7 Sep 2015

The good, the bad, and the ugly

9:47 am on 7 September 2015
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With the Rugby World Cup officially kicking off on the 18th September our irreverent columnist Jamie Wall takes a look back at some of the highlights and lowlights of past World Cups.

Moments that enriched the RWC...

The fall guy - Manu Samoa and Fiji have been involved in some of the most memorable games in RWC history, all at the expense of the hapless Welsh. In 1991 and 1999 the Manu tipped Wales up (in Cardiff, no less), while Fiji dumped them out in pool play in 2007.

The erratic French - The French are undoubtedly the most ridiculous team in RWC history. From scoring last-minute wins (Wallabies 1987) to titanic upsets (All Blacks 1999, 2007), unbelievable losses (Tonga 2011) and getting the better of the worst refereeing performance in history (Fiji 1999), supporting this team must involve drinking a lot of wine.

The 2003 final - Sorry, but the best RWC final wasn't one of the ones that the All Blacks have been in. Probably the best England team ever held off the Wallabies in a game that featured two excellent tries, an 80th minute penalty to level the scores and send it to extra time, then Jonny Wilkinson capping off a masterful performance with his famous drop goal.

Jonah vs England - Jonah Lomu's four try effort in the 1995 semi-final was the greatest individual effort in RWC history, but sadly his try against them in 1999 at Twickenham has been overshadowed by the All Blacks' shock exit later on against France. This was Jonah at his nuclear-weapons grade best, swatting off lily-white jerseyed tacklers with brutal efficiency on a 60-metre rampage.

... and moments that didn't

Mouthing off - You'd think the pedantic IRB would want players wearing their mouthguards. Well, only if no one else is making any money of them. 2011 Manu Samoa winger Alesana Tuilagi was fined $10,000 for wearing a branded mouthguard, then a week later stung his brother and English midfielder Manu for the same offence.

Alesana Tuilagi of Samoa during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Alesana Tuilagi of Samoa during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Photosport

Fous le camps et morte! - Kiwi referee Dave Bishop managed to make himself reasonably unpopular with the French side who lost to a fired-up England in their 1991 quarter-final. Coach Daniel Dubroca allegedly cornered Bishop after the game and shook him by the throat while calling him a cheat. Prop Pascal Ondart tried to punch the whistleblower, luckily his aim was a little off so he resorted to spitting on him instead.

Louis Luyt - Everyone knows about Suzie the waitress, well, everyone except Clint Eastwood, who left that particularly important subplot out the movie Invictus. The other big controversy in 1995 was the behaviour of South African rugby boss Luyt in the aftermath of the final, who boorishly suggested that the first two World Cups didn't count because the Springboks weren't in them. Instead of pointing out that there was a VERY VALID REASON they weren't allowed to play, the All Blacks simply got up and left.

Louis Luyt - South African Rugby boss at the time of the 1995 World Cup.

Louis Luyt - South African Rugby boss at the time of the 1995 World Cup. Photo: Photosport

Lads on tour - England treated the 2011 RWC more like a stag do than the pinnacle of their careers, heading to Queenstown in their downtime to drink up large. While there they indulged in a spot of dwarf tossing and newlywed captain Mike Tindall led by example by getting caught on camera shoving his face into a mystery female's cleavage. Soon after Zara Phillips, the second-eldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II, flew to New Zealand to stand by her man.

Shanks very much, Gavin - To date, only the traditional powerhouses of world rugby (All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks, England and France) have played in the World Cup final. In 1991 perennial battlers Scotland were one kick away from being in that club, but legendary fullback Gavin Hastings missed an incredibly easy penalty to hand the semi-final to England.

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Jamie 'The Benchwarmer' Wall grew up in Wellington and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre rugby career in which the sole highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on the game to anyone who'll care to listen.

The Benchwarmer's Comment will run throughout the World Cup on radionz.co.nz.