The University Observer’s resident New Zealand columnist, Killian Woods, offers his final installment of insight from the Rugby World Cup.
The time lapse since All Blacks captain Richie McCaw lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy has offered the chance to give a realistic perspective of the tournament that the initial unrelenting praise aimed at New Zealand did not. An end to the tournament signals many things for different types of fans.
Some see this as a lull after their experience of the sport as of late; a time when the ability to immerse oneself in rugby dissipates as it returns to season structure normality. Teams like France will view it as a fresh start and a chance to begin a new cycle ahead of the next competition in England 2015. It even could be interpreted as the start of another twenty-four year respite between New Zealand winning the competition again.
The All Blacks, however, have treated the week following the final as a chance to duly bask in their glory and celebrate winning the Rugby World Cup with the entire island.
The tense, brand-wielding final lived up to certain expectations and generically fell in line with a lot of the sensible low try-scoring, kick-dominated predictions, and was a closer affair than the tournament form guide suggested. After eighty minutes, the best team of the tournament won, while the most spirited and best team in Eden Park that day went home with silver.
During the aftermath, two parades to flaunt the team’s new gold ware were organised for Auckland and Wellington respectively, while a special procession was gifted to Christchurch. The earthquake-ravaged city had their Rugby World Cup duties revoked due to effects of the seismic activity in 2010. The move, although appropriate, deprived the most rugby-orientated city in the country the chance to showcase the game. However, in a show of good faith, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw brought the Webb Ellis and their team to their hometown to give the stricken city something to celebrate.
Yet when the parades ceased and the confetti angels made by Israel Dagg and Cory Jane on the Eden Park turf were cleaned up, the twenty-four year countdown began and the country fronted up as a nation suffering. This win has brought New Zealand a lot of joy, but off the coast of Tauranga the worst shipping disaster to ever strike New Zealand is still affecting the North-East coast, Christchurch is an area continually in anguish and the true value of hosting the tournament has become apparent.
The euphoria that New Zealand have enjoyed from winning the tournament has become somewhat similar to that of a father on his daughter’s wedding day. While relishing the notion of offering the bride the best day of her life, he still has to pay the bill; much like the New Zealand taxpayer, who will be forced to account for some of the costs that the IRB have accumulated.
However, focusing more on the collective impact of the tournament, the disappointments seem easier to list off. As a fan sitting in the stadium for all of Ireland’s games and a number of high profile games including Australia vs South Africa and Wales vs
France, I personally found the tournament wholly unexciting. For nearly two months we watched teams so scared of losing that it drastically affected their ability to dazzle.
This predominant fear was eminent in Quade-Cooper, who like many others, failed to reproduce his form for the Queensland Reds with the Wallabies. Although players like Jerome Kaino, Jamie Roberts and Sean O’Brien performed consistently, we were deprived of a standout star of the tournament.
Then there were the heinous scandals which hit the World Cup. Even if there was any life in the tournament, Mike Tindall treating the tournament as an extension of his stag party detracted from the game itself and performances on the field. Shenanigans like these only meant that you had to look a bit harder to find the true meaning of the tournament.
It has been cited before in this sexually and promiscuously named column, but the vibe added to games by fans from the Pacific Islands lifted the mood of the tournament.
Tongans, Samoans and Fijians lined the streets leading to the stadia and celebrated non–stop, despite some desperately disappointing results.
The atmosphere also received a gentle boost due to the presence of a youthful generation of Irish émigrés following the team from game to game. Although some literal Irish bandwagoners (in campervans) skipped lower profile games and only attended the big events, a core contingent of fans supported the team throughout and were relentless in drinking New Plymouth and Dunedin dry.
And finally, breaching the minimal continuity this column ever had, I’ll launch into my favourite part of the Rugby World Cup. Throughout the tournament, there were over
230,400 seconds of action and my highlight hinges on a brief moment during one of these seconds: Felipe Contepomi’s one-handed, mid-air pass that only required a flick of the wrist to be guided into the hands of his supporting teammate, during the attack that led to their try in the quarter-final against New Zealand. It was breathtaking and a final showcase of the stalwart’s everlasting genius.
It wasn’t the best tournament, but it wasn’t the worst. To coin a kiwi phrase that generally reflects a ‘no worries’ shoulder shrug, it was “sweet as”.