So after their best, most intensive and probably most expensive World Cup preparation to date, the AB’s bowed out to France in the quarter-finals yesterday, just hours after England eliminated Australia. I’m going to break with the pack for a second and raise two immediate observations:
First up, I think this is GREAT for rugby. Sure it sucks if you’re a Kiwi or Australian fan, but seriously – who would have predicted that two of the top teams would exit in the quarter-finals? England v France and Argentina v South Africa in the semi-finals? With Wilkinson back in form it’s entirely possible that England will make the final or even win, this despite a 36-0 drubbing from South Africa in early pool play, and pre-tournament form (or lack thereof) that had even the most one-eyed English supporters conceding that they didn’t have a snowball’s chance. Argentina? Loving it! One of the things that pisses me off most in big sports tournaments is the constant belittling of the ‘minnow’ nations. You get a lot of this in cricket also – the small countries are crap and have no chance of winning, so why even let them compete? I’d like to think that between this World Cup and the cricket World Cup earlier this year, the minnow argument is now well and truely closed. You never know when a less-favoured side is going to find form, and when they do it’s bloody fantastic!
Second, it might be just me but I think the NZ public’s reaction to the loss has actually been rather good. The NZ public are pretty gracious winners, but losing is a different matter. The sackcloth and ashes routine after the last World Cup was a national disgrace. When we lost the Americas Cup to Alinghi the public reaction was so damn embarrassing I couldn’t bear to watch TV or read the papers. Today it’s not so bad: We lost the rugby, the boys are coming home, there will be some changes to the team and administration, and we hope to learn from this one so we can be sure of winning a home final in 2011. Could it be that we are finally growing up as a nation and learning to accept defeat as a natural (albeit undesirable) consequence of competing? Here’s hoping!
I for one am really looking forward to the remaining three matches of the tournament.
Four years really isn’t that long, you know. See you then, George!