Second Weekend of Pool Play Sets Northern Hemisphere vs Southern Hemisphere Final Showdown
With Ireland’s tremendous upset of Australia (15-6) on Sept. 17th the stage is pretty clearly set for a final that will match one of the Southern Hemisphere’s big three vs a Northern Hemisphere side. If teams hold form, the quarter finals should be Australia vs South Africa, New Zealand vs Argentina with the winner of those matches going to one semifinal and going to the other semifinal will be the winners of the Ireland vs Wales and England vs France quarterfinals. There certainly exist some matches that could spoil the above scenario.
In Pool D Samoa could beat the Springboks by more than 7 points. Wales & Samoa could pick up bonus points for 4 tries in their matches against Fiji and Namibi. If those things happen, the South Africans can pack their bags and for the first time since they were allowed in the World Cup in 1995 they will exit in the pool stages. This would make loads of people happy. Several Kiwis have told me that the first team they support is the All Blacks and then any team playing the Springboks. Several people I’ve spoken to have said the Springbok fans are the rudest to show up at this tournament. Our own experiences would support this. In pubs they stand in front of the televisions talking loudly with a certain air of disdain for anyone who would want to watch a match that didn’t involve the Springboks. Night before last in a crowded campsite full of South Africans many with children at 12:30 in the morning a drunk Springbok fan and his mate started shouting “F****N Stop” at each other for the better part of half an hour. This was after they had beat Fiji 49-3. I think I mentioned in the post about the Wales vs South Africa match how quick many of the Springbok fans are to “Boo”, something that upsets my sentiments as a former school teacher trying to teach children to treat others as you wish to be treated and good sportsmanship. Special note – I have met loads of wonderful South Africans. Unfortunately the small thuggish element tarnishes the whole pot.
In Pool C Ireland could crash and burn against Italy in the very last match of the pool stages on October 2nd. This seems truly unlikely as the they have a good bit of rest between now and then with only a run out against the Russians on Sept. 25th to test what will probably be a 2nd team Irish side.
In Pool B next Sunday’s (Sept. 25th) Argentina vs Scotland match could upset my all Southern Hemisphere quarterfinals prediction. If Scotland can put their game of the tournament together to beat Argentina. Whoever wins that match though will face the All Blacks in a quarterfinal and will go no further.
It is hard to imagine anything that will upset the train that is rolling through the New Zealand country side that has the All Blacks winning Pool A. Of course the French have derailed that train twice before. At last night’s press conference following France’s 46-19 win over Canada French coach Marc Lievremont was asked if he would consider intentionally losing to New Zealand to get a probably easier route to the final. Lievremont being cagey and funny after his problems last week with criticizing some players to the press before he spoke directly to the players, joked that the All Blacks might be considering the same thing and that a ‘playing to lose’ strategy would need to be a team consensus decision. Now that would be a game to watch. The All Blacks and Les Bleus both trying to let the other one win.
France struggled with Canada until the 60th minute when their fully professional squad with a first rate national team organization wore down the valiant Canadians. At the 60th minute the score was France 25 and Canada 19. Canada had a lineout on the French 5 meter line. The lineout turned into a French scrum. The French crowd began a rousing chorus of the Marseillaise and 3 converted French tries in the next 20 minutes left the bone weary and battered Canadians on the losing end of the 46-19 score. Both sides walked around the stadium clapping and shaking hands with their fans and receiving the crowd’s applause and gratitude for a great match.