8 Oct 2019

Rugby World Cup: How this tournament compares to others

4:05 pm on 8 October 2019

RNZ asked its team of reporters covering the Rugby World Cup for their take on the issues of the cup. Here is what they had to say.

All Blacks full back Ben Smith takes a selfie with fans after winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between New Zealand and South Africa.

All Blacks Ben Smith takes a selfie with fans. Photo: AFP

What has stood out this World Cup?

Joe Porter, RNZ rugby reporter:

Some great upsets, fans having an incredible time at the games and of course, off the field. It's a wondrous country and Rugby World Cup fans are having an absolute ball.

The downer, the refs and world rugby's prerogative to penalise any kind of play (attacking or defending) near a player's head.

This is rugby, not tiddlywinks, it's a sport built on big, physical collisions and people are going to get hurt.

Stopping a game (ala Wales vs Wallabies) to go back ten minutes to find a dubious collision and penalise a player/team is ridiculous. That's what a citing commissioner is for.

Also, the refs seem to pick up the most innocuous of incidents, but miss the massive game-changing ones like Reece Hodge's illegal hit on Fiji flanker Peceli Yato, which cost Fiji their best player for the match and the rest of the tournament, while the Wallabies went unpunished until after the game, which they of course, won.

I fear the referees and constant controversy may become the biggest story of the world cup and that's not fair to the teams or this great game.

Stephen Hewson, RNZ Sport editor:

The lull in between matches of any note.

This tournament doesn't have the spark (pardon the pun) of the Cricket World Cup which seemed to capture everyone's attention - and not just because the Black Caps performed well.

There was much greater interest in other matches going on - perhaps that's because it was a more closely fought contest.

Leilani Momoisea, RNZ Engagement editor:

My favourite thing so far has been how the staff at every venue stand in a line and dish out high-fives as people walk into and out of the stadium.

It's a really simple thing, but it puts a big smile on people's faces.

Vinnie Wylie, RNZ Pacific sport reporter:

From a rugby point of view I think the gap between teams 1-20 is as close as it has ever been. The days of 100 point whippings seem largely over.

The panic and confusion around tackle rulings has definitely been a blight, however, as officials and lawyers wrestle over player protection vs playing rugby.

Bak-san sporting his painted shirt.

The now world famous Bak-san sporting his painted Samoa shirt. Photo: RNZ / Leilani Momoisea

How would you rate this Rugby World Cup?

Vinnie Wylie:

From a fan's perspective I'd say 9/10.

The games are well organised and Japan has been a great, welcoming host.

It has been refreshing to take the World Cup to a non "rugby giant" and see the unbridled local joy when the Brave Blossoms toppled the Irish, and just the genuine enthusiasm around on gameday.

The venues, the cities and getting around is very well planned so definitely a big tick.

Now we just some more upsets, All Blacks excluded of course!

Leilani Momoisea:

I couldn't think of a better place to hold the Rugby World Cup.

The loudest fans so far have been Argentina, South Africa and Samoa.

The Japanese fans have been amazing in the way they fully embrace the different teams - from face paint to funny hats to the different team jerseys - they go all the way in supporting whatever teams they're watching that day.

Stephen Hewson:

Undoubtedly low-key.

I put that down to the timings of matches and the streaming - many people simply can't be bothered watching.

The other factor that is definitely coming through - even from sports followers - is the All Blacks have won the last two tournaments so the necessity to win as there was in 2011 simply doesn't exist.

Many people have said to me it would be good for the game if another nation got to win the Webb Ellis trophy.

Richie McCaw and Dan Carter with the Webb Ellis Cup after winning the Rugby World Cup Final, London, England. Saturday 31 October 2015.

Do New Zealanders care as much if the All Blacks don't win this Rugby World Cup as previous ones? Photo: PHOTOSPORT

What's the biggest difference between a rugby match in Japan and one in New Zealand?

Leilani Momoisea:

The incredible efficiency of the public transport.

People get to the games so early, like three to four hours early.

Is that normal? People can drink alcohol on the footpaths and on the way to the match, and there's no problems.

Joe Porter:

The crowd, the atmosphere and the respect.

In New Zealand, if the all blacks are down the crowd goes deathly silent, a great depression sweeping over the stadium.

New Zealand fans abuse the other team and the referee, constantly.

In Japan they cheer for all good play, from both teams, and go bonkers for little things like Japan getting a turnover, let alone when they score a try or a famous upset win.

They respect the teams, opposition included and chap and chant and cheer all game, especially to lift their team if they're struggling.

Best rugby fans in the world?

Vinnie Wylie:

NZ crowds, myself included, are often quite reserved so it has been enjoyable to hear the singing, the atmosphere and just experiencing the differences in how fans from across the world support their teams.

It's also been cool to see so many local Japanese turning up in numbers to watch 'neutral' games.

Crowds have been full or close to it and the day games, coupled with good weather have ensured a friendly, lively atmosphere.

The other point would be with the large populations it pays to leave and arrive early at games, although the magnificent rail system has made that largely a breeze.

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The fans have been having a great time at the Rugby World Cup, according to RNZ's correspondents on the ground. Photo: RNZ / Leilani Momoisea

What has struck you most about being in Japan?

Leilani Momoisea:

The kindness and hospitality. I'm sure it's something everyone says - but it really is true.

On my first night here, it was raining and I was looking lost and a woman held up her umbrella for me and walked me to the subway station, and made sure I got on the right train line.

Vinnie Wylie:

Food and vending machines everywhere you look. Friendly locals and clean streets.

Also the very distinct differences between the big cities like Tokyo and say Sapporo in the north.

Joe Porter:

The people and the food - both are incredible.

The Japanese are the kindest, most helpful and honest people you could meet.

Stories of kindness to travellers and strangers abound, while losing your wallet and phone is no big deal, as it will be handed in later that day, nothing missing, every time.

The food, well my growing waistline speaks for itself!

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