10 Sep 2007

RWC Shockers

It's hard to read too much from the preliminary games of the RWC which tend to feature minnows vs giants, but the question has to be asked: what on earth has happened to European rugby?

From four years ago, when the gap between Northern and Southern hemisphere rugby had closed to a crack, European teams seem to stare at a with a chasm of class between them and South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Starting with the shock of southerners Argentina beating fancied France in the opening RWC game, one watches amazed as rugby powers struggle and stutter against nations that are the equivalent of a Third Division soccer side.

England ground out a 28-10 win over the USA that flattered. The USA outplayed them in the second half. Tiny Namibia with a few thousand players shocked mighty 5th ranked Ireland, holding them to a 37-17 win helped by a blatantly wrong referee's decision. Lowly Canada led Wales at half-time before finally succumbing and debutants Portugul made Scotland labour to win.

Contrast this to the Southern nations. The Australians demolished Japan 90-3, Italy were thumped by the All-Blacks by more than 40 points and Samoa crashed to South Africa's Springboks 52-7. All these wins were classy, error free and decisive. Samoa and Italy are also IRB Top Ten ranked nations unlike the small fry who made Europe's best creak and clank towards the try line like rusty old tractors.

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