Down to the final Two

29/10/2019

Two countries have made it to the finals on Sun 2nd November at 9 am, both are previous winners - England won the cup in 2003 and were beaten in the  final in 1991 by Australia and in 2007 by their opponents in this edition South Africa - who won the Cup also in 1995.

To get straight to the point, England are 8/15 and South Africa are 7/4 for the CUP final, both were 2nd favourites at the start of the RWC at 4/1 and based on the form shown in the pool and knock out stages - this betting sums it up. On form - England have the better all round game to win the 2019 RWC.

So from the 20 countries who competed in the (nine) finals each four years since 1987 to 2019 only five countries have made it to the nine finals and only four have won it. Not much of a rugby revolution there in spite of World Rugby efforts and using the cash generated by the RWC finals to bolster up the other member countries.

The only newcomer this year was the home team Japan who made it through to the knockout stages and in doing so relegated Scotland to the also rans. Japan were worth every penny of any expense incurred for the finals and they lit up the tournament with  wins over Ireland and Scotland and taking the pool honours . They eventually succumbed to a tough South African onslaught in the quarter finals but only after they had delighted everyone at the game and the huge TV audiences. The general appeal went out to see when we can see more of them at 6N or Super Rugby level .

The RWC record book shows that in the tournaments New Zealand won 3, South Africa 2, Australia 2, England 1. In 2019 we will not be adding a new name to the trophy. France is the only other country to get to three finals without a win. It may be every four years and 32 years may have passed now but nothing much changes in the RWC, as history repeats itself.

It is disappointing to report this shortage of new talent breaking through, none of the "emerging countries" made a show, including  Italy, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Russia, Namibia or Georgia. In addition last years quarter finalist Scotland and semifinalists Argentina bowed out early in the pool stages.  Regrettably we were home as the real RWC moved on after we lost miserably again in the quarter final stages to the All Blacks

England enjoyed a really well deserved success with a win over the champions New Zealand in the semi finals by 19-7, They had two try attempts disallowed and they conceded an easy try from a poor line out.

It was all the more remarkable as the bookies had the All Blacks favourites at 2/5 for the semi and evens for the outright win. It turned out that England's huge win against us in August in the warm ups was the real thing and they emerged as Pool C winners - beating Argentina easily and demolishing Australia 40-16  in the quarter finals. as a result of this heavy defeat Michael Cheika resigned as head coach of Australia.

England's win can hardly be described  as out of the blue but they were playing the reigning two time champions and unbeaten in a RWC game for over a decade. The All Blacks deserved the favourite tag in this edition with an opening 23-13 win over South Africa and enjoyed a weeks rest due to a storm cancellation and they demolished us 46-14 in a quarter final.

South Africa conceded the pool winners tag after losing the opening game to the All Blacks, but made up for it with a magic quarter final win 26-3 against the hosts Japan in one of the outstanding games of the tournament. It was written up at the time as the RWC final such was the quality and excitement generated by the game, and the TV audience was measured in  zillions in Japan.

The semi final was a different matter against Wales, who are steeped in rugby and have the skills to  offer a different game and sure enough they did put up a huge fight, Warren Gatland the retiring Head Coach was very proud of their effort and we could see why.

At 56 mins they went 16-9 down but came back with a wonderful try to level the game, and we could only wonder why they did not do it earlier in the game. But the Springboks are a resilient lot and after bringing in all the replacements they forged ahead with a Handre Pollard penalty on 75 minutes to get a 19/16 win, it was that close and moved to the final.

It was not the best rugby game we have seen - in the first half there were 19 kicks in 25 minutes, and box kicking was the order for the day.

It was clever enough as the kicks were short and were made for the South African forwards to catch up on - not the Welsh backs. Halfpenny was super in dealing with any kicks which came his way, it was a semi final after all - its about winning, pretty you can do some other time.

It was a tough tournament on coaches, retiring are:  Joe Schmidt Ireland, Michael Cheika Australia, Conor 'Shea Italy,  Warren Gatland Wales.Steve Hansen New Zealand.

So the stage is set for the Tokyo Final worthy of a RWC tournament with two of the best teams in the world.

Report by Frank Quinn