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Frank Quinn reviews next Saturday’s RWC decider

By Frank Quinn

TWO countries have made it to the finals on Saturday, 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. 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 as well as 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 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 week’s 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 O’Shea Italy, Warren Gatland
Wales and 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.

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