Scotland prop Euan Murray is renowned for his Christian beliefs and his refusal to play on Sundays. A modern day Michael Jones perhaps. Murray has played in only one pool game so far, the 15-6 win over Georgia, and was not available for the key game against Argentina on Sunday.
Were Scotland to beat England with a bonus point in the final pool game for both teams, Scotland would in all likelihood qualify second from Group B and face the All Blacks on a Sunday. In the unlikely event that they were they to beat the All Blacks they would qualify for a semi final also to be played on a Sunday and then the final too is on a Sunday. Might this have been an oversight by the Scottish coaches?
The Namibia Rugby Union CEO was suspended for financial irregularities last December and the IRB ran the union at the start of the year. The Namibian Union’s president resigned on the eve of the RWC in protest at the lack of funding assistance from the government. In addition, a number of the amateur players in the squad were forced to resign from their jobs or take unpaid leave in order to attend the world cup.
The Namibians exited the tournament after the pool stages conceding an average of 9 tries in each of their 4 games, which were played over 17 days. Coach Johann Disregard suggested that they had only played 4 meaningful games in total since the last World Cup.
The modest achievements of the Namibian team should be viewed against this backdrop. In many respects, their performances were more praiseworthy than some of the well funded fully professional tier one nations. Respect to the Biltongboere.
Despite the protestations to the contrary by Gilbert, there is widespread belief amongst kickers and kicking coaches that the match ball being used in the world cup is different from that used during the 6 Nations and Tri Nations. The sub standard performances from some of the best goal kickers in the world are not by chance. The ball is lighter and as a result flies differently through the air. Scottish assistant coach Gregor Townsend compared the greater difficulty in finding the sweet spot to using blades in golf.
The statistics confirm the problems the players are experiencing. The success rate for drop goals is 40%, penalties 57% and conversions 68%. 14 players are kicking at 50% or below, including Felipe Contemponi, Quade Cooper, Johnny Sexton and Jonny Wilkinson. Morgan Para and Morne Steyn however seem to have mastered the ball with success rate of 90% & 85% respectively.
World Cup finals can be decided by kicks, so kicking coaches and kickers will need to be working overtime in the coming weeks to address this issue.
Richie McCaw marked his 100th Test match for the All Blacks with a typically strong performance in the convincing victory over France at Eden Park. McCaw made the most tackles with 24, the most ball carries with 11 and he carried the ball a total of 42 metres which was more than any forward on the field.
McCaw has his detractors, as he is frustrating to play against and opposing fans invariably feel he gets away with murder at the breakdown. Interestingly, non-Cantabrian New Zealanders share this frustration when their team plays against McCaw’s Super Rugby side, the Crusaders or Canterbury in the domestic provincial championship.
However, most will acknowledge that he is an exceptional individual who will go down as one of the great players to have played the game. The humility and dignity he displayed when presented with his 100th cap after the France game, epitomised the qualities of this great man.