Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

World Cup 2013 in England

August 8, 2009

RLWC2013

So, we’re getting a World Cup in England! Yay! Admittedly it didn’t work out so well last time, but it worked the time before that and the last World Cup was a success in its own right. Most importantly, this is being planned four years out, which allows for ample preparation time (a rarity in Rugby League). 

It’ll be interesting to see what format they use. It’s been pretty much said there will be twelve teams, which seems about right to me (especially as three groups of four would bypass the need to have byes, which proved crucial in determining the final group tables at the last world cup). I would like there to be three groups of four, with two big sides in a group that gets two semi-final spots (then it could open with an England-Australia game somewhere). I’m not sure there’s such a great need for a Super Group this time, but I worry that’s the direction the organizers are heading in. Although the format generated exciting games, it also attracted a lot of ire and basically forced Papua New Guinea out of a semi-final spot. 

It will also be interesting to see what venues are used. I think that the plan to mainly use stadiums in the heartlands is a sensible one, especially after the 2000 World Cup. However, I also think it’s worth pointing out that Super League rugby is played in London, Bridgend / Newport and Perpignan, and it’s worth playing games there. I think playing the opening game in a largish venue in London (particularly if it’s England-Australia) should be seriously considered, as should a game at The Stoop. If Wales and France qualify, then they should probably get a home game each (at least). 

The venue for the final could be intriguing as well. It would be nice to think we could get a big crowd at Wembley, but I think that would require England to be there and I doubt the RFL have that much confidence. I would be more than happy with a final at the City of Manchester Stadium, where I once saw an excellent crowd generate a lot of atmosphere for a GB-Australia test in 2004. It’s a large modern stadium and I think it should be where the Tri-Nations final should be every time it’s in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Anyway, I’m just glad that there’s a tournament on and that we now have something to look forward to. Hopefully the success of the last world cup can be built on to make the tournament an outstanding success. I look forward to getting my tickets already!

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Senior: There was no unity

February 1, 2009
Well, at least these guys want to be my friends! (Getty Images)

"Well, at least these guys want to be my friends!" (Getty Images)

Interesting article up on Sporting Life at the minute, in which Keith Senior spills all the beans about the World Cup. By which I mean he says that Saints and Leeds players didn’t get on that well:

“There was a big divide – so many Saints players and so many Leeds players and we didn’t gel on the field which was a big disappointment.

Of course Senior can now come out with these revelations as he has now retired from the international game, and even so he’s still tiptoeing around the subject. Even so, it’s interesting that this has come out, and in retrospect makes a lot of sense. There was a definite lack of cohesion in England’s play. It probably didn’t help that one of the most contentious and important positional decisions (that of who should be Stand-Off) involved two players from either side of this divide.

Personally, although I can understand their dislike of each other (after all, they’ve been the two outstanding sides for a few season now) but if they can’t put aside their differences for a damn WORLD CUP then I have to question why they get to represent their country. It seems symptomatic of a lack of professionalism in that England team, and considering how much the side had to go up against anyway, a lack of unity is the last thing needed. Whilst I doubt England would have won the World Cup anyway, the idea of that side not performing at its fullest because of a few personal gripes pisses me off. I hope Tony Smith and his coaching staff are paying attention, becuase this is a problem that needs to be fixed sharpish.

Things We Have Learned From The World Cup (some of which we knew already)

December 4, 2008

Australia are beatable

Well, the Final proved this, didn’t it? Australia are still the gold standard, and they have by far and away the best collection of Rugby (either players) in the world, yet this was their fifth defeat in five years. Okay, so one defeat a year is a very healthy average, but since the ‘Invincibles’ tour defeat has not been an acceptable outcome for the Kangaroos. They still carry this aura of greatness about them, but because New Zealand chose to ignore this aura they were able to defeat them fair and square.

Wayne Bennett is one of the greatest coaches of all time

Stephen Kearney was lucky enough to have an all-time great as his assistant.

Stephen Kearney was lucky enough to have an all-time great as his assistant.

I know that Stephen Kearney was the head coach, and I don’t wish to undermine his contribution to the New Zealand victory, but it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming presence of Bennett. As well as a record number of Grand Final victories and a production line of modern greats that he achieved with Brisbane, he was also a driving force behind the Tri-Nations and led The Kangaroos to that first title. When he lost the Final to the Kiwis a year later he was cast away from the job, which makes it somewhat ironic that his revenge has been achieved with the Kiwis. As a passionate supporter of the international game, he will be pleased that this victory reinvigorates the international scene.

Ricky Stuart is too astute for his own good

Before the Final, Stuart was quoted in the press as saying that he felt that his side hadn’t been pushed hard enough in their run up. Admittedly this had a lot to do with the Kiwis and England sucking in the group games, but they also followed those games up with two games against well meaning but ultimately understrength second tier nations. I wondered if Stuart was just trying to make sure his players were on their toes, but ultimately he was right; Australia were caught out by the intensity of a team who had been in two tough scraps with England.

England flatter to deceive far too often

This was a real disappointment. England came into the World Cup with high hopes, particularly on the back of their sweep of the Kiwis a year before, but ultimately they were off the pace. Their undoing appeared twofod; firstly, they didn’t look like a team that thought they could win the tournament, and secondly they lacked the facility to engineer offensive openings against a set defence (it says a lot that their try against the Kangaroos was a barge over on the line). They weren’t completely terrible, and they could have beaten the Kiwis twice (they should have in the first game) but they failed to deliver. (more…)

Worth seeing again: The Haka

November 25, 2008

There was something about this which made me think that the game could turn out quite good.

The Kangaroos advancing on the Kiwis, and the Kiwis in turn upping their game, the way this seemed to pump up the crowd; as pre-match entertainment goes, it damn well did its job.

XIII’s World Cup XIII

November 24, 2008
Not a bad collection of players

Not a bad collection of players...

As the tournament is now over, so what better way to celebrate the festival of Rugby League that we have been lucky to witness than a completely subjective appraisal of some of the key individuals that took part?

I’ve decided to compile a side of players that I thought had a major impact on their teams and on the tournament as a whole. The other criteria is that I have avoided playing anyone out of position. I’ve also probably tried to have as big a spread of competing nations providing players as I could, which means that some players who mostly played in the early stages of the World Cup and didn’t get a chance to shine late on are in here. Part of the problem with the Super Group is that it is hard to gauge how players from Groups B and C would have gone against the big guns.

Of course, there are some players I feel bad about leaving out. Had David Williams played in more games it’s quite likely he would be in this side somewhere. Stanley Gene was inspirational to watch, and his emotion at the end of Papua New Guinea’s final game was heart-rendering. The Aussie back-row worked so well as a unit that they all cancelled out each other’s impact. Nathan Cayless was mostly effective until the final, where his play went up another level. Martin Gleeson was probably the only English back to do his reputation any good (apart from maybe Danny McGuire, who suffered from an insistence on giving Leon Pryce too long to try and find form). Danny Brough was the heart around which Scotland beat, and his absence from their rnaking game showed how necessary he was for the Bravehearts.

Really, a lot of players had big tournaments and all contributed to the success of the competition, but I only have thirteen spots to fill. So here are my picks for outstanding contributors to this World Cup:

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Conflicting Messages

November 24, 2008
Hes not going through the best of times right now...

He's not going through the best of times right now...

Ricky Stuart, in the immediate aftermath of Australia’s 34-20 defeat to New Zealand:

Please don’t make this about Australia. Show some journalistic ability and promote New Zealand.

A very gracious answer, which makes it all the much harder to understand this. I just assumed after Wayne Bennett was forced out after the 2005 Tri-Nations final defeat that losing a final was an automatic sacking from the Kangaroos job (incidentally, how smug must Bennett be feeling now?). If these accusations against Stuart are true it only compounds matters and he must be seriously questioning his job security right now.

Kiwi Kings Show The World How It’s Done

November 23, 2008

Well, I’ll admit I didn’t see that one coming.

In a World Cup final where the majority of the 50,599 in attendance were expecting to see the coronation of what had been described in the build-up as one of the greatest Australia sides ever, instead we witnessed New Zealand pull off one of the most spectacular pieces of sporting regicide ever seen as they upset the odds to score an ultimately convincing 34-20 victory. The Kiwis outfought the Kangaroos, and their defensive pressure caused a surprisingly brittle Australia side into mistakes in key positions. Perhaps most surprisingly of all though, New Zealand were by far and away the more disciplined side, as the wrestling interfering methods pioneered in the NRL were pushed beyond their limits in an attempt to stop the momentum of the New Zealand side. Australia tried to find a way to overcome the Kiwi menace but in doing so often just left opportunities which New Zealand gleefully exploited

In retrospect, more attention should have been paid to the Kiwis’ recent record in finals. Of course it’s well known that they beat the Kangaroos in the 2005 Tri-Nations final, but it’s also overlooked that they only lost in golden point extra time in the final a year later, having scored more tries in regulation time (alas, conceding more penalties as well). Sure, they’ve underperformed in one-off tests and test series over the last three years, but I think that yesterday’s performance shows how little that really matters. In the most important game of their lives, the Kiwis stepped up to levels hitherto not seen from them and vanquished their heavily favoured foes with a display of guts, determination, intelligence and skill that opened up weaknesses in the Kangaroos not seen in quite some time.

Of course, it’s hard to talk about this game without mentioning a key turning point in the game; namely, the penalty try that took New Zealand two scores clear with ten minutes remaining. I think it’s a small shame that this clouds the result somewhat and some Kangaroos have already been complaining, but I think they’re missing the point, which is that Australia were comprehensively outplayed down the stretch, which is something we have rarely ever seen in the last few decades and certainly not in big games (even in the Tri-Nations defeat they were just horrible for the whole game). Personally, I didn’t think that it was a penalty try, but it was a definite penalty and probably should have seen Joel Monaghan dismissed for the remaining minutes of the match (if not a sending off it should have been a sin-binning, which would effectively be the same thing with less than ten minutes to play). Who’s to say that even if it was just given as a penalty that New Zealand wouldn’t have scored a more conventional try? Sure, the Kiwis had the majority of the luck, but considering that Australia had everything go their way up until this point, maybe it’s just things balancing out.

Jeremy Smith was absolutely immense, and his try was a just reward

Jeremy Smith was absolutely immense, and his try was a just reward

For all the talking about the refereeing, it can’t really detract from the fact that the Kiwis were definitely the better side. They were dominant in the forwards and my personal Man of the Match was Jeremy Smith, who was demonic in defence, a juggernaut in attack, and his ankle tap on Johnathan Thurston is one of the key moments being overlooked in the wake of the penalty try. On top of that, the Kiwis finally appear to have brains again, as Nathan Fien and Benji Marshall, err, marshalled (sorry) the Kiwi forwards around the field and their kicking game helped to keep Billy Slater from causing too much damage on kick returns (although he did threaten on occasions). Thomas Leuluai and Isaac Luke between them also helped to control the ruck which was a large factor in their success. Perhaps most importantly though, the Kiwi forwards won the collision more often than not, and their ability to drive and get quick play-the-balls negated the Australian’s technical wrestling style. Nathan Cayless, Adam Blair and the aforementioned Smith were all outstanding in taking the fight to the Kangaroos.

As for Australia, whilst there’s no denying that they underperformed you can hardly say that they handed victory on a plate to New Zealand. Their forwards tried hard, particularly Petro Civoniceva, and their backs looked threatening on the few occasions that they were allowed to get the ball wide by the Kiwis (as was shown by their third try, which was one of the greatest set of tackles I have ever seen). Darren Lockyer received the official Man of the Match award which struck me as odd, but he was valiant in defeat, scoring a first-half brace and trying to put pressure on the Kiwis in the second half with his passing and well measured kicking game. What was really noticeable about the ‘roos performance though was how unnoticeable the threequarters were. A back-line that has dominated the tournament to this point was shut down. Apart from his try Greg Inglis was barely seen (along with Israel Folau) and Joel Monaghan’s main contribution was conceding the penalty try. David Williams took his try nicely, but in the end the Kiwis were able to starve the Australian three-quarters of attacking ball, and thus render them impotent.

A mixed day for Billy Slater and Darren Lockyer

A mixed day for Billy Slater and Darren Lockyer

In the end, the Australian performance was summed up fairly well by the showing of Billy Slater. Named as the RLIF World Player of the Year earlier in the week, he started off like a bullet, and it was his searing break that set up Darren Lockyer and his cut-out pass that freed David Williams. Yet as the game wore on New Zealand started to get the measure of him and didn’t let him get his way. Both Jeremy Smith and Lance Hohaia gave him the speedbump treatment in scoring their tries, and of course he had one of the most high-profile brain explosions in Rugby League history when his inside speculator pass gifted Benji Marshall with his try. Slater, like the Kangaroos, looked threatening at many points during the match, but undermined it with mistakes at key moments. His final pass into touch, looking to free Monaghan for a try, seemed indicative of a player trying too hard.

So overall, the best team in the tournament lost, but the best side in the final won. It shows that Australia aren’t the superhuman behemoths that they are sometimes portrayed as, and that good coaching and preparation can be a massive factor in improvement. Most of all though, it’s the best possible result for the tournament and for international Rugby League; just because Australia are the best side in the world, it doesn’t mean that no side can aspire to become better than them. International Rugby League should no longer be seen as a one horse race, and dare I say it the Kangaroos will come back stronger from this defeat. What we need for international Rugby League to be seen as interesting is competition, and in a tournament littered with close, intense games and underdogs exceeding  expectations, we got the most fitting and beneficial finale possible. Roll on 2013!

LIVE: The World Cup Final

November 22, 2008

So here it is. Afte five weeks of League action, we’re left with the two best sides remaining. New Zealand have improved since the opening game, but in that match they were dominated by Australia. The Kangaroos have been dominant through the whole thing, but Ricky Stuart has questioned the level of their preparation; apparently he thinks demolishing Papua New Guinea and Fiji might not be good enough. We’ll see. The teams:

Australia: Billy Slater, Joel Monaghan, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, David Williams, Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston, Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Brent Kite, Glenn Stewart, Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Gallen.

Interchange: 14. Karmichael Hunt, 15. Craig Fitzgibbon, 16. Anthony Tupou, 17. Anthony Watmough.

New Zealand: Lance Hohaia, Sam Perrett, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall, Nathan Fien, Nathan Cayless (c), Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair, David Fa’alogo, Bronson Harrison, Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Sam Rapira, Sika Manu.

Fun fact: Australia have conceded a mere 16 points in the four games so far, scoring a none-too-shabby 180 in the process. The Kiwis have their work cut out for them.

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LIVE: Australia vs Fiji

November 16, 2008

So here we are, the second semi-final wihich decides the side that will face New Zealand in the Final in Brisbane next week. The sides:

Australia: Slater; Monaghan, Inglis, Folau, Tate; Lockyer (capt), Thurston; Civoniceva, Smith, Price, Stewart, Laffranchi, Gallen.

Interchange: Hunt, Fitzgibbon, Tupou, Kite.

Fiji: Hayne; Tadulala, Naiqama (captain), Millard, Uate; Noilea, Groom; Sadrau, Sukanaveita, Vonomateiratu, Sims, Koroi, Bukuya.

Interchange (from): Storer, Bradley-Qalilawa, Macilai, Tora, Naqau, Wesele (two to be omitted).

Obviously, if I had to pick a side I’d be picking Australia. However, I have enough faith that Fiji should at least make this game entertaining.

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LIVE: England vs New Zealand

November 15, 2008

Press F5 or refresh to get an up-to-date page.

A feeling of deja vu here… last week’s game was simultaneously closer than the scoreline suggests and yet also more one-sided than the scoreline suggests. If England don’t completely suck for the second half today, we could have quite a game on our hands. The teams:

England: Paul Wellens; Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Lee Smith; Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow; Jamie Peacock (c), James Roby, James Graham (c); Gareth Ellis, Ben Westwood, Rob Purdham.

Interchange: Leon Pryce, Adrian Morley, Mickey Higham, Jon Wilkin

New Zealand: Lance Hohaia; Sam Perrett, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei; Benji Marshall, Nathan Fien; Nathan Cayless (c), Thomas Leuluai,  Adam Blair; Sika Manu, David Fa’alogo, Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Bronson Harrison, Sam Rapira.

Of course, England haven’t really done much to suggest that they can make the step up, but blind hope’s a powerful thing, isn’t it? Stil, at the very least it’s a good sign that England will at last be operating with two hookers. I still see the Kiwis sneaking it.

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