Friday 7 September 2007

Rugby World Cup 2007

The rugby World Cup kicks off tonight with an exciting clash between France and Argentina in Paris. This is a crucial game in the ‘pool of death’ which sees 3 of the world’s top 6 (add Ireland) battling it out for 2 QF places. An upset tonight would really through the cat among the pigeons, although I can’t see it happening. France are always good but they are virtually unbeatable on their home sod.
Going into these finals it is difficult to see the winner not coming from the big 3 southern hemisphere nations. Home advantage will bring France closer to Australia and South Africa, but I still can’t look past the All Blacks. New Zealand have been hurt by recent World Cup failures and will be eager to rectify matters. I think their preparation over the past couple of years has been superb and, while they have won tri-nations and beaten the Lions in that period, the focus has never shifted from the Webb Ellis trophy.
As an Irishman I go into this tournament with cautious optimism. We have a 15 to match any in the world, but the Kiwis have 30 players as good as each other, while the other big teams have 22-25 they can call on. Ireland have a couple of good reserves, notably Neil Best at flanker and Geordan Murphy at full-back, but a number of crucial positions have not got the same amount of cover.
I have read a number of articles – including one by Zinzan Brooke on – which mentions O’Driscoll, Darcy and O’Connell, who are all key men. He missed one name however, Ronan O’Gara. Rog is, in my opinion, the best fly-half in the world when it comes to kicking from hand and he uses it to control games, out the opposition on the back foot and move the pack into good field positions.
My fear is that he or O’Driscoll are going to be targeted and possibly taken out of the tournament.
Everyone remembers the spear tackle incident from the 2005 Lions tour, and lets not forget the vicious assault on O’Gara by Duncan McRae in the 2001 tour (click here for a reminder).
That said, not making the quarter finals is unacceptable. If we face New Zealand, as runners up in our group, and lose, then we will have played the best team in the world. If we top the group we will likely face Italy or Scootland and should definitely be making the semis. From there, who knows….
For me it’s a New Zealand V France final according to me head and a New Zealand V Ireland final according to my heart!

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