So another Rugby World Cup is over. Four more years of waiting to officially back up the claim that your side is the best in the world. South Africa have passed on the baton to New Zealand, but the tournament was about so much more than one team triumphing over the rest. Let’s look back on it and pick out the best, and worst bits:
Player Of The Tournament: Thierry Dusautoir
For his exploits both on and off the field, Dusautoir gets our pick as the player of the Rugby World Cup. Fighting internal revolution in his own camp, the Toulouse captain led his country to the final via the most bizarre and ridiculous of routes, losing to New Zealand and Tonga in the pool stages, before stifling England and Wales in the knock out stages. An inspirational performance ultimately proved not enough to see his country win their first title, but his awesome tackling and crucial try nearly led to an infamous win, resulting in him receiving a 10/10 in our player ratings. A true warrior.
Unsung Hero Of The Tournament: Steve Hansen
Graham Henry’s right hand man for the last 8 years, Hansen deserves credit for doing his homework on the French line out ahead of the final, and spotting an all important gap in between their two pods. A combination of Jerome Kaino’s slick hands off the top of the lineout and some suspicious blocking on Imanol Harinordoquy meant that Tony Woodcock slid over, and Hansen received a good pat on the back from Henry for his hard work. It’s the little things that can turn matches, or in this case, win you the World Cup.
Young Player Of The Tournament: Toby Faletau
From a long list of candidates, including Tuilagi, O’Connor, Priestland, O’Brien, North and Dagg, Toby Faletau has emerged victorious. In a Welsh team that impressed the whole world, no one made more tackles or ball carries than the young no. 8 from Newport Gwent-Dragons. What’s more, he didn’t miss a single hit, an unfathomably good statistic. Commentators and pundits around the world confessed to have never heard of him before the tournament began, but in the key matches against South Africa, Ireland and especially France, he was a rampaging beast. A big future ahead for this exciting young Welsh star.
Team Of The Tournament: New Zealand
Ireland showed flashes of brilliance, Wales were dogged and skilful with tons of talent, and France finally came together at the death to nearly cause a shock. But you have it give it to the All Blacks. Their immense physicality in the semi-final, coping with the loss of Carter, and some of the tries they scored along the way were on another level. It was just reward for the outstanding support of the fans and the hard work of the tournament’s organisers that they got to celebrate an All Black triumph. Deserved World Champions. Just.
Match Of The Tournament: Wales v Ireland
Strong contenders were the match between South Africa and Wales, plus the final itself, but for us this Celtic quarter-final was the pick of the bunch. Three Welsh tries, including a superb score from Mike Phillips in the second half as well as tries from Shane Williams and Jonathan Davies saw them through against a dogged Irish side, who picked up a try from Keith Earls at the start of the second half. The Welsh back-row managed to shut down the Irish back-row of Ferris, O’Brien and Heaslip, who has been incredibly effective up to that point, as well as defending heroically. Both sides knew this would be their best chance to make a World Cup final, and the effort was exceptional.
Try Of The Tournament: Ben McCalman (Australia v Russia)
The Best Fans: The Irish!
Be it in New Zealand or on Twitter, Ireland’s fans were once again magnificent during this Rugby World Cup. Jubilant after defeating Australia, and humble after losing to Wales in the quarter-final, one fact remained whatever the outcome, they were drinking.
The sound and colour in Eden Park during the win against the Wallabies was really special, complimenting their best ever World Cup result.
Coach of the Tournament: Warren Gatland
Perhaps harsh to not award this to Graham Henry, but the way Gatland gelled this pre-dominantly youthful side together, getting them to play an exciting brand of rugby and bringing the best out of raw talent, deserves commendation. Many questioned the decision by the WRU to offer Gatland an extension on his contract last year before the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but the foundations are now in place for a successful tournament in 2015. Leading Wales to a World Cup semi-final surpassed everyone’s expectations, and the fitness preparation in Spala proved to be a masterstroke.
The Best Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
The focal point for the best of the action in New Zealand looked magnificent, the extra seating amplifying the atmosphere.
With 60,000 spectators crammed in for all of the best games, the venue more than played it’s part.
The All Blacks remain unbeaten there since 1994. Only just mind.
Hit Of The Tournament: Radike Samo on Bryan Habana (Australia v South Africa)
Villain Of The Tournament: Referees At The Breakdown
Up until the knockout stages, the leading contender for this award was the IRB. But now, well, it’s still the IRB, but mainly referees. We’re not talking about Alain Rolland, but the officiating of Bryce Lawrence and Craig Joubert in the quarter-final between Australia and South Africa and the final. Joubert missed countless moments of indiscipline on the floor, players off their feet the main issue, as did Lawrence in the quarter-final. Referees will sure make two maybe three mistakes, but the number of calls missed was shocking.
The Best Facial Hair: Adam Kleeburger
Despite Marc Lièvremont’s late charge for this title, there was only ever going to be one winner. Adam Kleeberger had this award nailed down from day one. It’s nearly the best beard in World Rugby, Josh Strauss of the Lions though is a big rival for that one. Ginger, blond, it truly is a beard of pride.
Even better, the whole effort went towards raising money for cancer research. Awesome guy.
The Best Comedy Moment: Chris Paterson’s failed Penalty Kick
And so our Awards ceremony comes to a close. But are you happy with our choices? Who deserves an award? Let us know below.