As the World Cup quarter finals approach we in England seem more excited by Wales and Ireland, the two form teams in the tournament. We all knew New Zealand was a very complete side and that Australia was the flair side with great counterattack potential. But no one thought that the Celtic Tigers could realize their potential, such a shame they meet at the weekend. In my book they are semifinal sides at least.
Sean O’Brien is the form player of the competition, the backs are showing their class and the Irish passion, so often absent when it matters, burns strongly. Now watch them prove me wrong. Even the New Zealand press wants them to reach the final, but then there are a few Irish connections down there!
The new hard edge and fitness of the Welsh is a revelation, Sam Warburton has gone teetotal (steady on, but N/B England), and the backs are on fire, all of them. They could probably pick two backlines of equal ability. So they are genuine contenders, and can scrummage too. I just cannot cope with gloating Welshmen, it doesn’t take much! I may have been born in Haverfordwest but that’s as far as it goes…
Elsewhere, the two growling dysfunctional giants England and France meet to decide who’s off field antics have affected them the least, unfairly for our Celtic friends who would have fancied themselves against either. What a shame, when the history and pedigree of the two sides has so much to go for it. Who will ever forget the 1991 quarter final clash in Paris, one of the great World Cup games of any era? At one point I thought that the two sides had a £/€ deal with the media for print space covering off field activities, its running at four pages a day over here .
From an England standpoint there’s two views, the ‘don’t care as long as we win’ attitude because everyone hates us anyway (remember the Orcs on steroids comment?) or else the incurable Romantic view (thats me!)
Mapusua delivered the best pass in the RWC in their match vs South Africa, he straightened up and left the ball floating in the air, flummoxing the South African defence. Its worth searching for the replay it was that good. The Tyndall version ends up with the touch judge or the replacements. I love to see ambition and I feel that England will HAVE to show some to succeed. But be warned, England have only conceded one try and haven’t peaked, in fact have only just waded in to the foothills. At some point the merciless goading by the Media will result in a backlash I feel. If it goes the wrong way for us, the bloodletting will be in equal measure to the wholesale removal of our Rugby board recently recommended.
I remind you all, around every corner there is a good English team…Caveat etc…
Lastly, there is no one who wanted to see the Dan Carter news, sadness prevails for a player whose all round skills are unsurpassed. Team NZ will want to do it for him as well as the country and for all the adversity suffered over the recent months.
So, my predictions?
South Africa who are massively under the radar and so very dangerous will bully Australia to a defeat (but only just), NZ to cruise past Argentina with impossible pressure on Mr Slade, Wales to stun Ireland with an all time great performance in the match of the tournament and England to snuff out France followed by a joint night out in a remote part of Milford Sound.