Thursday, 8 September 2011

Memories of 2007

I know Hadyn over at Field Theory was reading back uncomfortably over his musings from RWC2007, and I thought I would see if I was suffering from the same myopia back then when I was belting out missives to myself at Allez les Noirs.

14 days before the Cup started:

“I think France and the All Blacks must now head in as favourites, followed by South Africa whose build up has been slightly less solid, but not confidence shattering. Los Pumas must also be happy, but England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland have all been given wake up calls in the last few weeks that definitely expose both their lack of cohesion at Test level and also their squad depth one week out. Better chances for Italy and/or Samoa now getting through to the knockouts? Who knows. Wouldn't an NZ v France final be fairytale-like? Great for the game to see that final, and JC going toe to toe with big Seb Chabal again.”

I have this very rose-tinted view of it representing 10 sunny, gourmet days in the South for France between the the pool games in Marseilles (v Italy) and Lyon (v Portugal). It was a brilliant trip, and I developed a love for Rosé I never thought I would. And a nasty magritte de canard and cassoulet habit I still have not got under control. But the rugby? Well, the easy opposition meant it was just a holiday, a walk in the park that although produced some free running rugby, doubts lingered after watching other pool games:

Atfer beating Portugal:

“Well, 108 on the board doesn’t look bad, but the consensus at the pub afterwards seemed to be that we were sloppy and off the pace. Luckily a lot of other teams seem below par as well - I hope we improve, cut out the dropsies, and begin to tighten up. The coaches didn’t look that wrapt afterwards.”

“do they (France) have the stamina to match us, or even put us out in Cardiff? I think they have as much, if not slightly more depth than us ... especially at 4 through 8. Players like Betsen, Nyanga and the new 7 Thiery Dusautoir guarantee them quick ball, and Chabal is becoming one of this Cup’s crowd pleasers - check that run for his second try against Namibia. But I think, with our fit, top XV (whatever that is), we just edge them in solidity, skill & speed.”

After beating Scotland 40-0:

“It looks like another awesome effort by the ABs in their less than challenging pool, but why is it that every person I talk to is still shaking their heads and doubting that the team is rising to a peak in time for the knockout stages? There were dropped balls galore and the backs even looked confused at times.”

“I know the score does not matter in the big picture, and the Brains Trust has a plan, but we are going to need our A game for France in the Quarter because I can’t see Ireland beating the Pumas easily. Result after Cardiff = either the host nation or the favourite (us) will be out. If that happens, the bloody Wallabies will win again. Or South Africa. Or Argentina? Or England? Pull yourself together man.”

After spanking Romania in Toulouse:

“We were sitting right on the touch line and the passing was relentless - our backs were hurling the ball at each other, simply willing the moves to continue. They did, to their glorious conclusions. I’m gushing.”

“take a bow Nick Evans - great efforts. Add to that Mauger anchoring things (a rudder for the bairns like Toeava?), the adaptability of our squad in general, and I think we are looking much better for the quarter final. And so far, no injuries. I think our ‘Top XV’ may actually prove to be a bit more conservative than people think - we do need wise heads and experienced players ... which definitely puts Luke on the bench. Lets face it, when Mauger has a big game, the All Blacks win.”

Of course, Aaron Mauger wasn't picked for the Quarter Final, was he?

Before the Quarter Final versus France in Cardiff:

“as we hit the crucial knockout stage because once again (drum roll) we are rolling out a (very talented) All Black fullback at centre.”

“I was thinking Mauger & Smith as the centre pairing ... I honestly didn’t think they’d start Mils there. Is this merely a defensive move? ...  it is a very good team; just one that has not played together much, or at least not for a while in the case of Mils being at 13.”

“If we win it, then awesome; that wee simian is off our back - and in the trophy cabinet. If we do not win it - and I will qualify that by saying that losing the final is an even more palatable result than losing this quarter final or a semi final exit - then I do not think we can ever expect to. No national union can do more to construct a smooth campaign than the NZRU & The Three Wise Men have done. To not win it after this amount of preparation and control means that it is not worth worrying about - it is not a true barometer of Test rugby over a four year period, or even for the calendar year it takes place in.

Choke, schmoke. The World Cup is simply a few knockout games preceeded by some friendlies. It’s basically a Champions Tournament like cricket & hockey have. However, I think we can and will go all the way. This team still has a lot more to show. I don’t to want to make a score prediction for Saturday. It may be close, but I am not worried: We will win it. And while I’m feeeling optimistic, England will pip Aussie by a drop goal again, Springboks over Fiji naturally (without Little), and Scotland to end the Pumas run. What am I thinking?”

50 minutes into the 2007 Quarter Final:

“that nagging, sinking feeling that the pendulum had swung, and the game was slipping from the All Blacks. France showed a lot of heart, they were backed by incredibly vocal support all night.”

“we were close enough that we all saw Michalak’s forward pass (even Francois Pelous’ Mere, Pere & Wife who were next to us) right in front of us, but no one with a whistle or a flag did. That was the nail in the coffin, or Henry’s wrong rub of the green. Fact is, we came up short (no Plan B ... again?), and it could have just as easily happened in the semi or the final had we got through. I think we got strangled more than us choking.”

“all day Cardiff just felt less carnivallike, or maybe just a little too familiar. Probably all the wasted New Zealanders - it went from carnival to just plain Carnage.”


I quoted Graham Henry from his press conference after the loss, and I think he summed it up very well. In fact, I believe his words then hold a relevance for us all as we go into this tournament, no matter what the outcome for our own team ... rmember, we are hosts.
“Part of our dignity and part of our composure and part of our ability to do it on the world stage and be respected is to make sure that we don't bitch and moan,”

“This country needs to acknowledge the strength of the opposition and the way they played otherwise it will be seen as sour grapes.”

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