour pragmatism is what you need sometimes...it doesn't make for breath-taking rugby but the two antipodean sides are learning what can be achieved with it (England's forward based victory) and what can happen when it there at least as a plan b (New Zealand trying garryowens and drop goals instead of playing slow ball and foracing a pen). Either way it's back to the drawing board for two of the best teams on the planet.

1 comment:

Big Ed said...

I am not sure where this all leaves Southern Hemisphere rugby, but the scrum needs work for both teams and until it happens, I fear that the completeness of southern hemisphere teams will be lacking.