I watched Stephen Donald in a tri nations match a few months back and he couldn’t kick a penalty to save his life. It was the most startling recognition (if any were needed) of just how much New Zealand needed Dan Carter.
After he came on the field today, I tweeted that Carter must have been hiding behind his sofa as Donald lined up the penalty that ultimately won the All Blacks the world cup. It was funny to see afterwards in ITV’s coverage that former All Black world cup winner, Sean Fitzpatrick, couldn’t even watch as he took the kick, such was lack of confidence in Donald.
Over the course of the tournament there can be no doubt in my mind that the Kiwi’s were the best team and deserved to win the world cup. The same definitely can’t be said of France, who despite playing very well in the final and making it a decent contest, were a bit of a joke at times in the group stages.
Wales should have got to the final, even with 14 men against France they still should have won. We can say what we like about the ref, and despite the fact he was proven technically correct to send him off, I still believe no one would have complained had he just sin binned Warburton. Too me to say it was technically correct, is like the FA saying a ref was right to give a penalty for shirt pulling in the box at a corner, technically correct, but it goes on unpunished at every corner in every game of the season.
The real reason why Wales lost for me is because James Hook missed two kickable penalties and the drop goal chance wasn’t taken when the opportunity arose. I couldn’t help but think that if that was Ireland with O’Gara or England with Wilkinson, either side would have got the job done (Haha. I know, like England would have got themselves in that position in the first place, but I’m sure you know where I’m coming from).
Wales should have beaten South Africa in the group stages, they should have beaten France in the Semi-final and by common consensus they could have played better in the 3rd place play off. The words ‘should off’ are quite prominent when describing Wales. If I were to be ultra critical, I could argue they actually under achieved in this world cup. I’m sure that’s Sam Warburton would say.
Put it another way, I think a lot of the senior players like Shane Williams will have left New Zealand with a feeling of ‘what should have been.’
Onto England and I was glad to see that the RFU have taken time to decide what to do with regard to Martin Johnson’s job. I’ve heard plenty of calls for Johnson’s head, and I’ve heard a couple of people call for time to reflect.
I believe that we are too quick to dispose of managers in this country in all sport. Johnson now has experience as a manager, therefore if it was me I would sit down with him, listen to his plans for the future, and if he seems to have learnt from his mistakes and is planning to make the relevant changes to the playing and coaching/back up staff, then why not give him another go? After all, you can’t buy the experience he now has.
Obviously a few players have to go and indiscipline needs to be stamped out. Sometimes how you behave off the field, can be reflected on the field discipline wise, and I believe this to be the case with England. They were poorly disciplined all round.
I hope that Brian O’Driscoll plays on for Ireland for a couple more years. I know he won’t be around for the next world cup, but he still has plenty to offer to the Ireland team in the 6 nations. Obviously Ireland will need to replace him as captain, but I can’t help think that young players could learn so much playing alongside him for another couple of years. Or while he is still playing well enough at this level, how ever long that lasts.
Onto Richie McCaw. Some people think he pushes the boundaries with his play, but one thing that can’t be denied is what an effective player he is. He has played throughout this tournament with injury, a lot of people thought that David Pocock might get the better of him in the semi-final, but McCaw hammered him. McCaw is an exceptional player and I was happy for him to win the world cup for him.
To finish, this was also more than just a game of rugby for the people of New Zealand. After the devastating earthquake of 2010 the country needs all the good news and boosts it can get. For the people and the country, it was a great and well deserved result.