RWC Interim Report Card - Your Team is Rubbish

For all the bleatings about the unfairness of it all, the dastardly doings of the referres or the 'woe is me' attitude of those whose players hurt themselves when they were doing something stupid (like playing Rugby - they should've listened to their Mum), the reality is that no team in this year's Rugby World Cup has anyone to blame but themselves for their current predicament, as the following team report cards show:


NAMIBIA
For all the talk of the improvement of the minnows one minnow has remained stuck in the sardine can - Namibia. Playing in the so called 'pool of death', Namibia were the only team routinely killed, conceding 266 points in just 4 games. Even Fiji, who put 49 points on them, were themselves then thrashed 66-0 by Wales. So it's back to the drawing board for Namibian Rugby, qualification against Rugby powerhouses Kenya and Zimbabwe is the most they have to look forward to, and that's no certainty either given that Kenya's accomplished 7s players are about to graduate to the 15-a-side game.
Grade: F
4-year prediction: Fail to qualify for RWC 2015

USA and RUSSIA
Beating Russia is a triumph in Ice Hockey but defeating them in Rugby is like beating the USA in cricket. The implications for the sport in either country ranges between the miniscule and the negligible. At least the USA caught Ireland on a bad day and Italy on just a normal day so competed gamely against both, Russia were Namibia-like in their capitulations to everyone but the USA, even admitting at one stage they weren't interested in defence, just scoring tries, an attitude that would do Super Rugby proud.
Grade (USA): C-
Grade (Russia): D
4-year prediction (USA): Qualify for RWC 2015 due to a lack of alternatives (whatever has happened the Chiliean Rugby?)
4-year preduction (Russia): Pressure Italy for entrance to the 6-Nations and humiliate Namibia in RWC 2015. No one notices.

ROMANIA
A few World Cups ago Romania threatened to shake off their minnow status. As an official sport of the Communists it had serious backing and the results showed. But the fall of the Iron Curtain was the worst thing for Romanian Rugby, so much so that even their fellow Eastern Europeans Georgia had little difficulty beating them in this World Cup. The Mighty Oaks are more twig-like these days, even running Scotland close is no big achievement given their almost-minnow status these days. Romania do take out the award though for worst jersey, no mean feat given some of the abominations created by the marketing Departments of some of the countries (Scotland, England, Italy etc etc).
Grade: D-
4-year prediction: The fall and fall of Romanian Rugby gives Portugal another taste of World Cup glory.

JAPAN
John Kirwan, the Japan coach, may have been an All Black but even he's finally realised you can't teach players to be bigger, stronger and faster. It doesn't matter how many Kiwis and Islanders you rush through the naturalisation process, Japan will always be a Rugby backwater. When push came to shove, Japan came up short against Tonga and Canada in both Departments. No amount of Sumo wrestlers will solve this problem.
Grade: C
4-year prediction: Hosting in 2019 and aren't whining about money, so the IRB won't let them fail.

SAMOA
Won more admirers than matches but the reality is that Samoa will always be the All Blacks B-team. Off the field they showed more imagination than they did on it and just as much carelessness for their own well-being. If only Tweeting was a sport then they'd grade As given their penchant for charging straight at opposition defences. Unfortunately for them this was a Rugby World Cup and passion will only take you so far. It helps if you can hang onto the ball and score a few tries.
Grade: C+
4-year prediction: The elusive upset is confined to players on social media

GEORGIA
Being competitive in each of your matches is not as good as winning just one of them playing badly. So while Georgia never played badly they didn't exactly set tongues wagging. Indeed their presence at the World Cup was barely noticed, especially in Georgia. One commentator suggested that all the sports bars in Tblisi would be open on Sunday morning showing their match against Argentina live. At least the other commentator realistically added there are only 750 registered senior payers in the whole country to add some perspective. So while the Lelos aren't setting the Rugby world on fire at least they're creating a reason to go to the pub in the morning.
Grade: C-
4-year prediction: Registration of 1,000th player leads to shortage of mouthguards.

CANADA
Gone are the days when Canada challenged for, and even once made, the World Cup quarter-finals. Now a win over Tonga and a lucky draw against those other perennial underachievers Japan are things to cherish. Ultimately the Canadians were better known for their beards than their achievements on the field.
Grade: C
4-year prediction: Moustaches will be all the rage in 2015.

FIJI
From threatening to emerge from minnow hell, being the world's best Rugby 7s nation, making World Cup quarter-finals and running the South Africans agonisingly close in 2007, Fiji's Rugby prospects are now as dire as their economic and political ones. Clearly the lesson for the World is that the fortunes of the Rugby World Cup are inextricably linked to the economic plight of the planet. It's no wonder Greece are nowhere to be seen in the world of Rugby (they don't even have a world ranking).
Grade: F
4-year prediction: Free and fair elections are still about as likely as Fiji making the RWC quarter-finals in 2015.

ITALY
Nick Mallet, Italy's coach, may claim that the team has made progress during his reign, but the reality is that for all the talk of Italy being a danger team, of them having one of the World's best forward packs and being capable of beating anyone on their day, they are hopeless. A decade of Six-Nations has barely lifted the team out of its third-tier. At the World Cup the USA gave them a run for their money and they could only beat Russia by 36. Italy were tryless against Ireland and Australia but pointless in every other way.
Grade: C-
4-year prediction: Minnows continue to snap at their heels, shocking losses and upsets over Scotland, no nothing changes then.

SCOTLAND
Scotland's game against Argentina had a thrilling finish, with a last gasp Argentinian try securing victory, but Scotland's role in generating such excitement was caused despite them, not due to them. Scotland make Italy seem extravagent, and Georgia worth watching in comparison. Enjoyment of the Argentina - Scotland match was a bit like hitting your head with a hammer - it feels better when you stop and in retrospect, for some people anyway, the experience becomes romanticised over time and the faint memory suggests a goood time was had by one and all. It wasn't just the Argentina game either. Scotland put on 16 points or less against Georgia and England and only beat Romania by 10.
Grade: ZZZZ
4-year prediction: Scotland rack up 7 tries against the All Blacks in a thrilling RWC 2015 final - but it's all just a dream - you fell asleep watching them - and you're at the game.

TONGA
No one saw that coming. Reasonable against the All Blacks, hopeless against Canada and Japan, effective against France. Tonga's defeat of France was probably more a reflection of France's state of mind than Tonga's brilliance, indeed Russia could probably have run them close. So credit where credit's due, Tonga turned up and gave France enough rope to hang themsleves. Unfortunately they also below the match against Canada and struggled to overcome Japan. Tonga is no Samoa, and that's not saying much. It could be worse though, they could be Fiji.
Grade: C
4-year prediction: The Rolling Maul goes there for a holiday

WALES
Don't kid yourself. Wales put in a par performance and that was enough to see off newly extreme minnows Fiji, almost minnows Samoa, and almost trump out-of-form South Africa. Sure they have a mix of outstanding young individuals and experienced hard heads but so does every other team. The reality is that Wales is a Rugby backwater and except for a brief alignment of the planets in the 1970s always will be. Wales get credit for being able to sing in tune.
Grade: B-
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.
4-year prediction: European triumph between World Cups heralds new era of brilliance. Then reality hits.

IRELAND
Beating Australia isn't the challenge it used to be. It's all about timing, making sure you catch them just after a big and unexpected win. Ireland's timing was exquisite and they played the right tactics against an injury-ridden and struggling opposition. But those weren't the tactics of a World Cup winning team. There was little flair and the usual inabiltiy to score tries. Sure they scored plenty against Russia (who didn't?) and Italy (big deal) but the jury is very much still out, and the verdict may not please.
Grade: B
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.4-year prediction: Make England look good. World Cup glory still a dream.

ENGLAND
It's nice to know there's at least one team in this World Cup that doesn't have a 'no dickheads' policy. Indeed the real question is why Danny Cipriani wasn't selected. The only likelihood is that he's overqualified in the 'Don't you know who I am?', 'Celebrity partner', and 'Being thrown out of nightclubs' departments. Mike Tindall is doing an admirable job of upholding British standards of tabloid scandal, certainly his on-field exploits aren't atracting nearly as much attention. In fact, no English on-field efforts are being reported on which may have been Martin Johnson's plan all along. 
Grade: A (off-field), C (on-field)
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.
4-year prediction:Cipriani comeback heralds new dawn of excellence on and off the field and in and out of the papers.

FRANCE
France are one minnow who have totally failed to impress during this World Cup. Like all minnows they were embarassed by New Zealand but then humiliated by fellow minnows Tonga. The good news is that at least France are displaying typical French characteristics of unpredictability and hating each other in public. This French squad couldn't be more French if they were coached by Gerard Depardieu or shared a post-coital Gitanes with Audrey Tautou. Full credit too to their supoorters for singing La Marseillaise into baguettes.
Grade: D-
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.
4-year prediction: The new 'Kings of the Minnows' reclaim superiority over Italy. Woohoo.

SOUTH AFRICA
Only South Africa could sleepwalk their way to four consecutive victories. Both Wales and Samoa thought they had South Africa's measure until they woke up in the final 15 minutes. Even Namibia had 87 put on them but South Africa never really got going (they should have won by 150). Whether this is part of a cunning plan or a sign of inevitable decline from a team that knew William Webb Ellis as a boy only time will tell.
Grade: B-
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.
4-year prediction: South Africa's RWC 2015 team of 12 year-olds struggle to defeat Namibia by more than 60.

AUSTRALIA
If the Wallabies do win the World Cup they'll have to thank the medical authorities in New Zealand. New Zealand have a lot of experience dealing with people who have suffered great trauma and horrific injuries - every four years to be precise after another choking fit by the All Blacks. Of course timing is everything and the Wallabies seem to be coming good fitness-wise which is great because when it all ends in tears they won't be able to blame luck, and espcially not the 'luck of the Irish'.
Grade: C+
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.
4-year prediction: Rugby League converts finally come good whihc is fortunate considering the bulk of the RWC 2011 backline converted to league between Cups.

ARGENTINA
The Scotland of the Southern Hemisphere were really only impressive when they out-Scotlanded Scotland. Only Argentina can clog up a game as they do, stifling the attack of both teams in the process. Argentina can make minnows look good one week, push other top-tier nations the next week and then struggle to defeat also-rans (lke Scotland) the next. Unfortunately one moment of individual flair isn't enough to cover up uncountable moments of drudgery, boredom, kicking and handling errors. Still, it worked in 2007.    
Grade: B-
RWC QF prediction: Fail to impress.
4-year prediction: Entry into Souther Heminsphere 4-nations adds whole world of pain to viewing audiences.

NEW ZEALAND
The All Blacks have never dealt particularly well with favouritsm and are so desperate to shed that tag in this World Cup they've hobbled Dan Carter and cotton-wooled Richie McCaw. It won't work. Despite themselves they've comfortably won all four games and are the only team that's looked even remotely close to being consistently in form. As the pressure builds that stange tingling sensation around their necks will start to build. The Rolling Maul is happy to add to the pressure by predcting that they'll romp home and win by plenty.
Grade: A+ (impossible to maintain)
RWC QF prediction: Awesome (it won't last)
4-year prediction: Spend four-years on a victory tour of the world thumping everyone in the process with the monkey of their backs.

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