Some More Reasons why England Fell Flat at the 2015 RWC

Despite being the host nation, or perhaps because of it, England’s 2015 RWC run ended up in failure. So much so in fact, that the team failed to move out of the Pool stage. In hindsight, the reasons behind the fiasco are clear and they are indeed numerous. From an unlucky draw, to simply lacking a solid core of world-class performers, one can point a finger at many such factors. Let’s take a quick look at  a few additional ones.

The system underneath the national team always carries blame for such meltdowns. England’s is based on a strong network of clubs who fight over control of the best players. In this respect, one could hardly argue that England is not where it should be. Whether the clubs are pliant enough to the wishes of the national coach is another question altogether. Some have pointed out that unlike Scotland, Ireland and Wales, England is seen as a lot more disjointed in this respect. This sort of attitude may well have come back to bite them.

The previously mentioned lack of a world-class may have had something to do with the fact that the team as a whole and players as individuals, simply failed to rise to the occasion. With the possible exception of scrum-half Ben Youngs, England seemed frozen and perhaps a tad intimidated by the occasion, rather than inspired by it. There simply weren’t enough individual heroics to carry the team and to provide inspiration to it in key moments.

What happens now? Despite this most spectacular of setbacks, England have definitely made headway under coach Stuart Lancaster. It’s safe to assume though that no one would be able to avoid the axe after such a performance. Chances are the heads of assistants Clive Woodward and Graham Henry will have to roll as well.

A Closer Look at England’s 2015 RWC Flop

Although the 2015 Rugby World Cup went down as a major success – in itself enough reason for the host nation to proclaim it a win – on the field, England’s team failed to make it out of Pool A. No English rugby fan can ever just glide over this fact. Looking for reasons behind the disastrous performance is therefore a natural need, and also a vehicle to move past the disappointment and to look at what could be changed/improved in the future.

The draw obviously had a great deal to do with the tragedy. The World Cup lottery created a lot of excitement and drama, and in that respect, it may have been a plus. Every other way though, it proved to be a fiasco. Grouping England together with Australia, Wales and Fiji was a major mistake, for several reasons. First of all, for an otherwise good Fijian team, it ruled the World Cup a lost cause from the get-go. Through its composition, Pool A essentially guaranteed that the public would miss out on several potentially superb match-ups, by closing the qualifying path for some of the most interesting and potent teams.

Lack of luck haunted England in several other ways too. According to some, Chris Robshow is just not a lucky captain. With him in the lineup and the helm of the team, England always seem to struggle with unlucky breaks, coming up just short in one way or another.

The midfield was definitely also part of the equation which ended up yielding this less-than-ideal result. Lancaster took some pretty big chances with his midfield and his gambles backfired. Sidelining George Ford in favor of Owen Farrell was more or less a no-brainer, but having Sam Burgess at 12 and Brad Barritt at 13 was something of a coin-toss indeed.

Host Nation Falls Woefully Short in 2015 Rugby World Cup

The 2015 Rugby World Cup was by every measure a smashing success. The crowds were there, the action was there, and even Tier 2 teams brought the goods mostly. Still, for the host nation, England, the tournament went down as a bittersweet one. On one hand, as hosts, they have acquitted themselves admirably. On the other, as competitors, they failed quite miserably: they didn’t even make it out of Pool A, granted, they were indeed competing against a rough bunch.

What were the deeper reasons behind the lamentable performance turned in by the team though?

The top reason is an obvious one: the team was not very good. They had long been struggling in the Six Nations and the lack of a world-class core became acutely obvious at the World Cup. Make no mistake, this isn’t about a lack of talent-reserve. In fact, in this respect, England are probably the strongest side in the world right now. What they’re lacking is a contingent of world-class performers. The arrival of such a group cannot particularly be rushed either…that’s the bad news. It comes around when it comes around.

According to some, the team was altogether way too nice and wholesome too. Indeed, extra care went into making sure that the likes of Danny Care, Manu Tuilagi and Dylan Hartley would be well-behaved on and off the field. This approach obviously backfired though. Rugby success isn’t necessarily about being nice, honest and fair. The recipe also includes a touch of crazy and maybe even some downright evil. England were lacking all that and more.

Coach Stuart Lancaster was probably a little too open, not only about what he was trying to accomplish, but about the way he was going to get it done too. Eager to invite everyone into the training camp, he ended up getting read by the opposition, like an open book. This may not have made much of a difference, but a little bit of secrecy would almost certainly have been welcome.

The Worst Match of the 2015 Rugby World Championship

While singling out the best match of the 2015 RWC was a difficult undertaking, pointing a finger at the worst performance of the tournament was extremely easy. It was so easy in fact that we knew the France vs Italy confrontation would go down as a high-scoring train wreck of a game, much like the game the two teams had had before this RWC bout. How did we know it would end up like this? One doesn’t really have to be an expert handicapper to tell that not much good would come out of these two teams going head-to-head. Their previous showdown was a boring penalty-fest, so the high score was a given and so was the utter lack of spectacle.

We also ran the data by our Zcode System automated handicapping system, more precisely by the Score Predictor, and although it’s supposed to work best on football games, it made an extremely accurate prediction in this instance too. It essentially said France would defeat Italy 28-7. The actual score was 32-10, so pretty close, and the game was just as flat as we had expected it to be.

Overshadowed by blunders on the part of the officials, the Group D encounter wasn’t a pleasing one at all. Referee Craig Joubert was once again at the center of controversy, though this time he ended up making the right decision, disallowing a try by Noa Nakaitaci. Eventually, the incident made little to no difference in the overall economy of the game. France got off to a strong start on a bunch of penalties and it never looked back.

 Guilhem Guirado
Guilhem Guirado

The Italians were never in the game at all. At the break, France led 15-3, and scored their first try soon after. Italy managed to get a try of their own, before France closed the books for good with their second try of the game.

The Best Match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup

The 2015 RWC delivered some superb performances, heart-breaks and exhilaration. In fact, it’s safe to say it did more than anyone had expected in all those categories. Thus, the choosing of a game that can be safely proclaimed “the best match of the tournament” is by no means an easy task. We had the final, we had the opening tear-jerker between Japan and South Africa, and a bevy of other highly spectacular confrontations in-between. The experts’ choice fell on Scotland vs Australia though, the match which saw the Scottish side denied yet another presence in the final 4 by a hair, a match which arguably had it all. There was drama, there were heroics, and in the end, there was relief coupled with heartbreak. What more could one want from a rugby game?

The contest was a close one from one end to the other. At the break, Scotland led 16-15, looking to score their first victory at Twickenham in 32 years. Following the break, Michael Cheika’s Wallabies rallied though, carried by Drew Mitchell and Tevita Kuridrani, who extended the Aussie lead to 8.

Scotland struck back with vengeance though. Laidlaw kicked in a penalty to keep the Scots in the game, and then Mark Bennett added a superb try to bring the side of the seemingly perpetual wooden spoon, within reach of victory. It wasn’t meant to be though. Referee Craig Joubert seemed to have something against the Scots, and once again, he cut their wings, calling a penalty on an accidental offside.

Bernard Foley then went ahead and cruelly delivered the coup de grace to the stunned Scottish side, denying them yet again, in the 79th minute, to add insult to injury.

 Foley penalty
Foley penalty

Joubert was instrumental in the way the result eventually swung, but despite their loss, Scotland did deliver some welcome Northern Hemisphere pizzazz, in a tournament otherwise heavily dominated by Southern Hemisphere teams.

Was the 2015 Rugby World Cup “The Best Tournament Ever?”

It probably was indeed. The 2015 Edition of Rugby’s top tournament hit every nail it was supposed to and more. The overall atmosphere was a fantastic one. There was plenty of public interest and healthy crowds of spectators in the stands. In fact, the live audience as well as the TV numbers were quite unbelievable. Tier 2 teams played extremely well, from the get-go in fact, as illustrated by the stunning upset Japan pulled over South Africa in the opener. This surprising yet extremely welcome twist meant that almost every game was worth watching, even those between two Tier 2 teams.

The quality of the rugby was superb as well, needless to say. One of the few shortcomings about the tournament was the relatively poor promotion. Let’s face it, even in the cities where games took place, 99% of the public was unaware there was a Rugby World Championship going on next door.

That said, the overall quality of the tournament was also well reflected by the fact that there were surprisingly few lowlight-reel worthy moments. The top of the lowlight pops probably belonged to the Craig Joubert incident, which saw the referee personally abused by a number of players, some of them former internationals.

Highlights on the other hand were plentiful. Although some may include England’s early exit from the tournament in this category too, there were indeed plenty of genuinely superb moments too. Japan vs South Africa was obviously one such moment, and so was Scotland vs Australia. Australia themselves are worthy of praise here. Not only have they made it all the way to the final, they showed the most potential going forward. Indeed, according to rugby buffs, in 2019, they are the most likely to walk away with the trophy. The Wallabies improved by leaps and bounds under Michael Cheika over an impressively short period of time. One can only imagine what they can accomplish in four years by sticking to this path…

Lack of Discipline Blamed for South Africa’s Stunning Loss to Japan in 2015 RWC

Japan’s stunning victory over South Africa in the pool stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup was proclaimed the Miracle of Brighton. It was a miracle for only one of the sides involved though. For the other, it was a crushing disappointment, one that called for a direct apology on the part of coach Heyneke Meyer. Meyer apologized to the nation, calling the performance turned in by the Springboks “unacceptable”.

He also had the reason for the stunning loss pinpointed though: lack of discipline on the part of his players, probably stemming from overconfidence and a thorough underestimation of the Japanese side. Indeed, every time the South Africans managed to get the game going, they ended up scoring tries, but the game as a whole was fragmented and dotted with penalties, of which the Japanese took full advantage.

It is obvious however that there was more to the game than the South Africans letting the Japanese run roughshod all over them due to a lack of focus. The performance of the Japanese team as a whole was the factor that put the Springboks off their best game, eventually leading to what everyone now calls the biggest shocker in the history of the sport

South Africa’s Fourie Du Preez, who plays for a Japanese club, had apparently tried to forewarn his teammates. Du Preez said he was fully aware of what was coming and that his side simply got outsmarted in the end.

Indeed the Japanese team seemed to have the perfect answer every time the Springboks took temporary control of the game, and they came roaring back with energy, skill and a technical and mental sharpness that completely stunned the opposing players as well as the Springbok fans in the stands…

Japan vs South Africa – the Greatest Shocker in the History of the Sport?

While the Final of the 2015 Rugby World Championship was a clash for the ages, resulting in several records, and in a well deserved victory for the All Blacks, as far as tear-jerkers go, no game topped the Japan vs South Africa one, which took place during the pool stages and which has gone down as perhaps the biggest upset in the history of rugby.

Over three minutes into injury time, South Africa was leading 32-29, and it looked like they had their opponents’ offense figured out. Maul after maul and ruck after ruck, the Springbok were able to keep their opponents away from their end goal. The truth is though that the seemingly rag-tag Japanese side had turned in a stellar performance up to that point too, and therefore they were fully deserving of whatever result their last-ditch efforts would yield.

The pack had played a superb game through and through, as did full-back Ayumu Goromaru, responsible for 24 of his side’s points. The one responsible for that beyond-last-minute try, which eventually set the score 34-32 for Japan and fulfilled the Brighton Miracle, was Karne Hesketh though.

South Africa may have dominated the game both possession- and territory-wise, but the Japanese were sharper throughout. The Japanese accomplishment was all the more impressive given how South Africa had never fielded a more experienced lineup before. The Springbok had never lost an opening game in the RWC before either…

All that made little difference though. Every time the Bok restored a semblance of order in the confrontation, the Japanese surged back and upped the pace yet again, never failing to shock their opponents and the Springbok supporters in the stands.

In the end, Japan may not have made it into the late stages of the tournament, but their own World Cup final had already gone into the books with the Brighton Miracle.

 

Classic Rivalry Sees Records Fall in 2015 RWC Finals

The 2015 Rugby World Championship was thoroughly dominated from one end to another by Southern Hemisphere teams. In the two semi-finals, New Zealand disposed of South Africa, and Australia sent Argentina packing, to make it to the final stage of the tournament.

There, the All Blacks made relatively short work of the Australians, dominating the game and never trailing, as they cruised to a 34-17 conclusion, setting several records in the process. To begin with, the victory meant that the All Blacks became the first team ever to successfully defend the Webb Ellis cup.

The Final, which took place at Twickenham Stadium in London, set another major milestone, by registering the most tries in a RWC Final. The previous record had been set by the inaugural 1987 Final, which saw 4 tries go into the books. In the 2015 Final, the two teams combined for 5, of which three were scored by the All Blacks and two by Australia. The Twickenham Stadium showdown marked only the second time when two Southern Hemisphere teams played in the RWC Final. The only other time when this happened was in 1995, when the Springbok defeated the All Blacks for the title.

The above listed records don’t even begin to tell the true story of what eventually went down as the greatest rugby confrontation of the year, and certainly one of the best games of the last decade.

The first try of the game came only a minute before half time, courtesy of wing Nehe Millner-Skudder. Ma’a Nonu made it a pair in the second half, following a superb 30 meters run off a Sonny-Bill Williams offload.

The Wallabies caught a much-needed break with the yellow-card handed out to full back Ben Smith, who got booked for a dangerous tackle. David Pocock capitalized on the freshly developed situation for Australia’s first try. The built-up momentum was carried further by Tevita Curidrani, who scored the second try of his side, narrowing the gap to 4 points.

It was all Kiwis from there on out though. The coup de grace was delivered by replacement Beauden Barret, who scored the record-breaking 5th try of the game, but only after Carter had all but sealed the outcome, with a drop goal from 40 meters out.