The Rugby World Cup semi-final on Sunday night was so painful to watch, it was impossible to bring myself to write about it yesterday. But now that time has healed the pain of defeat, it’s time to offer allegiance to a finalist for the last match of the tournament. It should be New Zealand.
The All Blacks are, for all intents and purposes, the Dr Evil to our Austin Powers Wallabies (although after the weekend, those roles might have been reversed), arch nemeses and rivals for years, yet bound so close that they are actually brothers. And whether its their Maori heritage or just an unrivalled passion for the game, New Zealand is always punching above its weight when it comes to the game of Rugby.
But that’s not why Australians should put aside old rivalries and don the Black this weekend. The reason we should do that is because the Kiwis play rugby the way it should be played.
If you can bring yourself to watch the semi-final again (and unless you’re getting paid to do it, I wouldn’t recommend it), you’ll not only see Australia crumble under the pressure, but you’ll see a New Zealand outfit stick to a gameplan and execute it perfectly. While Australia made its first unforced error at kick off, the Kiwis needed more than 20 minutes of brilliantly executed play to fumble the football for the first time.
Near faultless under the high ball, brutal in defence and competitive at almost every breakdown, the All Blacks of 2011 are a textbook of how the game should be played by every team. While Weepu had an off-night with the boot, that never had a chance of hurting their chances of victory on Sunday night.
Comparatively, the French play erratic rugby. Sometimes beautiful, but often ugly and random, the French have made it through to the final with little more than luck and passion. They lost to Tonga, for crying out loud.
So as you snuggle up to watch the tournament’s Grande Finale this weekend, set aside the frustration with Australia’s seeming inability to learn from mistakes and support the host nation as they try to win the Webb Ellis trophy for the second time. Because if they can’t do it on home soil, they’ll never do it.