The Rugby Blog’s Rugby World Cup 2011 Awards

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.

27 thoughts on “The Rugby Blog’s Rugby World Cup 2011 Awards

  1. Just be careful… Try of McCalman is not against Japan, but Russia… Otherwise, thanks for this selection, nice one, I pretty agree with everything.
    I would add a “Match of the Tournament”, with nominees like Australia Ireland, Wales South Africa, Wales Ireland, but the winner would definitely be the final New Zealand France.

  2. Patriot award- Adam Kleeburger for knocking himself out to stop Tony Woodcock scoring and in the process injuring Tony

    1. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit red, blue, and white tinted. Healy’s hit tackle on Cooper,

      , successfully knocked the ball out of Cooper’s hands and won back possession for Ireland moments after. Beale was pressured into making a play and kicked straight back to Ireland. Samo’s hit was big but didn’t result, either directly or indirectly, in turnover ball!

  3. Excellent work.
    I think this hit was even bigger than Samo’s hit though, and Samo already got best try, Share the booty:

  4. Great list, except it’s unsurprising to see English people do what English people do best:
    Failing to give credit to Irish team or Irish performances.
    Giving credit to Irish drinking! Please include Tindall and the hookers if you’re going to go down that route.
    Irish players party too, but they never cause trouble, our fans in rugby or fall over (round ball kind) ball don’t too!

    1. Wales Ireland was a shocking Irish performance and I think these were the best games:

      NZ Vs France (final)

      Australia Vs Ireland

      England Vs France

      Wales Vs France (very tense game, and full of emotion and controversy)

      Scotland Vs Argentina

      All of these games were very close but featured good play. You could add SA Vs Wales to that list too. It was very constrained though that game, felt like Wales had suffocated them.

      The final was the best game and easily the best final of all finals. Low score but 2 tries and very tense, very high level of rugby.

      If England were in that final and won by that point you can be sure they would let you know it was the best final ever! No offense :)

      1. …and NZ v Australia – for being the most brutally efficient demolition of a fellow “top tier” nation.

        Which goes to show…plenty of good matches in the RWC this time around!

  5. I honestly think people are being too hard on the referee’s. The breakdown has always been contentious – that’s the game of rugby(since they took out rucking) its nothing new that has been uncovered about this RWC.

    Also, having watched the final several times now, i think you ll find most of those ‘missed penalties’ were the sort of penalties that are very 50/50 – ie if we called them every game there would be a penalty ever 4th ruck. It s just that in tight games, the game is on the margin and people look to blame.

    I would challenge anyone to find more than 3-4 penalties in that final, that based upon the standard of reffing usually practiced (ie not pedantic), occurred and should have been obvious to the ref.

    You will struggle.

    1. No they’re not. And you can stop with that whole “Ive weatched more than you..and it was all good”
      Captin Richie “offisde” McCaw was surely offisde for the first and crucial try agasint France. Nothing wrong with the lineout but it should never have been a penalty. In fact if anything, it should have been a penalty to France. And that’s just after a few minutes inspecting. I know there’s plenty more.

      Look, NZ won it but France were better, and should have probably won that match. Accept it.

    2. I’ve looked over some of the incidents again and if anything, I’m even more gobsmacked than I was during the game, when I had a reasonable feeling that the French weren’t getting the rub of the green. I now have a vague conspiracy feeling going on. The refereeing was awful!

      Personally I think that the French should castigate Joubert like the kiwis have castigated Barnes – except that they won’t because they will just give a gallic shrug and move on with life!

        1. The NZ tactics at the breakdown were brilliantly spotted and analysed by Dean Ryan on Sky Sports Rugby Club well before the final, and shows why they won that battle and the RWC.

          Essentially, the kiwis tackle the player, then release them, then quickly get to their feet.

          When they are on their feet they (ie Richie) “find” themselves kneeling / standing (facing their own try line) between the attacking players coming to clean out and the tackled player.

          Richie thus creates a mini “wall” between attacking players trying to clear out and the tackled player.

          This basically impedes the attacking players trying to celar out for a fraction of second and gives the defenders that extra time to get hands on the ball and counter ruck.

          the attackers must first blast richie out the way before they can even get to their player who by know if being penalised for holding on.

          watch NZ do it over and over again, v clever.

  6. Wales are there with best coach and three of the best young players. Couldn’t agree more, hopefully indicates exciting times ahead for us. I disagree that Ireland’s performance was that poor in their game against Wales – in that game the Wales coaches played it perfectly – they emphasised the need to bottle O’Brien and Heaslip, they were ready for ROFGs high balls, they neutralised BOD at the breakdown. It was a masterful display of tactical rugby. It’s not that Ireland played poorly, it’s that Wales didn’t let them play their game and Ireland failed to come up with an alternative quickly enough.

    1. I do agree that Ireland were out coached in that game. It’s a familiar theme to anyone who is English!

    2. He didn’t target Heaslip specifically as he’s difficult to target in that way. He targeted 6,7, and 10. He obviously rates O’Gara and went out to stifle his tactical kicking. By neutralizing Ferris and O’Brien, he was able to keep Ireland from getting too deep into the 22. It was genius. It’s a bit unfair in a way as he knows Ireland – particularly O’Driscoll and O’Gara – better than Kidney in a way. He was there when they were young. You don’t want to be chasing a game against a big physical team like Wales in wet conditions, or any conditions for that matter.

      What annoys me are some of the “analyses” of some fans of the game that say that Ireland did well enough to get out of their group. That was never the plan. I think the emphatic 36-6 win over Italy shows that. The plan was to win the group and beat the runner up of group D (no matter WHO that was). Part B of that plan was the big let down. Ireland weren’t planning to lose 17-16 to Australia in 2003 either. That’s just the way it goes. It’s all over now so who cares. Bring on the 6 nations. It seems to be a less corrupt tournament than the WC anyway….

  7. I disagree with Warren Gatland as coach of the tournament due to him continually slating Alain Roland for sending off Wharburton and attempting to drag the game to the level of Football with his whining.

    In my eyes it should be Graham Henry, if Gatland had more humilty in defeat I would agree.

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