Well, at last, the Rugby World Cup 2007 is underway. We have been waiting for what seems ages for this competition to eventually kick off and several matches have been played over the last few days. Some were unexpected upsets, but most results were as expected. One thing for sure, is that thousands of supporters have flocked to France to watch this great rugby spectacle. The various stadiums have recorded full house attendances and the money flooding in to France has already exceeded forecasts. Add to this scenario, millions of supporters around the world, literally glued to their television screens and we have a super duper world cup tournament.
There are too many games each day and too many teams and individual players, to be able to report fully on each match, so we will suffice with brief results and overviews, of the games played to date. Don't forget to download a free fixture list and results scoresheet at the bottom of the page.
The whole tournament was preceded by a glitzy opening ceremony, staged in the Stade de France, in St. Denis, immediately before the opening game between France and Argentina. Hundreds of gymnasts, musicians and dancers appeared in a huge show, meticulously choreographed, that went off like clockwork. The official anthems of the 2 competing countries were then aired and eventually the match started.
Rather disappointingly and I should imagine embarassingly for France, they appeared overwhelmed by the importance of the occasion and never really got themselves into the game. They stuttered and started and seemed nervous and unsettled. The Argentinians, on the other hand, seemed cool and calm and dedicated to the business at hand. Through sheer guts and strength they took an early lead and hammered the French into submission, at every possible opportunity. They were convincing winners and scored the only tri of the match. Although not much of a flowing game, this was a thrilling encounter. Many of the Argentinians actually play their club rugby in France, so were never intimidated by the French team. The final result was 17 - 12 to the Argentinians, which netted them a well deserved win and 4 points. The French had to be satisfied with a solitary point, from losing by less than 12 points.
The second match was New Zealand against Italy. A valiant Italy tried everything they could, but were never able to match the superb skills and far stronger Kiwis. The All Blacks showed why they are pre-tournament favourites, with a superb display, however it seemed that they never really upped their game to top gear. They scored 11 tries.There was no need to. Without too much effort, they emerged convincing winners, by 76 - 14. The plucky Italians were actually lucky to get their 14 points, through 2 relatively easy tries.
The third match was Australia against Japan and as expected, the Aussies all but annihilated Japan, by running in 13 tries to nil. The final result was 91 - 3 and netted Australia 5 easy points.
Fourth up was England versus USA. Again, England were expected to trounce the typically non rugby playing nation, but never really put up a convincing fight. Many were curious as to the condition of the defending cup holders, but England were almost disappointing. They were only able to get 3 tries to USA's one. Anyway they grabbed the victory with a final score of 28 - 10.
The fifth match between Wales and Canada was expected to be a little more evenly matched with Wales not having had that good a season and Canada, one of the few minnows who put up a good show in the last world cup tournament. Wales never really struggled and were able to beat Canada by 42 - 17, grabbing a quick 5 points in doing so. However, Wales only got themselves 5 tries, to the 3 scored by Canada and will have to up their game, as they tackle Australia next.
The sixth match was one many rugby fans were eagerly anticipating. The match between South Africa and Samoa was always thought of as a hard battle. The strong and heavy hitting Samoans have a reputation for their toughness and have put many an over eager adversary off the field through injury. The springboks are supposed to have been thoroughly prepared for this competition and are vaunted as likely winners of the cup. However, the Springboks looked nervous and took a full 20 minutes to get into the game. Only in the second half, did they start performing better and ran in 8 tries to Samoa's one. The end result was 59 - 7, but at half time, it still seemed that Samoa would be a very real challenge. Brian Lima, for the Samoans, made history, as the first player to have participated in the last 5 World Cup Rugby Competitions. Unfortunately he was not on the field for long, as a Kamikaze type tackle on Andre Pretorius, left him concussed and dazed. Jean de Villiers also left the field, with a torn bicep muscle and some bruised ribs. This is expected to keep him out of any further participation in the tournament. Anyway SA looked more settled and more clinical in the last 20 minutes and emerged victorious with a well deserved haul of 5 points.
Seventh on the fixture list was the match between Scotland and Portugal, where Scotland again, appeared to be far too strong, for the Portuguese and scored 7 tries, to 1. The Scots won by 56 - 10 and claimed 5 points for the win.
The eighth match and the last for the weekend was the clash between Ireland, playing the relatively minnow team from Namibia. The Irish won 32 - 17. I personally thought they would win by a far greater margin, but they took their deserved 5 points. Ireland managed 5 tries and Namibia got 2.
Ninth, on the fixture list, was the game between Georgia and Argentina, in their second game, since beating France. Argentina were far too good, for lowly Georgia and won the match by 33 - 3 with 4 tries, to nil.
The next match, the tenth game of the Rugby World Cup 2007, was USA vs Tonga. Tonga are a tough outfit, like Samoa and it was no surprise that they beat the US, by 25 - 15.
Next on the fixture list, was the match between Fiji and Japan. This was also pretty much a pre determined outcome, with Fiji winning, by 35 - 31, but Japan fought valiantly.
Next up, in the twelfth match, were Italy and Romania. The Italians are a feisty bunch and took the honours, with a score of 24 - 18.
The 13 th match, in the Rugby World Cup, and obviously a lucky 13, for the Springboks, was the much awaited clash, between South Africa and defending champions, England. This was the match, where England could have buried the Springbok's hopes of reaching the finals. With Jonny Wilkinson, not fit, to play for England, this was a major blow, to their chances, but as luck would have it, the Springboks had troubles of their own. A late citing, of top player and great flanker, Schalk Burger, for a supposed dangerous tackle, on a Samoan player, saw him banned for 4 matches. This was a terrific blow to the South Africans, who had already a lost play maker, in inside centre, Jean de Villiers, to injury and unfortunately also lost Pierre Spies, before they even arrived in France. An appeal against the suspension, saw the punishment reduced to 2 matches, but this still meant that Burger was out for the all important match against England, as well as the match against Tonga, on the 22nd of September.
The Springboks took charge of the game from the opening minutes and even with a narrowly missed try, still went into the break, with a commanding score of 20 - 0. After half time, they continued their strong attacks and rock solid defence, to completely shut England out of the game. Even when the whole bench got a run, in the last quarter, they managed to keep up the high standard of play. In all South Africa had a wonderful game, England never looked dangerous and the ref controlled the game very well. The final score was 36 - 0 and South Africa claimed another 5 points.
So, at the end of the first week and after 13 matches, we have the pools looking like this:
Pool A : South Africa 10, England 4, Tonga 4, Samoa 0, USA 0, Pool B : Australia 5, Wales 5, Fiji 5, Japan 1, Canada 0, Pool C : New Zealand 5, Scotland 5, Italy 4, Romania 1, Portugal 0, Pool D : Argentina 9, Ireland 5, France 1, Namibia 0, Georgia 0
By the way, one thing worth mentioning here, is the position of the so called minnow teams. Someone asked me, the other day, why some countries even bother to enter. Did you know that no country just enters their name on the list and they are not pulled out of a hat. They all need to qualify and they have to play so many games and win so many, in order to qualify. For the last 2 years, these little boys have been fighting it out, at the bottom of the log and those who have done best, then become eligible for the world Cup tournament. So, although they might seem insignificant, they have sufficient match time and enough wins, to qualify themselves for this tournament.
rwc 2007 photos
A basic overview of the rules of rugby.