Thursday, 25 October 2007

Rugby World Cup History Pt 2

Phonic Monkey was way off the mark when harking back on history as a guide to picking a World Cup winner. Mind you, so was everybody else. The history lesson there is that there are no lessons to be learnt from history. Alas Phonic refuses to listen and here he goes peering into statistics again as if they mean anything. Well there's only one stat you need to worry about Phonic and that's the one at the top of the scoreboard (or inconveniently at the bottom of it at Woollhara - Eastern Suburbs home ground - where no one can see it.)

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Now that the final whistle has blown on France 2007, I would like to include an addendum to my earlier contribution concerning how each country has progressed at each of the World Cups. As you recall, Australia topped the charts by winning 2 Bills, getting cheated by one Jonny, one Robby and who can remember what happened in 1987.

Before I continue, isn't it great that it was an Australian referee (well, the video ref) which disallowed England's try - the Fleet Street press will be screaming conspiracy for years to come. Whilst on the subject of Pommie bashing, wasn't it tops seeing the Poms choke not only in Paris, but in Moscow (the soccer/football team now likely to miss the European Championships) and Lewis Hamilton's pathetic effort in Brazil. All three occasions saw defeat snatched from the jaws of victory!

Anyway, getting back to Phonic's points analysis, Australia still leads the way on 17 points, 2 clear of New Zealand and England, with France and South Africa 2 back on 13 points. Trouble is, the Springboks have played in 2 fewer World Cups, so in terms of average points per tournament, South Africa shoot to the fore on 4.3 points. Wallabies next on 3.4, then New Zealand and England on 3 points followed by France (2.6) and Scotland (1.4). Full table below.

One final point to consider. There has been talk of a northern hemisphere revival following recent results in France, especially with the early departures of Australia and New Zealand. However, it is interesting to note that the southern countries lost far fewer matches than their northern counterparts. To illustrate, I have identified the 3 SANZAR countries plus Argentina and the best performed Island team - Fiji. The corresponding northern teams are the original Five Nations. Numbers refer to the number of matches that the corresponding country lost:

SOUTH
South Africa - 0
Australia -1
New Zealand - 1
Argentina - 1
Fiji - 2
TOTAL - 5

NORTH
England - 2
France -3
Scotland - 2
Ireland - 2
Wales- 2
TOTAL - 11

food for thought.....

The table (you may want to import into a spreadsheet and use commas as the delimiter to read this - blogger technology doesn't extend to tables)

Country,1987,pts,1991,pts,1995,pts,1999,pts,2003,pts,2007,pts,Total,Average
Australia,Semis,2,Won,5,Quarters,1,Won,5,Runner Up,3,Quarters,1,17,3.4
New Zealand,Won,5,Semis,2,Runner Up,3,Semis,2,Semis,2,Quarters,1,15,3
South Africa,,,,,Won,5,Semis,2,Quarters,1,Won,5,13,4.3
England,Quarters,1,Runner Up,3,Semis,2,Quarters,1,Won,5,Runner Up,3,15,3
France,Runner Up,3,Quarters,1,Semis,2,Runner Up,3,Semis,2,Semis,2,13,2.6
Scotland,Quarters,1,Semis,2,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,7,1.4
Ireland,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,,,Quarters,1,,,4,0.8
Wales,Semis,2,,,,,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,,,4,0.8
Western Samoa,,,Quarters,1,Quarters,1,,,,,,,2,0.5
Fiji,Quarters,1,,,,,,,,,Quarters,1,2,0.5
Argentina,,,,,,,Quarters,1,,,Semis,2,3,0.6Canada,,,Quarters,1,,,,,,,,,1,0.2

Monday, 22 October 2007

A Load of Crap

It took till about 5:45 am on a Sunday morning half-way through the 48th and final game of the 2007 Rugby World Cup for reality to dawn (not to mention the day). The problem with Rugby isn't too much kicking or too much forward play or too much slowing down the ball. The problem is too much crapness.

By full-time the theory had gone beyond such speculation as the evidence was there for all to see.

The final was intense and gripping. A classic armwrestle in a classic final - classic being defined as tight with not much scoring. The ball rarely got beyond the inside centre. An average run was about two metres back into the forwards for another bout of arm wrestling. On and on it went. The Rolling Maul was enjoying it. But why? No tries were being scored and there were no beautiful flowing back line movements. Only the previous week the Rolling Maul had almost begged the English Rugby team to express themselves with ball in hand and flung to the wingers as it was the key to Rugby enjoyment (not to mention the flowering of the game worldwide).

The previous week the Rolling Maul had been up at the same time screaming at the TV as Argentina dropped and fumbled ball after ball handing South Africa the match on a platter. But multiple tries were scored as a winger, Bryan Habana ran rampant. The following day a crap Frenchman made a stupid mistake after a minute and-a-half and effectively gave England a head start that they wouldn't relinquish.

And in the Quarter-Finals the Wallabies were dreadful against a dull and boring England. And of course the game sucked (irrespective of the result, though that would have helped).

What do all these games have in common? Crapness. Remember the Wallabies were within a penalty kick of defeating England but were awful. They only had to be slightly less crap and they would have won. But it would have made no difference to the enjoyment of the game (well, maybe a bit) but the game itself would have been just as crap had Stirling Mortlock's kick sailed over the black dot.

Fiji lost by a lot more to South Africa than Australia did against England but the game was probably the match of the tournament. No crapness there.

The All Blacks fell away when the pressure counted and went for a try when a field goal would have done. But neither they nor France were crap and the game was a good one (though the tactics of the All Blacks from the time of resting players during the Super 14 may have been crap). Unlike Scotland and Argentina, another tight game but one where the two teams battled each other to see who was most crap (Scotland).

So the key to a great game of Rugby is not how the game is played but that the game is played well. Scrum reset after scrum reset with a plethora of penalties is not the fault of the law makers but an indictment on the level of skill being displayed. If the ball wasn't being knocked on then there wouldn't be as many scrums, and if players weren't knocking on then they'd be more likely to run the ball and not kick it.

If props are collapsing scrums because it's the only way they can compete then that's crap Rugby, not crap refereeing or crap rules. If the up-and-under is tedious then that's because the players are fumbling the catch or the kick was too far or not far enough (or crap in other words).

The experimental laws that were trialled this year in Australian club and provincial Rugby were generally well received but that's because the players were mostly fit, young and enthusiastic and liked to run the ball. They had the skill levels to show the new rules off in the best light. But there were still crap games. Rule changes will make no difference to the quality of the Rugby on display unless the coaches and players have the skills to exploit them in the way that they are intended.

Bring on the new laws, but teach players to pass, catch, scrummage and recycle ball first.

Friday, 19 October 2007

20 Rugby World Cup Final (and Bronze Final) Predictions

1. French taxi drivers will postpone their strike to watch the bronze final.

2. The Argentinian President will fly into Paris to watch the match.

3. Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy will reunite in order to demonstrate unity with the French Rugby team.

4. Nelson Mandela will be playing golf with Gordon Brown as the Final kicks off.

5. John O'Neill will wish the English Rugby team good luck and no hard feelings.

6. The English soccer team will admit to losing to Russia because they were so excited about the Rugby they couldn't concentrate.

7. Jonny Wilkinson will decide to take the day off from kicking practice on Friday.

8. Mike Catt and Lawrence Dallaglio will decide to keep playing to the next World Cup irrespective of the result.

9. Gilbert admit they stuffed up the manufacture of the balls and apologise to Stirling Mortlock.

10. Tongan Rugby players decide Tonga is the third best Rugby playing nation on the planet based upon results in the World Cup. Fiji disputes this and the two countries go to war.

11. English forwards practice sidesteps and goose steps as a way of avoiding tackles.

12. Bryan Habana admits he wasn't chosen on merit but because he can almost outrun a cheetah.

13. An All Black supporter decides to sell his ticket to the final at face value.

14. The bronze final outrates early morning cartoons in Australia and New Zealand.

15. So enamoured are the IRB by the English style of Rugby that they agree to increase the number of players on the field to 17 and increase the value of a field goal to 4 points. SANZAR agrees.

16. Percy Mongomery forgets to bleach his hair on the morning of the final.

17. The English Rugby team admit they are all republicans and refuse to sing 'God Save The Queen'.

18. An English back wins man of the match.

19. Argentina 3 France 0

20. England 40 South Africa 39

Monday, 15 October 2007

Dear English Rugby Supporter

Dear English Rugby Supporter,

The Rolling Maul would like to express its sincerest congratulations, really, on making the Rugby World Cup final. Your forwards put on a wonderful display of scrummaging, counter rucking, mauling and defence. It was a lesson to all Rugby teams out there, especially the Wallabies.

The commitment to the cause was also impressive as your boys put their bodies on the line, and that includes Jonny Wilkinson who seems to have finally come good in the injury department and that can only be a good thing for those who want to see the best players out on the park.

For the Rugby purist, and that includes the Rolling Maul, such forward displays are what stirs us at our deepest levels. No other sport can so brutally expose weakness. The combination of raw power with pinpoint technique is a beautiful thing even for us mere mortals who can't see what's going on let alone understand Ben Darwin's explanations.

But (and it is a big but and that's no pun about the engine rooms of the English front row) Rugby was designed to be a running game. William Webb Ellis picked the ball up, tucked it under his arm and ran with it, he didn't run it towards his forwards and set up another ruck (and he didn't kick the ball straight up in the air either - The Rolling Maul isn't crying for Argentina).

What's the point of building a platform to just go ahead and build another platform? Where were the sweeping backline movements to contrast the brute power?

Rugby is an aesthetes game. The beauty of a flowing backline linking across the field with forwards in tow and making vital contributions up the middle is what the game is designed for. If we wanted to watch hulking mammoths run headlong into each other for ruck upon ruck (the infamous pick and drive) before putting up a bomb we'd watch Rugby League.

Now don't get me wrong. England defeated the Wallabies and rightly so. The Wallabies once cherished the running game, piloted at Randwick and honed to perfection by the Ella brothers. But the Wallabies haven't really played a running game since George Gregan last played for Randwick and that would have been about 1999, coincidentally when Australia last won the Rugby World Cup. Australia's backs are being wasted and that is an even greater shame than the demise of the forwards.

So good luck to England in the final, but it would be a travesty if England won and won ugly and even greater travesty if South Africa, with their fantastic back line, resorted to such dastardly tactics. Players, spectators, administrators and referees need games to flow. Stop-start ruck and scrummaging penalties and re sets do nothing to promote the game to itself or to potential and current audiences.

Of course forward play and defence is and should be important. As the final of the Australian Rugby Championships showed, you can play expansive attractive winning rugby, but even with the new Stellenbosch Rules (and all power to them), it was defence and forward power that won the game for the Central Coast Rays who made more than twice as many tackles as the Melbourne Rebels. And as Fiji and the other Pacific island nations demonstrated, running the ball without structure and forward support might look good and score the occasional spectacular try but it won't win you a World Cup.

Alas, winning ugly is probably the only way that England can win. England has some great backs, Jason Robinson is a very special player and deserves more ball, but he won't get it.

If winning ugly is what it takes to win then it's the game that is at fault, not its proponents. The new laws are a good start, but shifting attitudes is even more important and that will only come when teams like Australia and New Zealand throw off the shackles and teams like England and Argentina start trusting and developing their backs. At the very least for the good of the game give it a try - you might score some.

Friday, 12 October 2007

20 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final Predictions


1) Controversial refereeing decisions and a dubious yellow card will have a great influence on the result of both matches.

2) French spectators who have never been to a game in their life and have no idea what is going on will start Mexican waves at inopportune moments.

3) Channel 10 commentator Ben Tune will refer to players by their country of birth rather than the country they're playing for.

4) Channel 10 commentator Ben Darwin will make overly scientific explanations about what happened in a collapsed scrum and why twisting a shoulder 5 degrees in the wrong direction will result in the sort of injury that ended his career.

5) Both matches in New Zealand will be outrated by early morning video film clip television programs.

6) Both matches in Australia will be outrated by the SBS test pattern.

7) A South African tourist in Argentina will be shot.

8) Jonny Wilkinson will score all of England's points (ooh - tough one that).

9) Argentina will kick the ball - a lot.

10) Sebastien Chabal will promise publicly that if France win the World Cup he'll get a crew cut and plait his beard live on TV.

11) Argentina set a World Record for rolling a maul for 22 minutes but only making 20 metres but they don't care because they're up by 3 points at the time.

12) A South African winger dies of boredom.

13) Finally, the moment the World has been waiting for over the entire World Cup - a female streaker.

14) On Sunday Rugby takes front and back pages of the Buenos Aires Herald.

15) On Monday corruption resumes its usual place on the front page while rugby is relegated to one column three pages from the back.

16) England was robbed.

17) The Central Coast Rays celebrate a glorious nail-biting win in the inaugural Australian Rugby Championship. What World Cup?

18) Traffic to the Rolling Maul returns to the usual dribble now that the English have better things to gloat about.

19) France 24 England 12

20) South Africa 30 Argentina 6

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The Australian Rugby Championship - What You Missed

While you were looking the other way, the Australian Rugby Championship continued to make its mark on the Australian sporting landscape, dominating headlines and unearthing a rich vein of talent that will ensure Australian Rugby sporting success for generations to come.

Or not. It's a question of perspective, and the Rolling Maul's has only been slightly skewed by events in France over the weekend.

That said, the ARC has given a bunch of players who should have gone to France with the Wallabies (Kurtley Beale, Rodney Blake, Lachlan Turner and Josh Holmes especially) and two who ultimately did (Cameron Shepard and Morgan Turinui) a chance to show off their skills. And despite the promotion of the competition 'Come and see the Wallabies of tomorrow today' sort of nonsense, it has been some of the old stagers (Peter Hewat and David Croft in particular) who have shown the young-uns a thing or two.

Even the forgotten five-eighth of Australian Rugby Sam Norton-Knight is the competition's leading try scorer. Norton-Knight started the international season at five-eighth for the Wallabies but was quickly shown to be out of his depth. Evidently the ARC is the perfect depth for him.

Peter Hewat is the leading pointscorer in the competition, before he went to France Cameron Shepard had scored about two-thirds of the Perth Spirit's points while Clinton Shifcofske scored about half the points for the Ballymore Tornadoes. It's mere fantasy to speculate how the Wallabies would have fared against England with any of these dead-eye target shooters on the field, but unquestionably they wouldn't have kicked worse than Stirling Mortlock on the day and it's not like Hewat could have stuffed things up with Chris Latham barely getting his hands on the ball. Whether they would have beaten Wales with Hewat at fullback is another question.

Of course the pressure of a World-Cup quarter-final can't compare to playing before 3,000 fans at Gosford, or up to 5,000 in Melbourne and Perth to the pleasant surprise of the ARU.

So to get you up to speed before the weekend's final here's a quick summary:

The Queensland teams were predictably woeful. Something is rotten in the state of Queensland and given the Wallaby failure and South African success it's beginning to look more and more like we can't blame Eddie Jones anymore for our Rugby problems.

Canberra, the pre-season favourite with an almost Brumby strength backline struggled badly and never found their groove.

The Sydney Fleet superstars were more hot and cold than Finnish recreational activities. Gavin Debartolo typified their season with outrageous spectacular tries, knock ons and missed tackles. Were coming good as Morgan Turinui picked up tries and man-of-the-match awards but was missed badly when he went to France. Missed the semis.

Perth started slowly but ironically didn't string together multiple wins until Cameron Shepard left for France. Made the semis. Good crowds.

Western Sydney were the darlings of the competition with Kurtley Beale leading a team that was essentially the Australin Schoolboys outfit that won the World Cup a couple of years back. The future of the Wallabies (remember the name Ben Alexander) they were all showy class and crowd favourites but melted in the semi when the pressure was on. The future looks the same as the present. Sob.

Using the Brumby patented 'everyone hates us and don't want us in their team' chip on the shoulder as motivation tactic the Melbourne Rebels (also known as the Fleet second grade) surprised everyone early on including their fans - up to 5,000 at a time by winning some matches and topping the table for much of the season. Made the final but lost by about 50 to Central Coast last time they met and that was in Melbourne. Don't expect to see the Hume Highway and the F3 clogged with traffic on Friday.

Central Coast snuck up on the competition. Very ordinary early on but clicked big time with some massive victories when it counted and host the final. Home ground advantage will count for nothing as all the players come from Northern Sydney.

Predictions: Central Coast to win the final by 8, crowd of 4,000, John O'Neill declares competition a great success - Wallabies of tomorrow blah blah blah, everyone else waits for him to gut it next season.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Blame the Rules of the Game, Not Antipodean Rugby

It is quite evident that if the Wallabies and the All Blacks are not in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup that there is something inherently wrong with the rules of the sport.

If the followers of the great old game wanted to watch a mass of fat heaving sweaty bodies for hours on end they'd go to Finland and sit in a sauna.

It is time for a change in the rules of Rugby Union in order to prevent the game being dominated by ponderous pale British Isle types whose idea of a good time is to bury the ball in the forwards and score points off the boot from converted (ie brainwashed) ex-pat Aussies and private school type Englishmen.

Rules need changing to ensure that the ball remains in hand or is passed from player to player. The game must encourage try scoring and reward the team that maintains possession and ball movement.

In addition, the up-and under kick so favoured by Argentinians in this World Cup is a plague on the game that is spreading with alarming speed to other teams. It is no joke that this kick was originally known as the garryowen, named after the town in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. The infamous tactic was first devised as a way of allowing inferior teams with limited firepower and imagination to compete on an unequal footing with their faster more skillful opponents.

Australian Rules football split from Rugby a century and a half ago and incorporated Gaellic Football kicking and scoring systems to cater for cricketers in the off season. It is obvious simply by looking at Aussie Rules players that the long punt and the up-and-under were never intended for the skillfully coordinated yet muscular and fleet-of-foot Rugby player. This type of kicking has its place - but not in Rugby.

Pacific Islander teams have played the game in the spirit that William Webb Ellis intended and have provided the most exhilarating highlights of the Rugby World Cup to date. Even the Irish and Welsh have provided (admittedly limited) enjoyment by throwing the ball around to great effect - though not until 25 points down or when four tries are needed. Even France realised that to resort to traditional Gallic flair was the way to win Rugby matches and Rugby hearts and minds.

Australian and New Zealand players meanwhile were lulled by their Northern Hemisphere rivals into playing Northern Hemisphere Rugby. With attacking options across the park, both teams took the conservative approach and deservedly lost as a result.

For the good of the game, and in order for these teams to take up their rightful place at the top of the Rugby food chain the rules of the game must be altered to ensure their success and to take advantage of the aesthetically gifted playing style which comes naturally to their players.

It has often been said that reducing the number of players on the field will open up space and present players with more attacking options. But rather than reducing the number of forwards on the field as in Rugby League the number of backs could be reduced. In any case, just reduce the number of players allowed and let the coaches decide where they make the cuts.

When a scrum is packed down the team with the feed will have the option of a 5, 6 or 8 man scrum - similar to a line out. This would create a whole new dimension in tactics - teams that are good at scrummaging would insist on an 8 man scrum while bad scrummaging teams such as Australia would not be unfairly penalised for this and could nominate a 6 man scrum. This would assist getting the ball in and out of the scrum as quickly as possible and ensure free flowing Rugby.

When the Rolling Maul was a lad, players could only be replaced if they were injured. Now coaches can run on a new player on every time some overweight unfit forward gets tired. Bring back the original rule and not only will forwards get fitter and faster but coaches will favour younger faster players whi like to run around a lot looking for gaps.

The Mark in Rugby is designed to discourage the up-and-under and protect the catcher of the ball. Clearly it isn't working. Awarding one point to the team whose player successfully marks a high ball should pretty much eliminate it.

These are just a few suggestions for the IRB to consider. Clearly all ideas no matter how radical need to be considered if Rugby is to recover from its current parlous state where both the All Blacks and Wallabies have been prevented for progressing further at the Rugby World Cup.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

A Users' Guide to Rugby Jargon

Rugby journalism is easy. Take a few well worn phrases, add a couple of cliches, scan the headlines for what other people are saying, learn the jargon and sit back and enjoy the game. Anyone can do it, even amateur bloggers have been known to get in on the act.

So to help you out with your budding sports journalism career or to let you interpret what you read about the Rugby World Cup, the Rolling Maul is taking a close look at Rugby World Cup journalism, or the gravy train as it's known in Marseilles. Below are some key words that help spruce up Rugby articles:

Depth: Most teams have bench warmers and squad members. The All Blacks have depth. This means that there is no other sport to play in New Zealand and competition for places in the starting XV has ensured that the best team is inevitably left sitting in the grandstand as the coach has no idea.

Unpredictable: Hopeless. Pacific island teams are patronisingly known as unpredictable. This means that you can predict that they will make bone crunching tackles for 15 minutes, throw the ball around a lot and often drop it and be competitive until about just after half-time when they get exhausted. Don't let Fiji vs Wales fool you. Wales were just more unpredictable than Fiji on the day.

Courageous: Hopeless. The USA are courageous. They turn up to each World Cup talking the talk make a few big hits and lose by 70. Courage is not about being out run, outmuscled and outplayed. If that is courage then Namibia are the most courageous team in France

Speedy: Hopeless. Japan are speedy. They are speedy to drop the ball, go backwards in scrums, and have 50 points scored against them by half-time. Speedy is an asset for road runners and cartoon mice.

Impact: Desperation. Bench warmers aren't replacements anymore but impact players. In the 2 to 20 minutes the bench warmer is on the field they are expected to turn a losing cause into a monumental victory. Impact isn't what happens on the field it's what happens to the coaches career when desperation turns to the bench.

Structure: Boring. England play a highly structured style of Rugby. It means they have grizzled behemoth man mountains in the forwards that are highly effective in slowing down play and preventing spectators, commentators and especially referees from seeing what's going on. Structure is the opposite of...

Instinct: Chaos. Pacific Islanders and the Ella brothers play with instinct. Players love it because it means they don't have to think. Thinking is hard. It gives them headaches. But coaches hate it no matter how much they claim to encourage it publicly. Instinct can't be planned and that's what coaches are for. If all players played instinctively there'd be no need for coaches.

Discipline: Soft. To be disciplined in the modern game is to not strike back when your opponent is pummeling the shit out of you. Referees and the IRB love discipline because they think it improves Rugby as a television package for the masses, but the reality is that the modern game is so disciplined it's in danger of turning into soccer.

Natural game: See instinct.

Experienced: Old.

Exciting: Young. Coaches hate exciting players. They play with instinct which is only really useful when impact is needed. And even worse they can be unpredictable. The coach's goal in life is to coach out excitement and instill structure.

Gameplan: Wishlist. A coach's ideal gameplan revolves around taking the experienced and exciting players and letting them play an instinctive natural game but with structure and discipline before bringing on the impact players with 15 minutes to go.

Want more Rugby Jargon? Click here.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Rugby World Cup Pool Matches Review - Why It All Went Wrong for the Northern Hemisphere

The World's leading scientists, the United Nations and Al Gore have warned us that this was coming and that the consequences would be unpredictable. But it is evidently apparent that there has been a global shift the magnitude of which is only just being realised.

Climate change is the only plausible explanation for the demise of Northern Hemisphere Rugby, while the fortunes of the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Unions have risen in parallel with the rise in global temperatures and sea levels.

It is unfathomable that bad coaching of Northern Hemisphere teams can explain why they have played so badly in this World Cup. It is equally unlikely that the players are simply not good enough, despite the fact that the Northern Hemisphere Unions have more players to choose from than those Rugby super powers south of the equator.

Mired in their ancient playing structures and parochialism, the Northern Hemisphere has failed to realise that Rugby grounds the world over are dryer and harder, facilitating quick recycling of the ball and fleet footed backs. Plodding lumbering forwards of the type favoured by England especially should go the way of the dinosaurs. Evolve or perish is the name of this game and the Northern Hemisphere nations are perishing.

Australia and South Africa, with their vast expanses of dry grassless Rugby fields have quickly adjusted to the Rugby of the new climate paradigm. And New Zealand, through regular exposure to the parched Rugby fields of Australia and South Africa at Super 14 and Tri-Nations level, have been so successful at adjusting they are now favourites for the World Cup.

It is no coincidence that the Pacific Island nations are among those most threatened by climate change and those with the most sudden improvement in Rugby standards. These nations, for so long respected but ultimately harmless are most at risk from rising sea levels which are already regularly flooding their Rugby fields rendering them unusable for long periods and especially at high tide.

The current Pacific Islander Rugby player represents just the first wave of climate refugees as they seek playing opportunities in other countries. The resultant improvement in playing standards is the result, and it is the olde worlde Rugby nations which are paying the price for their ancient polluting ways.

Contrary to the Pacific Islands, the retreating glaciers of Tierra del Fuego have revealed a plethora of Rugby fields creating opportunities for all Argentinians to play Rugby, where previously all flat green parts of the country were immediately taken over by soccer enthusiasts.

Until this World Cup, Argentina's greatest mark on international Rugby Union has been supplying the occasional outstanding prop to the Wallabies. Now a new generation of Argentinian players experienced in high altitude Patagonian Rugby are demonstrating extraordinary stamina and sublime skills as a result.

Unless the Northern Hemisphere Rugby nations address climate change their Rugby fortunes will continue to suffer. Carbon trading, mandatory emission limits and renewable energy regimes are just the start if they want to be able to compete with the Southern Hemisphere.