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Titanic tournament: 5 Rugby World Cup talking points

By PA
Damien Willemse - PA

The 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup was also its longest, producing highs and lows across its eight weeks.

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Here the PA news agency examines five talking points arising from the tournament hosted by France.

Box office rugby
At its best, France 2023 has produced some of the greatest rugby ever played. The quarter-finals were the most captivating in the competition’s history with Ireland’s match against New Zealand and France’s clash with South Africa thunderous collisions that lifted the game to a new level. At the other end of the spectrum, Portugal flew the flag for emerging nations after producing a breakthrough World Cup the like of which has not been seen before, culminating in a seismic upset of Fiji.

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All Black coach Ian Foster speaks about his team’s one-point loss to the Springboks in the World Cup Final

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All Black coach Ian Foster speaks about his team’s one-point loss to the Springboks in the World Cup Final

The injustice of the draw
For all the fireworks seen on the pitch, the draw divided the World Cup into two distinct halves – the heavyweights and outsiders. When the hosts and Ireland made quarter-final exits in nailbiters, much of the magic was drained from the event and the sight of New Zealand routing Argentina in the semi-finals was an eyesore for the game. World Rugby hopes that by making the next draw closer to the tournament in January 2026, the lopsided groups present in France will be avoided. And crucially, one week is to be taken off a World Cup that was too long for all concerned.

Rugby World Cup
Faf de Klerk – PA

Break the World Cup cycle
England’s success in reaching the semi-finals despite their abysmal build-up and world ranking of eighth, as well as missing out on a place in the final purely because of a last-gasp Handre Pollard penalty, underlines the folly of the ‘World Cup cycle’. While the Webb Ellis Trophy remains rugby’s ultimate prize, it should not be pursued at the cost of success in Six Nations, summer tours and autumn campaigns. Eddie Jones’ over-riding focus was the World Cup at the cost of the here and now and England suffered as a result. As the unexpected progress made by Steve Borthwick’s side illustrates, take care of the present and let the World Cup look after itself.

Level the playing field
Samoa do not have a match scheduled for 2024 – an unacceptable situation for a side whose sluggish start to the World Cup was a reflection of their lack of time together. By the end of their group campaign they had gone within a whisker of beating England, hinting at the potential if only given the resources and exposure to regular Tests. For Samoa, read a host of emerging nations who need more meaningful fixtures if the Webb Ellis Trophy is to be a prize available to those outside the heavyweights. World Rugby is hoping that through the creation of the bi-annual, two-tier Nations Cup, as well as more crossover fixtures, that the playing field can be levelled.

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Fan bonanza
The World Cup has unfolded in front of large crowds and raucous atmospheres, with the noise and colour brought by supporters following Argentina, Chile and Portugal warranting a special mention. And it is to the credit of France fans that they have stayed with the tournament despite the hosts’ quarter-final exit. Early teething problems included slow entry into grounds, resulting in a crush outside Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on the opening weekend, beer running out and transport issues, but they were eventually ironed out.

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25 Comments
B
BigMaul 232 days ago

“Break the World Cup cycle”

This section is rubbish. If anything, this World Cup shows the complete opposite.

France and Ireland played for the here and now. They went well between world cups but ultimately disappointed at the World Cup.

SA, NZ and England all prioritised the World Cup and peaking at the World Cup. They finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The progress of the England side absolutely does not prove that planning for a World Cup cycle doesn’t work. Quite the opposite, it proves that winning 6N titles and summer series’ doesn’t matter when it comes to the World Cup.

S
Steven 233 days ago

Congratulations to South Africa on going back to back and being first to 4... however I'm not going to overlook the elephant in the room.
 
I guess it was inevitable that the final of Rugby's showpiece tournament would be ruined and decided by the excessive head contact rules that have come into use in the last 4 years, and their subjective interpretation, which have already ruined a number of games for the fans.
 
Administrators can try to justify them on the basis of player safety and PC press (who are afraid of being osttracised by the establishment) can go along with them, but the Emperor has no clothes.
 
I believe the current situation is untenable and has to change. Rugby is a contact sport and the majority of head contacts that are currently being penalised with yellow and red cards are accidental and just an inevitable part of the playing the game, and, as such, will not become less frequent over time as a result of cards being handed out. Therefore If the purpose of handing out cards to discourage future infringements and avoid concussion law suits it's not working, and if you come back in 100 years time you will still be seeing the same types of accidental head contact incidents that occurred In this final (and other games over the last 4 years),
 
It will not be effective as a defense against any concussion class action that may be brought, because the majority of concussions in rugby fall outside of the curent head contact punishment rules anyway, and will continue to occur. Tacklers will continue to get concussed when their heads accidentaly come into contact with the ball carriers hip or shoulder, or when two tacklers coming from opposite sides of the ball carrier end up having a head clash, or when a player hits his head on the ground during a tackle etc. Also ball carriers very rarely punished for using their elbows to fend off tacklers, and, in fact, there appears to have been an example of this in the final which was not picked up.
 
One day there will have to be a rethink, but in the mean time games and tournaments are being ruined, or decided arbitrarily, by the subjectivity of the officials, for no useful purpose. (Note I'm not blaming the individual officials themselves, but the administrators who are issueing them with the instructions on how to interpret the rules)
 
Under the current rules Siya Kolisi should have got a red card, even though we know that no-one deliberately clashes heads with another player
However the subjective decision of the TMO was only to give him a yellow. In my view Savea is standing relatively upright, not crouched, so there is no mitigating factor. Kolisi's body position is irrelevant and so not mitigating. However if we must go there, then Kolisi initiated direct head contact and in my opinion only Savea's body position can be a mitigating factor. The fact that Kolisi is bent over and drives up is in no way mitigating, red card.
(But if I was running things it would not even have been a yellow)
 
Under the current rules Sam Cane gets a yellow card, which was later subjectively upgraded to red
In my view Jesse Kriel is crouching, in order to lower his centre of gravity as he drives into contact, which is a mitigating factor. 
Cane is standing in the normal position for a tackler, with legs slightly bent, and wraps his arms, so not reckless, and the ruling should have remained a yellow
(However if I was running things it would not even have been a yellow)

A
Andrew 233 days ago

“While the Webb Ellis Trophy remains rugby’s ultimate prize, it should not be pursued at the cost of success in Six Nations, summer tours and autumn campaigns.”

That applies to NZ as well. Here we have an administration thst since 1995 has progressively removed ABs from club rugby …then then NPC …then rested them from “Super Rugby” at whim, …thecNational Team was all that mattered….and now going by their tolerance of. post 2019 results …the RWC was all that matters….and so when that didnt happen…

T
Turlough 233 days ago

_““The injustice of the draw _*_For all the fireworks seen on the pitch, the draw divided the World Cup into two distinct halves – the heavyweights and outsiders. When the hosts and _¨0¨_ made quarter-final exits in nailbiters, much of the magic was drained from the event and the sight of New Zealand routing _¨1¨_ in the semi-finals was an eyesore for the game. World Rugby hopes that by making the next draw closer to the tournament in January 2026, the lopsided groups present in _¨2¨_ will be avoided. And crucially, one week is to be taken off a World Cup that was too long for all concerned.””_ Just so that this is understood the draw and scheduling fiasco has been going on 5 world cups and 20 years. This is how badly this tournament was affected: *Draw
-One Pool had two of the top four, another pool had 3 of the top 5.
-Worse: These pools were drawn against each other. Meaning the top 5 would be in 2 quarter finals
-A sleeping giant (you know what I mean) England were drawn a piss easy route to the semi final. They needed one performance to make a final or two to win. Jones and then Borthwich had targetted this.

  • This meant that the winner of pool A (France/NZ) would play second in Pool B (SA/Ire) and then have to beat a fresh and foccussed England. This looked like an impossible route to victory except possibly for the hosts France -If you do manage to get to the final via this route fatigue levels will make it extremely difficult to win. -The other route looked easier with NZ in the quarter (no easy route through the quarters), but with Wales or Argentina an easier/less physical looking semi. -SA and Ireland played a final type match to see who could get that easier route.Scheduling: As fatigue plays a major part in the RWC. As far as practible teams likely to be competing for a quarter final SHOULD NOT play eachother the week before a quarter. Also lower ranked teams should not have their rest week scheduled for the week before the Quarters. It means they get no rest week. The scheduling affected Ireland in that they had to play Scotland a week before a Quarter whereas the opposition there (Fra or NZ) would have a long lead in to that match. That affects preparation for the quarter. May not make a difference but it could and should have been avoided.
With all that we can say for definite:
-A top 5 team was going out at pool stages in pool B. It was Scotland
-Two ‘Big 4’ Teams had to be eliminated in Quarters. that was Ireland and France.
-One semi was a miss match. The other was a fatigue miss match with a SA team exhausted after toppling France pushed to the limit. SA prevailed but the draw nearly got SA in the semi
-Final: a Fatigued SA had no alternative but to play an ultra conservative tight game as anything else would see them lose.

All quarters compromised by the draw with Ireland maybe having a case around the Pool scheduling with the Scotland match.
Both Semis compromised.
The final Compromised.

We have a promise of an improved draw but no promise on the scheduling. That means teams may be continued to be compromised by putting big matches on the week before the Knock out starts. Not really a factor this time, but it has been in other tournaments (most obvious in 2015)

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