Saturday, 20 October 2007

Gallantly relinquished the Rugby World Cup

Defending the crown

I tried very hard not to be carried away with the euphoria of England’s recent successes in the Rugby World Cup when Australia and France were taken out to arrive at the point where they were really defending the world cup they won in 2003.

When I wrote about the Rugby World Cup which was looking like it could not muster any support, last month, I did say England did not have a knack for defending titles like this.

Meeting South Africa at the finals presented an interesting scenario because earlier in the tournament England was beaten 36-0 by South Africa, would their game have so been diminished to have England radically overturn that contemporary meeting with a victory at championship match?

People dared to hope against hope and the long week between the semi-final and the final drove us to distraction as an epic moment of successfully defending the Rugby World Cup in 2007 might have relegated to insignificance the fondly remembered 1966 FIFA World Cup we won when I was hardly a year old.

A competition lacking competitors

Again, I must say the Rugby World Cup is a competition that hardly has a world or global following as football, only 6 countries represent the real elite of this game, namely, Australia, England, France, New Zealand and South Africa, the next tier includes Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy. The surprise of this tournament was Argentina, but then most of their players ply their trade in Europe and they beat France twice in the group stages and the bronze medal match.

Somehow, no one considered the same could really happen to England; that once a team had established superiority in the group stages that standard can be maintained throughout the tournament if they meet again.

They still did us proud

Now, I must commend England for coming this far as 2003 represented a different expectation, England were the favourites; for 2007, very little was expected, but they rose to the occasion and getting to the final was as much the pinnacle of their achievement.

So, the championship match ended with a score line of 6-15 with the spoils going to South Africa, the try that required a 2-minute review of the video judge which was disallowed would suffer scrutiny, analysis and developing controversy, forgetting that Johnny Wilkinson missed two drop goals.

The push that had the South African player running in a camera setup behind the cordon was judged quite leniently by the referee – a heat of the moment thing.

In all, England have done us proud even if they were second-best this time, we would not get the therapeutic fillip that comes your country winning, but we are not going to have to drown in our tears for losing.

This might help the SA FIFA World Cup

Congratulations to South Africa where sport plays a large role in uniting a divided people, visits to Madiba who urged them on from South Africa and all sorts of national healing would be topical as they prepare for the FIFA World Cup. If only England had a Madiba figure to do the same rather than just the coach and probably two princes one might be writing a different story.

Now that the cup is over and it was a dreadfully long six weeks, we are, on Sunday, awaiting the splendour and the crowning of the genius of Lewis Hamilton in Brazil.

For one last time – Come On! England.

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