Image Credit- Rugby World
It simply wasn’t to be for Eddie Jones’ England last Saturday, with South Africa taking home the Webb Ellis Cup following a domineering performance over an England side that had vanquished defending champions New Zealand the previous week.
As dominant as South Africa were in the final, the rest of the 2019 World Cup was an unpredictable, thrilling six weeks of Rugby that encapsulated the world’s attention onto Japan.
Firstly, Japan’s hosting of the tournament marked the first Rugby World Cup to be heldoutside the traditional ‘heartland’ countries of the game, with Japan also the first World Cup hosts outside the ‘Tier 1’ international teams.
And how magnificent the hosts were, both on and off the pitch. Japan’s attacking game-plan of constant speed and relentless energy worked wonders in Pool A, winning all four of their games to top a group that contained both Scotland and Ireland – at the time the World’s No.1 team.
Japan’s 19-12 win over the Irish was arguably the most seismic upset of the Pool stages, but was by far from the only one. ‘Minnows’ Uruguay, expected to lose every game heavily,produced arguably an even bigger upset when they beat Fiji 30-27, picking up their first ever World Cup win in the process and toppling a Fiji team that had pushed both Australia and Wales close in the same group.
Elsewhere, England topped Group C with France a near second, despite Typhoon Hagibiscausing ‘Le Crunch’ between the two old foes to be cancelled. The Typhoon also saw Canada vs Namibia and Italy vs New Zealand called off, denying Italian captain Sergio Parisse the fitting send-off his illustrious career deserved.
The quarterfinals, similarly to in 2015, showcased Rugby’s best in dominance andcontroversy. England and New Zealand registered massive scorelines over Australia andIreland respectively (40-16 and 47-14), which saw the tenures of Michael Cheika and JoeSchmidt come to abrupt ends.
Japan were unable to repeat their fairytale of 2015 against South Africa, with Rassie Erasmus’ side registering a 26-3 victory to set up a semi-final against Wales, who snuck past France in their quarter-final. Despite France being down a man for most of the second half, it took a try from a suspiciously forward-looking pass to prevail 20-19.
Wales ran out of luck however against the Springboks. In what was a very scrappy game, a late penalty from tournament top-scorer Handre Pollard was all that separated South Africa and Wales in a tight 16-19 result that also saw Warren Gatland end his tenure as Wales coach.
England and New Zealand’s semi-final was far from scrappy. Scoring within 90 seconds,England dominated the match for arguably the entire game to eventually win 19-7 in a performance that saw the All Blacks, and their hopes of a 3rd consecutive title truly Vanquished.
Sadly, England could not repeat their dominance against the victorious Springboks. A 32-12 loss in which the South African game-plan went perfectly, means England will continue to wait for a World Cup victory that has eluded them since 2003.
But what a tournament. The emergence of Japan as a potential Rugby superpower, England’s dominant performances against Argentina, Australia & New Zealand and the Springboks’ victory mean that World Rugby is in rude health, and that Japan 2019 will certainly be a World Cup that is remembered for all the right reasons.