Saturday, 17 September 2011

Waiting for the World Cup to Kick Off

I can scarcely believe we're only a week into the Rugby World Cup. A relentless flood of nailbiting matches coming thick and fast, there's barely time to breathe between the end of one game and the start of the next. It's difficult to contain the excitement, building to a fever pitch crescendo of national fascination in the tournament.

Well sort of. In reality there has been little more than a couple of interesting matches and a bunch of usual drubbings and odd unconvincing early performances from the bigger teams. Wales - South Africa was undoubtedly the best game of the tournament so far, with a good standard of rugby as well as plenty of drama, controversy and a near upset. England - Argentina was interesting but more in a painful, why am I being made to watch this agony kind of way. If you imagine a combination of the X-factor, Glee and Big Brother, somehow put together in an all-singing all-dancing repetitive, musical reality show, you're beginning to see what it was like. Besides that, we had unconvincing wins for Ireland and Scotland (x2), the All Blacks not at their best but easily good enough, the Wallabies playing like two different teams in each half, at 6-6 with Italy at half-time before cruising through 32-6, and France looking solid enough. 

But that was all last weekend, since then we've had a break for some reason. The (association) football World Cup in South Africa started on July 11th and there were 2 or 3 matches every single day without fail all through the groups, right until the last 16 matches were done (19 consecutive days), and even then there was only a couple of days break until the quarters. 

You can't really blame the English lads for getting out and keeping themselves busy. Steve Thompson and Dan Cole were obviously using their good looks and charm with these young ladies. I can't imagine there was any other reason they would want to be pictured with international rugby players for photos that would appear all over the world press. 
It was also good to see the dedication of our backs, not only putting in the hours outside of the training ground, but even working on their rolling mauls. I'm sure the dedication will pay off. 

One interesting aspect of the tournament so far has been the frankly dreadful standard of kicking (looking at pens and conversions). Not all teams are guilty (SA, Aus & Fra have struck 70% of more of kicks) but the following numbers don't make pretty reading. Look at the successful to missed kicks:

Wales - 4 scored, 2 missed (66%)
New Zealand - 14 scored, 7 missed (66%)
Scotland - 9 scored, 7 missed (56%)
Ireland - 3 scored, 5 missed (38%)
England - 3 scored, 5 missed (38%)

Undoubtedly the standard will improve as the tournament goes on and the kickers get used to the balls. Certainly England will need Wilkinson or Flood to be on top form because chances against the big teams will be few and far between. Playing a pool match every 3 years or so should give them both enough time to practise and ensure we see a lot of line judge flags in the air over the coming weeks...

Special, unrelated sporting mentions to Djokovic for being simply incredible yet again this year. And also for the England cricket team, a genuinely top class performance to beat the world champions 3-0. So much for just being a test match team. Once again I find myself with too many topics and not enough time

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