The end of the pool stages in the Rugby World Cup 2011 and there have only been two upsets, Ireland beating Australia and Tonga taking France’s scalp. The tournament has shown varying weather conditions, playing styles and so far has been a great spectacle.
The quarterfinals have set up to exacerbate the debate between the Northern and the Southern hemispheres as half the draw contains what will be the expanded Tri-Nations and the other four of the Six Nations. The knockout stages will be interesting and not only the team but the hemisphere will gloat about World Cup glory.
There is only two criticisms I have of the tournament. They are minor concerns but they need to be addressed. The first is that the referees are doing a pretty good job, but they are going in with a predetermined attitude about what they are going to penalize. Whether that is how they talk to the tier two nations captains versus the tier one or whether they will generally favor the nations with “best scrummagers” in the scrum penalty count. Eliminating these predetermined ideas about refereeing can stop coaches, players and fans from second guessing the whistle blowers decisions. The second is the lack of time off for the lower qualifying countries. 5 days should be the minimum between matches, the 4 day break stops the teams from changing their game plans. The extra day could allow coaches to implement new game plans and have the more competitive matches that epitomized the first weekend of matches versus the last weekend.
On the whole, the Rugby World Cup 2011 is a worthy jewel in the crown of Rugby. I’m looking forward to seeing watching the knock-out stages and seeing who will have the bragging rights for the next 4 years. Can South Africa become the first nation to win back-to-back trophies? Can Australia be the first country to overcome a loss in the pool stages? Will the All Blacks finally win again? Can England or France overcome poor performances in the pool stages to once again turn it on in the knock-out? Or will Wales and Ireland finally return to supremacy as the per-eminent world rugby power? Can Argentina turn world rugby on its head? The next three weeks will answer all these questions.