“In the RWC, they look the real deal and roll up centuries on teams like it was cricket during pool play.”
GHANA – After reading fellow RWU contributor DJ Eberle’s article on March Madness & Rugby, I saw a correlation between the upsets that make March Madness special and those that have shocked the rugby world. Like the NCAA Basketball tourney, Rugby World Cupmatches are knock-out competitions. Because of that, both events are about team focus – it it drifts, you go home. Here are my 3 choices for Rugby’s Greatest Upsets:
1) Any New Zealand Rugby World Cup Loss
RWU host Johnathan Wicklow Barberie (JWB) will say this is a bit harsh but, in context it’s not. For the years between RWCs, the All Blacks usually look like world-beaters – smashing and crushing opponents in both hemispheres. In the RWC, they look the real deal and roll up centuries on teams like it was cricket during pool play. However, come the knock-out stages, they always seem to lack the mettle. The won the first RWC and the most recent but by most accounts they should have won at least another two. For that reason alone they are number one on this list.
2) Any France Rugby World Cup Match
I am sure Monsieur Pyk O’Kallpher is sharpening his French saber now for me. However, in the world of Rugby there is no more flaky or confounding team than France. I used to think their nonsense was confined to Rugby – then I watched the 2010 Soccer World Cup! I’m no Sociologist, but it must be a cultural thing. Like the croissant, French Toast and French Fries, losing to teams they should be blindfolded is part of their make-up as Frenchmen. Ask Tonga in 2011. Then, they come on and win when they should definitely lose… like NZ in 2007. They can be mercurial, but watch out; they suffer from split-personality disorder. Or maybe it’s just that they’re genetically hard of hearing in one ear. That would explain their inability to listen to coaches. One thing is for certain; Iif the bookies say bet on France to win, then bet on them to lose.
This clip, though not a RWC match, shows the sublime and the ridiculous that both NZ and France can display.
3) Wales RWC 7s Champions
With all due respect to my Welsh cousin Bryn, Wales have no business being 7s champions. Granted, the Welsh have a fine rugby heritage, probably the best in the Northern Hemisphere and only matched by the Kiwis for being spiritual guardians of this great game. However, this heritage is restricted to 15s – 7s standouts over the years have been Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. Wales’ unfathomable run to the title in Dubai in 2009 is still being pondered by 7s purists. My head hurts when I think too much about these things and JWB was right to demand I not think when on the RWU clock. But this is one I can’t stop thinking about! They came in second in their group and were the last team to qualify for Cup Play coming out of Pool Play. Then they narrowly beat NZ by 1, beat Samoa by 7 and Argentina by 7 in the Final and… they are World Champs. I don’t think they have won a Cup since!!!
Madness… Your comments are welcome and be on the lookout for the RWC Table of 64: our own office pool/debate to name the greatest RWC winning squad ever… And please check out the newest video interviews on the Videos Page, featuring three big names on the HSBC 7s circuit.