Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rugby World Cup-France poleaxe New Zealand, England defeat Australia.

Today was a day of shocks in the World Cup. In the first game England surprised Australia with an awesome display of forward power.

The Aussie front row has long been the Achilles Heel of the team. Today England exploited this weakness to the full. Englands forwards starved the Aussie backs of possession. Andrew Sheridan Nick Easter and Lewis Moody and Simon Shaw were outstanding whilst Jonny Wilkinson and Andy Gomarsall were a thorn in the side of the Wallabies. Andrew Sheridan was man of the match. Chris Latham Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri were best for Australia. Englands biggest weakness is the lack of creativity amongst its backs.

In the second game France stunned New Zealand. In the first half the French tactics of just kicking the ball into the New Zealand half played into the All Blacks hands by conceding possession. The French line -out was poor. In the second half Les Bleus varied tactics and kept the ball in hand more and spread the ball to the wings . This stretched the All Blacks. Luke McAlister was sin binned for an off-the-ball tackle. In those ten minutes France scored ten points. This was one of the turning points of the game. Bernard Laporte's use of the bench played a major role in fashioning this victory. That the French defence withstood the New Zealand onslaught is a tribute to coach Dave Ellis.

Why did New Zealand lose this game?
  • Excessive pressure on coach and players in New Zealand creates a mental block.
  • New Zealand won its group without one hard game. France was battle hardened in the Group of Death.
  • Possibly the failure to select Chris Jack and Aaron Mauger.
  • Too many All Black players are heading to France and England after the World Cup. This is undoubtedly a distraction.
There will certainly be much soul searching in New Zealand and Australia over the next few months. Australia must find good forwards. New Zealand must find some way of overcoming a mental block where the World Cup is concerned.

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