RWC 2015: Latest bluffer's guide

8:52 pm on 2 October 2015

Has the Rugby World Cup been too early to get up for? Here's this week's bluffer's guide to the tournament - whatever you do, don't mention France.

A man watches television in bed - remote in hand.

Even casual fans may find this weekend's match in Cardiff nerve-racking to watch. Photo: 123RF

Oh boy, here we go. While this weekend's opposition, Georgia, shouldn't give the All Blacks too much trouble, Wales has not been kind to the All Blacks in Rugby World Cups.

Back in 2007, rugby fans were looking forward to breaking the almost two-decade streak since New Zealand had held the cup aloft. As tournament favourites, the quarter-final against France should have been a walkover. Instead, the All Blacks lost 18-20, the side's worst World Cup performance.

The All Blacks led 13-0 at half-time but, early in the second half, Luke McAllister was sin-binned and, by the time he was back on the field, France had levelled. The All Blacks scored again but France scored and kicked the conversion to win by two points.

All Blacks v France, Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Saturday 6 October 2007. France won the match 20-18.

The aftermath of the 2007 quarter-final match in Cardiff, which France won 20-18. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The All Blacks were devoid of ideas late in the game - when they should have been trying to get points in any way possible, they kept trying to cross the line for a try.

The game was the catalyst for much controversy, from the coaches' selection policy to the refereeing. Englishman Wayne Barnes, who refereed the match, copped much of the New Zealand ire, as fans disputed McAllister's penalty and a forward pass that led to France's second try. (If you are more fair-minded, you could also mention that he missed a New Zealand forward pass that also led to a try.)

For extra credit, mention how glad you are that the All Blacks don't play in those terrible grey and black jerseys anymore.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks take on Georgia this weekend. Captain Richie McCaw hasn't been happy with the team's performance so far.

"There's been a bit of an edge this week in terms of making sure we get the things right perhaps we were a little bit off in the first couple games and if we get them right hopefully we'll get a good performance."

Here's some lines that should work whatever the outcome:

  • Looks like they got enough sleep.
  • The quarter-finals will be a big step up though, and the All Blacks haven't really had a tough game yet (except maybe for Argentina).
  • Gosh, isn't Sonny Bill on form?
  • Fingers crossed there are no more injuries.

Whither the pool of death?

There have been two big upsets so far in this tournament - Japan beating South Africa and England going down to Wales. Wales has since beaten Fiji as well.

Patrick Lambie is tackled in South Africa's World Cup loss to Japan.

South Africa's Patrick Lambie is tackled in the side's losing match against Japan. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

On Sunday, Australia faces England, and the winner will have a much better chance of making it into the quarter-finals, so being armed with some knowledge about that will make you look well-informed to the rugby fans. Which side you land on may depend on which country's news sites you read and whose sledging you like better.

The Sydney Morning Herald downplays Australia's chances, and plays up the World Cup rivalry between the two countries.

But it quotes Wallabies coach Michael Cheika as saying each game is a new experience.

"You don't have long. Especially these games, they go so quick.

"Big games in particular. The game is over so quick that you need to impose yourself and bring what you've got as quickly as possible."

The Age (which lists 'Union' 'NRL' and 'Real Footy' on its sport pages) enjoys some schadenfreude over England's loss to Wales, but points out a Wallabies loss could be "calamitous".

"England are not suddenly world beaters. But if you do think the hosts of a World Cup are not capable of pulling out a display in which emotion or sheer bloody-mindedness overcomes technical deficiencies than you have not seen too many World Cups. I think there is a big performance lurking in England, somewhere."

English rugby fans wait for the opening ceremony of the 2015 Rugby World Cup at Twickenham stadium in south west London on September 18, 2015.

English rugby fans wait for the opening ceremony of the 2015 Rugby World Cup at Twickenham. Photo: AFP

Less worried about the rugby as the stock market, The Guardian reckons England needs to step up for the financiers. "A defeat makes investors more negative about life in general. If England were to lose, they wouldn't just be negative about the England rugby team but also about economic outcomes in general."

The Guardian also points out England risks being the first host nation to be knocked out of the tournament in the group stages.

"Amid growing signs that England are adopting a bunker mentality in the face of unprecedented pressure at their home World Cup, Mike Catt, the attacking skills coach, insisted they would not let external criticism derail them. 'If you get concerned about external effects you are not in a good place and lose focus about what your job is,' said Catt."

In The Telegraph former England back Austin Healey calls for people to support the home side - the boys need it, apparently.

"By all means if England get knocked out in the group stages then no one should be spared from the inquest but for now they need us to be pulling together. After all this is meant to be an English World Cup - what does home advantage count for if there is already so much negativity?"

And in the midst of all this drama and hype, spare a thought for Uruguay, the fifth team in the pool of death - only ever a throwaway line at the end of a story.

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