The Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks off in the UK this month, and it’ll be, for me, the fourth world cup I’ve attended.
Because my folks are from South Sydney, I grew up in a rugby (union) family. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the Wallabies play New Zealand at my cousin’s place. My Mum was so nervous and anxious, she’d disappear to wash the dishes at crucial moments.
Since leaving NSW, my focus on rugby has faded but I still love it for one reason more than any other: it means family time to me. So I’ve called on my cousin, Alexis – quite possibly the most rugby informed person to have ever not played rugby – for this World Cup preview. Alexis has the rulebook saved on her laptop and knows all 30+ hand signals refs make. (You can learn them here.
Who’s going to win the world cup?
Obviously New Zealand are the favourites. They’re the number one ranked team in the world and have been for the past six years. Their highest ranked competition in the pool rounds is Argentina, coming in at number 8. So I don’t expect New Zealand to encounter too much trouble winning their pool.
They will, however, face stiffer opposition in their Quarter Final match where they will likely take on France or Ireland. Les tricolores have a good record against New Zealand in World Cups, and it serves to remember that New Zealand have won the William Web Ellis Trophy twice; on both occasions New Zealand hosted or co-hosted the event.
How do you rank the Wallabies’ chances? The Wallabies have recently climbed up the IRB world rankings to hold down second spot. But earlier this year they were ranked 6th. They will face stiff opposition during the pool matches in England and Wales; arguably the hardest of all the pools.
But as the national coach, Michael Cheika says ‘If you’re in the tournament, of course you can win’. The Wallabies’ success depends upon ‘which team’ turns up to play. If they play like they did in the first Bledisloe Cup match of this year, then I think they’re a strong chance.
Who is looking best on ground these days for the Wallabies?
Both David Pocock and Michael Hooper have played well this year, both during the Super Rugby season and the Rugby Championship. It’s a tough decision to choose between these two starting, so I think Cheika should play them both in the run-on team.
Matt Giteau has played well also; he’s a smart player and brings a calming influence that comes with the experience. Israel Folau plays well when he gets the ball … and is strong under the high-ball. Adam Ashley-Cooper is consistently good … and I like Dean Mumm; he brings some mongrel to the team (which we need more of).
Do you like referees much these days and what’s your take on their impact on the game?
Does anyone like referees ever? No, I can’t say that I hold many (or any) of the referees in high regard. For a long time, I’ve been disappointed with the lack of consistency in the decisions made by referees. I think many of them are too easily swayed by the revered players (and coaches).
I also think that ever since the nomenclature changed from ‘touch judges’ to ‘assistant referees’, these officials have contributed less to the game. That being said, I think Wayne Barnes is the best of all the RWC referees. The only negative aspect to his game, is that he succumbs to the northern hemisphere tradition of playing very short advantage play. I don’t think much of Nigel Owens.
What’s your favourite rugby moment to date?
As a Wallabies fan, my favourite RWC moment would have to be the Wallabies win in 1999. That was a really successful (and exciting) era for Australian rugby. I remember taking the day off school and attending the ticker tape parade that was held in Sydney.
I’m not sure that this response requires any further explanation, except to say that I was too young to remember the win in 1991.
Thanks cousin – I’ll see you in Cardiff in two weeks for our first game!
And if you’re wondering where I got my blog title from, this will explain it: