Rugby World Cup: A curmudgeon's diary

3:32 pm on 18 July 2019

Opinion - One world cup done, another underway and 'the big one' now only two months away.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: Photosport

Yes, after the absurdity of the Cricket World Cup's conclusion, we wait to see if the Silver Ferns can get among the medals at netball's pinnacle event in Liverpool.

But this is New Zealand, where rugby holds sway, so between now and the start of the Rugby World Cup on 20 September, we'll have a weekly, rather curmudgeonly, countdown to the opening match between hosts Japan and Russia.

And no, that's not a misprint, they really are rolling those teams out first. It's two days before the All Blacks emerge.

Just so you know

Farcical finales are all the rage now, after England 'beat' New Zealand in the final of the Cricket World Cup.

If you're lacking a bit of anger in your life, the triumphalism of the English should do the trick. To read and listen to some of the stuff coming out of there, you'd think they - to borrow a line from player, coach and broadcaster David Lloyd - 'flipping murdered' the Black Caps.

Instead, as we all know, England never actually won at all. But never mind.

When rugby comes to the knockout version of their tournament and the scores are level, the teams will play 10 minutes each way of extra time. Should the score still be level, sudden death will apply.

If neither side scores in the two periods of five sudden-death minutes, then players from each side will step up for penalty kicks.

No nonsense such as the team who scored the most tries in the initial 80 minutes to decide these matches.

A brave man

The Beauden Barrett shift? Look, how long does someone have to hang around to prove their loyalty?

Barrett played 125 games for the Hurricanes, but is 50 enough? 150? 200?

No-one's shocked by his decision to move to the Blues. Everyone understands his personal circumstances and his desire to make sure rugby is compatible with his home life.

Equally, news of the shift probably confirms one or two people's suspicions about Barrett as a bloke, while it's arguable whether his best Super Rugby lies ahead of him.

Hurricanes captain Beauden Barrett speaks to his team during the Hurricanes vs Stormers Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday the 23rd of March 2019. Copyright Photo by Marty Melville /

Beauden Barrett will swap yellow for blue next season. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

When you throw rests and sabbaticals into the mix, you wonder how much value the Blues will actually get out of Barrett.

More interestingly, it would've been sensational to be in the room when he told Hurricanes captain Dane Coles of the shift. Barrett said Coles was among the people he advised in advance and the skipper is no poker player.

If he thinks something's a bad idea and he disagrees, there's no hiding it. Coles would no sooner lose a limb than join another New Zealand franchise and you imagine he said as much to Barrett.

To Sunday, then

Argentina at Estadio Jose Amalfitani on Sunday morning will be no walkover for the All Blacks. Not that the result of the match matters either way.

Steve Hansen will end his tenure as All Blacks coach by defending the world cup, or he won't. Whatever happens in The Rugby Championship will provide a few talking points, but won't have any bearing on Hansen's legacy.

Still, be interesting if the Pumas win.

All Blacks Inc.

The marketing machine known as Sonny Bill Williams has made the trip to Buenos Aires.

We're yet to hear if he's fit to play, although history would suggest that's unlikely.

Williams is incredibly handsome and charismatic. He seems a humble, decent man and has achieved some notable things in his career, but his continued retention in the group feels more like an All Blacks Incorporated situation than a rugby one.

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

We'd all like to see Williams fit and well, all like to see him string a few games together. It's just that it appears as if his beautifully proportioned body won't allow it.

So make him a mascot then. Send him as the advanced party to drum up ticket sales in each destination. By all means adorn him with the Adidas logo and a silver fern but don't, with a straight face, suggest he justifies an active role at the Rugby World Cup.

If for no other reason than it would be an insult to the guys who do actually train and play all the time.

Two fearless predictions

South Africa to beat Australia by 20 points in Johannesburg on Sunday morning, NZ time, before a late dropped goal sees New Zealand pip the Pumas by three points.

You never know.

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