Rugby World Cups are slow burners – you forget in all the anticipation how loooong they take to really get going before plunging into sudden death. So far the tournament’s been Tri Nations – OE Edition. What the HELL have they been doing up north? Watching the darts? Updating their Facebook? This is the World Cup, team, it comes around every four years, there’s plenty of time to get ready, no excuses.
So. How’s everyone shaping up two weeks into it, and where will they finish?
New Zealand – Still building. First 20 minutes against Italy were awesome, you could feel the tension of the last six months (hell, the last four years) being released. Tricky to keep that standard up, of course, and the Portugal game was just… weird, with loads of new guys in the team, over 100 points scored, and no-one really that happy about it. Our guys are peaking for the quarters, a semi and the final – it’s hard to judge them until then, but so far so good, apart from ALL THOSE F%&@**@ INJURIES. Champions.
South Africa – a real team. And scarily for us, they’ve got Eddie Jones, the mastermind of the 2003 semi final in their corner. They looked great against England, but then again, England were pretty crap. They’re the other team who had a break mid-season – looks to be working out OK for them, alright. Losing finalists.
Australia – the woman who runs my pub quiz named her new baby Stirling George, after her two favorite Aussies, posing two questions: A. WHAT THE F$*@ IS SHE F$%&*@#!* THINKING?!?! and B. they HAVE been around for ages, haven’t they? Australia’s looking good alright, but haven’t met any decent forward packs yet, and they’re not as as well coached as in the past. Out in the semis.
Argentina – Bloody good on them. They smothered France in a defensive display worthy of anyone first up. I hope they didn’t peak just for that match, but nobody will fancy playing them now. Out in the semis.
France – the big disappointments for me because they’re the hosts, with a huge bearing on the tournament’s success. We were lead to believe they were building a formidable challenge, or had a plan at the very least. Now they look like Woodward’s Lions, and LaPorte looks like a cock. I’d love to write them off (I’d really, really, love to), but as we all know, the hoariest old cliche in Rugby is ‘write off the French at your peril’. I still reckon they’ll be out in the quarters in Cardiff, miles from home.
Ireland – the other big underachievers. With players like O’Connell, O’Callaghan, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, O’Gara and Horgan, they should be challenging for the cup (and have a couple of six nations already), not batting to beat Georgia. Their fans (best in the world) will win the piss athletics regardless, but deserve far better – maybe they should have hung on to Warren Gatland, instead of the politically appointed O’Sullivan. Own foot shot, out in the quarters.
England – taken to bits on Saturday morning like a pimply teenager skinny dipping in Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th. They’re learning the same lesson as England’s football team, ie if your domestic competition is chocka with stars from overseas, your own players wind up carrying the tracksuits, and your national team suffers. And they can’t even get their Beckham on the pitch. They’re not getting out of their group.
Scotland and Wales – Sent home tae think again about changing the rules. Out in the quarters, if they get there.
The minnows – Georgia, Portgual, Tonga, etc. I think they’ve done bloody well, with spirited displays all around, lead by Argentina upsetting France, but you can’t count them as minnows by any stretch. No, the format’s not perfect, Yes, there’s too many mismatches, but this is the World Cup – in Rugby, the big guys play the little guys less than Matt Dunning takes the fruit breakfast option. Seeing as I know everything, I’d like to see a mini tournament for 8 teams as an entree to the main event, with two teams qualifying to join 14 other qualifiers for the World Cup proper. That’s that sorted, then.