063. Twelve Goodbyes

Scotland need to go home and reflect long and hard about where they’re at, because it’s nowhere good.  Nearly half their squad were not born in Scotland.  They have plenty of hard grafters, but none of them would be in a World XV.  There’s a whiff of entitlement to their approach: a belief that they somehow deserve to be in the quarters even if they go no further.

And their Chief Executive brought disgrace on the Union with his outbursts about the possibility of cancellation of their final pool match against Japan on the day after the killer Typhoon Hagibis swept through the country.  If he doesn’t resign he should be sacked forthwith.

And as it happened, the Japanese wanted to play Scotland to honour the tournament and their fans.  And they beat Scotland into the bargain.

Go home, and think very very hard.

Samoa played well in patches, but pretty ordinary in most of it, with the age of many players seeming to catch up on them.  World Rugby needs to do more, much more, to allow this cradle of talent enjoy the fruits of professionalism.

Russia were a surprise, in the good way.  Sure they got thrashed, but they got better through the tournament, adding some running aspiration to their heft up front.  They should be better for the experience.

 

Of all the teams affected by match cancellations Italy can feel the most aggrieved.  They had a mathematical chance of being in the quarters if they’d beaten the All Blacks in that match. But, you know, it was the All Blacks, and that math doesn’t really add up.

Italy dealt with Namibia and Canada well enough, but they didn’t show anything to suggest a break through.  So they get the third place prize of automatic qualification for RWC2023, where they’ll probably come 3rd in their pool again, and so it will go.

Namibia have a moment to treasure from this World Cup: they led the All Blacks 3-nil, and kept them to 9-10 until nearly the end of the first half.  They played with great panache and enjoyment that day.  Another team that got better through the tournament.

There is no “Commonwealth exception” in a global tournament: Canada were the worst team in the tournament.  Just awful.  Put it this way: there are 20 teams in this tournament, and Canada are ranked 22nd in the world.  They should fire the coach, sack the board, burn it all down and start again.  They looked like a college 2nd XV on an end of year tour, just there for the laughs.  Embarassing.

 

Argentina were my big disappointment this time: promising so much through Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, and then losing the match to France which sealed their fate.  And it was a game they coulda shoulda won.  Back to the drawing board, build up a new team, rediscover their attacking mojo.

Tonga brought the thrills and won a lot of hearts, especially in their last match when they played on after the whistle to score one more (beautifully executed) try.  The best-performing 4th placed team across the tournament (by match points, and points for/against).  Played with pride.

Unlike their northern neighbours, the USA played with some ambition:  7 tries compared to Canada’s 2.  Yes they should be doing better, with all that sports science and population behind them (and getting good results in Sevens), but at least they had a go.

 

The bare numbers don’t quite show how Fiji nearly had a very good Cup.  They pushed Australia, and then Wales, very hard for long periods.  But then they got ambushed by Uruguay.  Still one of the best international teams to watch as those big legs get striding while they hold the ball in one hand for a miracle offload, but it’s close and no cigar this time.

Aside from a good win over Uruguay, the key measurement of Georgia’s tournament was that they scored 9 tries in their four matches.  They came to play.

As did Uruguay, and their ambush of Fiji showed some real smarts.  They’d figured out the schedule and targeted this one match with everything in their semi-professional arsenal.  A great sporting moment they’ll be living off for years to come.

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