Rugby World Cup Reflection

Mt Fuji

So it ends…

After a whirlwind six weeks, we have the misfortune of having to wait another 4 years until the world comes together to celebrate its greatest sport. Another 4 years until we get to watch the giants of the Southern Hemisphere take on those of the Northern. Another 4 years until the smaller nations get to dine with the big boys and show what they can do on the grand stage. And, most gallingly of all, another 4 years until England have a chance to get their hands on the Webb Ellis Cup. George Gregan had some famous words for New Zealand in 2003. We now know exactly how they felt.

So, after the storm, let’s have some reflection on the tournament that was.

World Cup of individual performances

It is difficult to say that one team has stood out for the entirety of the tournament. South Africa were worthy winners, but the pre-tournament suspicion that it would be the most wide open for years materialised. Most of the big teams produced at least one performance to strike fear into their opponents (England v NZ, NZ v Ireland, SA v England and Japan v Ireland to name but a few). However, each team also had their weaker performances, which proved costly for most. Whilst they could conceivably have been eliminated before the final, South Africa wrestled their way through and saved their best until last.

The hosts

I am still bitter that I didn’t manage to make it over for the tournament for the first time in a long time, but by all accounts, Japan have been sensational hosts. It was a great forward-thinking move by World Rugby to send the tournament to a developing nation and it seems to have paid dividends. The people played their part in making it a special tournament, supporting every team as if they were their own. Out on the field, Japan played a brand of rugby that was a delight to watch and they did their part in lighting up the tournament.

Consequently, Japan are now everybody’s second team and I’m sure many people will be considering a trip out there at some point. Let’s hope the game continues to explore new territory. USA/Canada 2027, anyone?

Underlying frustrations with World Rugby

Whilst World Rugby have made a very positive move in taking the tournament to new shores, they must take blame for a few factors that killed the momentum of the tournament. Firstly, the inconsistencies in refereeing were unacceptable, particularly around the high tackle and particularly in the opening weeks. Rugby is a multi-faceted game so there are always likely to be different interpretations and referees are only human, but certain directives (e.g the tackle) need to be strictly enforced. Secondly, whilst the typhoon was out of the control of anyone and an absolute travesty, the fact that games were outright cancelled gave the tournament an element of disparity. It should have been anticipated in advance with the amount of time there was to plan.

Return of the wee men

Body size in rugby has been getting steadily bigger tournament on tournament. How refreshing it was to see some of the stars be some of the more diminutive figures on the pitch. Cheslin Kolbe is towered over by most, but his dazzling feet more than make up for that. The same could be said of the Japanese wingers. Faf De Klerk is another who doesn’t let his height get in the way of a physical battle. When Darcy Graham was given a chance, he was one of the better performers on the Scottish team. The list could go on, but let’s hope that there is a shift to skill levels taking precedence over size.

What were your abiding memories of the tournament? What will you miss? What won’t you miss? What do you want to see in four years? Which teams look set to progress further ready for France 2023?

by Joe Large

32 thoughts on “Rugby World Cup Reflection

  1. I’ve already registered pre-interest with Englang Rugby travel for next summers’ 2 Test England tour of Japan! They hosted a fabulous tournament & I hope all the Unions, WR, etc can sort out more meaningful International games for the likes of Japan, Georgia, Uruguay, etc in the future…

  2. The rise of the little guy is partly fuelled by the changes to the tackle law. because players are having a moments hesitancy before putting in the big hit is is giving the fleet footed little guy another microsecond in which to operate. Also the little guy tends to have better tackle technique because he can’t rely on power to wipe out his opponent

  3. My feeling with the comment about 2027, although welcoming a tournament in The USA/Canada would be there are two factors that would go against this:

    1. That would make 4 consecutive NH tournaments, I feel you are more likely to see it in South Africa, Argentina or Australia.

    2. The funny Rugby’s World Cup lite will be held in The USA/Canada in 2025, so we wouldn’t want to confuse the Americans. 🙂

    Japan have hosted a great tournament, one to be proud of, just waiting for 2023 in France now, Toulouse, Nice and Marseilles in November…….

  4. I would prefer the tournament to keep growing the game by breaking new ground every 8 years so my vote would be for Argentina, Italy or USA for 2027 and maybe South Africa or Ireland in 2031 and then maybe a PI joint hosted comp although the logistics of that one would be challenging

    1. Agree with you here Leon. Though the top tier teams are very appealing places to visit, Japan showed that the developing nations should be given an opportunity too.
      I wouldn’t be in favour of a US tournament just yet though. The game is still in its infancy, even compared to teams like Argentina/Italy/Georgia/PI, and I don’t think it the tournament would get the reception it deserves.

    2. I would dearly love Ireland to host it some day. Pairc Ui Caoimh in Cork has been renovated and can accommodate over 40,000. If we could get Kingspan renovated, it would be great. We have the stadiums now. It’s a shame we didn’t get 2023. Wrong actually. But I would love to see it happen. Maybe it’s for the best we din’t get it for 2023 because the way this Brexit crap is going, it will still be an issue in 2023! 2031 bid?

  5. Underlying frustrations with World Rugby:

    Yes, refereeing was a blemish for me. England 2015 was far better in this regard. Inconsistency in refereeing the scrum, home advantage for the hosts (when they probably wouldn’t have needed it), inconsistency in what warrants a yellow or red from game to game – Aki comes to mind.

    HIA: I’m not sure this is well oiled. This is rugby union. A bit more expediency in dealing with collisions might be needed. Wasn’t Sinckler able to play? This is a collision sport.

    Return of the wee men:

    The wee men never really went away. It’s true there are less Shane Williams’s these days but from the point of view of England where every player is big and physical it could appear that way.


    A resounding A+ for Japan, a scrape of a pass for the IRB or even a fail. Cancelled games is unforgivable. We will never know how that altered the dynamics of the tournament. A scrape of a pass or a fail on referee consistency. I think England 2015 will go down as a more well rounded and managed tournament but that’s not the fault of the Japanese.

    I’ve been to Japan and I can assure you it’s true that you could leave your mobile phone in a restaurant or bar at night and get it back the next day, pretty much every time. They are very helpful with directions and assisting strangers politely and thoughtfully.

    1. Firstly it’s a contact sport, not a collision sport. This isn’t demolition derby.
      Also, not quite sure but are you suggesting Sinkler could have played on? He was clearly unconscious and they took the necessary precautions in assessing him and removing him from the field. Letting him remain would’ve been negligent beyond belief. I’m fortunate to have never been properly concussed but if medical advice and the statements of ex-professionals, who have suffered from repeated incidences, is anything to go by, then it certainly can’t be taken seriously enough.
      If I’ve got the wrong end of the stick then apologies, but not quite sure your priorities are right with regards to HIAs.

      1. “Rugby is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport, and the side that controls those collisions, controls the match”? I think that was the quote from Heyneke Meyer.

        Here’s a question:

        If you had the choice between more officiating and regulation of HIA’s Vs far less oversight but with players being forced to wear padded head gear like Leigh Halfpenny, Best, Itoje wear, which would you pick?

        1. Headgear does nothing to prevent or reduce the likelihood of concussion. See Halfpenny as a prime example. He has had numerous concussions and has always worn a scrum cap. The caps at best prevents cauliflower ears and hair pulling.
          The response now with HIA seems to be nearing adequate but the cause needs to be addressed more. This is laws addressing high tackles, dangerous clear outs, challenges in the air etc.

          1. The real ? is, does Biggles have long hair & cauliflower ears? If so, perhaps you could send him some headgear as a Xmas present then Jake? May not help with his concussion, or cure his cauliflower ears, but at least it would stop other kids pulling his hair.

            1. “from the point of view of England where every player is big and physical it could appear that way”
              Riiighhtt. Tell that to George Ford (5ft 9), Ben Youngs (5ft 10), Jack Nowell (5ft 11)
              Think you may be thinking of the team you support, where even the scrum-half is 6 foot 2

        2. Rhetorical. It’s both a contact & a collision sport. What have you & Herr Meyer been watching? In answer to yr latter ?, not irrelevant headgear.

      2. Having had non Rugby related concussion three times so far, I can guarantee i was in no fit state to play cards, let alone Rugby!

    2. Home advantage for the hosts? I hope you’re not implying ref’s favoured Japan when they clearly didn’t, they played great rugby and deservedly beat both Ireland and Scotland.

      To quote Brian Griffin ‘Do you listen to yourself when you talk?’.

        1. WTF are you talking about the tournament is this year 2019 not 2007 and Japan didn’t get beyond the QF’s.

          Mr Bigglesworth I am giving you a tip here type, read, think and type again, it’ll stop you embarrassing yourself.

          1. New Zealand 18 – 20 France at the 2007 world cup. Do I have to spoon feed you? France were hosts in 2007 which is what I was referring to, not 2019.

        2. Well, Wayne Barnes got it wrong with a Fr fwd pass which turned the match then Biggles, but why are you mentioning this & why now, when you’ve continually put the boot into the AB’s about how poor they have been in this recent WC? How is this rational, currently relevant, but is it not also typical & does it not epitomise yr contradictory mindset?

  6. Mr Bigglesworth I will speak slowly for you i-n-t-i-a-l-l-y we were talking about 2019, in your initial post there is n-o m-e-n-t-i-o-n of 2007 until you decided to include this to support your argument.

    There, there little boy run along.

        1. It’s “..some [of] you are..” Pretty much sums up how some of you really are when it comes down to it, doesn’t it chap?

  7. Low point is obvious from an English point of view. Perfect starting team selection for the Semi, hindsight says wrong selection for the final. Needed the big guns of Marler and cruise to start. So as EJ wanted to be judged on the RWC, as I said elsewhere it was semi-successful but finally failed. Getting it right in the final is what ultimately you get paid the big bucks for. And selecting a consistently good scrum half with adequate cover.
    Again obvious high point from an Eng perspective , the semi and to some extent the quarter final.

    Tournament highs, Japan playing a game that at times looked evolutionary, and reaching the quarters.The appropriate and dignified acknowledgements at the start of games to the havoc and toll of the typhoon.
    Tournament lows, the typhoon itself….
    Only 2 games lost in the end, which is astonishing considering a tropical system contains the equivalent of a 10megaton nuclear device detonating every 20mins.

    Overall it’s got to be judged a success for rugby on the world stage, already missing it and looking forward to the 6Ns…

  8. As Claire’s already done George Gregan, perhaps repetition awareness might have been good. Anyway, moving on to WC reflection, would it better serve the interests of the game to also support the ‘little boys’ of the sport? Perhaps a subsidised PI joint tourney might serve the region more, especially as the world drains their national teams to near impotence. Logistical viability a challenge, but in light of the recent Saracens’ corruption could the rugger world not do with a good, rather than a bad, Samaritan situation to restore its image? Also, alternatively, why should the US have to wait indefinitely before staging a WC? Got plenty stadia, capacity, big pop, potential audience to encourage. Personally also wonder if Japan oughtn’t to have staged the Cup before now if the aim is to truly spread the global game. Mind you, plan B weather options aside, didn’t this tourney do them & the game much WW credit?

  9. Was this really the most open tournament in yrs? On what basis? Perception, or reality? Were there more than say, 5 teams max likely to win it? NZ, SA, Eng, Wales & maybe Ire, although the latter’s recent fallings off cliffs prob excluded them. Likewise Aus, BTW, after their last Kiwi calamity. So that left 4. How was this so different from prev WC’s?

    On a note of (over?) achievement, Japan deserve a particular mention. IMO, they did themselves, the tourney & the WW game much credit. Unfortunately for them (maybe more?), it was unlikely that they would have won the comp however.

  10. In respect of individual team performances, all of the semi-finalists fell off the stage at 1point. SA did it when it wasn’t fatal though. However, IMO, Eng made too much of their NZ win with their ‘perfect’ performance. Won by 12, ‘crushing’ the AB’s, but how can their try-less, final loss by 20, be otherwise described? The point being, these 1 offs aren’t necessarily definitive. It’s also about when Everest has been climbed, can it be re-climbed again.. & again? That is the real ?, because that’s what WC winners have to do, every game hence. In Eng’s case, as this is an English site I’ve been informed, they climbed an Everest once before in 2012, albeit not in a WC of course. In this prev case they were unable to sustain. That’s a key challenge they, like some other teams, are going to have to address now. This may be more arduous in Eng’s case after their WC final comedown. They’ll likely be somewhat shell shocked & bewildered. More so as Eddie didn’t have any glib, ready made answers this time. IMO, challenges also await in their deploying an enhanced playing style & of basic skill levels when under pressure, for both the imminent & longer term future. This will inevitably require some personnel changes, as has oft prev been stated here, not least at 1/2, f/back & with continuity in midfield, not to mention regular rotation & the inclusion of more variety of types at say No. 8, even fr, middle rows? Also need to decide whether to utilse or jettison excess baggage like Francis, McChoonchie. Most of this pack will be 30+ in 4 yrs, likewise the backs, so some phasing in & out likely. Additionally, who is going to be the best engaging & analytical thinker as future captain? Prob relatively sooner the better regards the skipper.. as with other considerations? Horese waiting to be climbed back on to.. WW? SA just have to stay on their horse!


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