Rugby World Champions 2011 : New Zealand Win On Every Count

New Zealand national rugby union team

The New Zealand All Blacks - Rugby World Champions 2011 Image via Wikipedia

A nail-biting finish to this year’s Rugby World Cup saw the All Blacks hold off a determined French side to secure the 2011 Championship – their first since the inaugural competition back in 1987. The final in Auckland was a fitting climax to a wonderfully executed and exemplary tournament from the Kiwis. It never ceases to amaze how friendly Rugby crowds are – and never more so than in New Zealand for this competition. From smaller, provincial stadia such as Rotorua to the iconic Eden Park, fans of every nation mixed with humour, respect and friendship. The organisers went to great lengths to involve the locals in the build-up for the games and fostered support for all the incoming nations as local schools and clubs ‘adopted’ countries. Some feat given the depth of feeling here for the All Blacks, and a real testament to New Zealand hospitality. A significant (European and Asian) ex-pat community obviously helps but you could see everything from polite encouragement to overt banners, make-up and kit for all of the teams, with especial cheering given to the smaller nations such as Tonga. It remains to be seen whether the tournament was an economic success for New Zealand (apparently, the IRB – owners of the global Rugby Union ‘brand’ – have coined it in already !) but, apart from the opening night hiccup and its transport chaos in downtown Auckland, RWC2011 has run like clockwork.

The All Blacks Triumph

In a close-run game, the Kiwis managed to hold off France to win by a single point – 8-7. It was masterfully done but the result could have gone either way as the French were aggressively pushing into New Zealand territory throughout the last 20 minutes – the imminent threat of a French field goal pushing us all to the edges of our seats, shouting at the telly for Andy Ellis to punt the ball off into the crowd at full-time. France captain Thierry Dusautoir received Man Of The Match honours and whilst he was a major force, the early substitute of kicker Morgan Parra bought on the more heroic candidate for me. A veteran and scourge of many English sides, Francois Trinh-Duc was inspirational in keeping the French moving forward and in organising positional play; a far more apparent presence than that of the captain.

New Zealand as a nation celebrates and those of us living here breathe a sigh of relief – the expectation level for a home-win was stratospheric. Had the All Blacks not managed to hold off Les Blues,  no one wanted to be around the day after. Phew. It remains a deserved win, both for the technical brilliance of New Zealand on the pitch, and for the country’s collective warmth and competence in bringing RWC2011 to the world. Well played. Well Done.

RWC2011 footnote : England and Wales

For English fans with the eternal optimism born of our 2003 win in the Rugby World Cup, this tournament has been a crushing disappointment. Poor discipline off the pitch was reflected in their game and despite a reasonably solid defence, the side was an embarrassing shambles. Watching them play, it would be hard to imagine the side that won this year’s 6 Nations. Martin Johnson is possibly too much ‘one of the lads’ to inject the necessary command and control needed to make England a World Cup winning side. All the ingredients were there – despite decidedly wobbly performances from such icons as Johnny Wilkinson – but Johnson is clearly not the man to knead and work them into a winning rugby ‘dish’. Frequently during their World Cup tour, England bought considerable shame to their large army of fans and thoroughly deserved to depart at the quarter finals. Time for a change of management. A stark contrast to a wonderful Wales side who brought a Kiwi-inspired (coach Warren Gatland) vigour and skill to their game and really should have been contesting the final against the All Blacks instead of the lacklustre French. Wales will be a side to watch in the next 6 Nations – well worth a modest flutter on the Taffs !

Congratulations to the All Blacks and a hearty Well Done to New Zealand for a wonderful Rugby World Cup 2011. The Webb-Ellis trophy has gone to a deserving home.

2 Comments

SimonOctober 24th, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Thierry Dusautoir is now IRB Player of the Year ? Congratulations and all that but I can’t see it from the results – admittedly not seen much of his playing this year.

SimonNovember 18th, 2011 at 10:41 pm

So farewell, then Martin J. Nice chap and showed considerable character to walk before he was pushed out. The field is wide open for a successor who needs to be a discipline merchant to get the substantial talent that exists in English Rugby properly focussed into a winning national side.

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