World Cup Off Load: Reasons for southern hemisphere dominance
By Rupert Cox | Twitter: @RupertCoxSKY |
Last Updated: 20/10/15 11:09am
Scotland were desperately unlucky but the North/South divide remains as wide as ever, says Rupert Cox...
Scotland have every reason to feel hard done by after what transpired at Twickenham, but the reality is that the game should never have been that close.
Australia scored five tries to three and bombed at least another two. Erratic goal kicking and poor game management down the stretch gifted the Scots two second-half tries.
Sure, the referee handed the Wallabies a get out of jail free card, but as well as Scotland played, it should never have been a contest in the first instance.
After Ireland bravely fought back from their own deficit in Cardiff, but ultimately fell short against Argentina, Joe Schmidt told his post-match press conference: "For northern hemisphere teams to beat the southern hemisphere we have to be at our very best - but even if the southern teams are a bit below par they can still be very dangerous."
Here are some reasons why:
Super Rugby is largely a summer tournament played on firm pitches on balmy February, March and April evenings. The only moisture to worry about is humidity.
The pace is electric quick, tries are aplenty and players in all positions are called upon to make multiple decisions with the ball in hand in each and every game they play.
You only have to look at the skill level of the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies throughout this tournament to see that their players are more comfortable when touching the ball.
If southern hemisphere teams have a strong set piece then northern sides can struggle over 80 minutes to keep pace.
In the south the unions are king, not the clubs. This means players can be looked after both in terms of the amount of games they play and what style of rugby is coached.
Could you imagine Stuart Lancaster ringing up the Saracens head coach and asking him to adopt a certain game plan, or request that a particular player is given game time in a certain position? But that's exactly what happens in New Zealand and Australian rugby.
The welfare of the national team is the greater good that all clubs feed into. Not only that, but young players are not denied a chance to represent their country and develop their game in the Sevens World Series.
Look though the biographies of the Argentina, New Zealand and Australian players (less so South African) at this World Cup to see how many of them have played top flight Sevens. That is no coincidence.
Team of the week
It's the battle of the hemispheres as we select two Rugby World Cup teams of the week
In Australia and New Zealand everyone plays touch. During lunch breaks in every school, in suburban parks every afternoon, on sandy beaches every weekend, kids are playing touch rugby.
Future rugby stars grow up with an instinctive ability to catch and pass and find a gap. That innate skill doesn't have to be coached; it's already there.
The great Brumbies team of the Gregan/Larkham era used to play touch at every training session - and not just for fun! They were the masters of their time at breaking down defences.
Image of the week
Craig Joubert's outstretched arm. Sure, he may have been hasty in awarding that penalty against Scotland but the fact is a video review via the TMO simply wasn't an option open to him.
The speed with which he departed the field is irrelevant, too. The vitriol that was sent Joubert's way in the aftermath was unsavoury.
France. Talk about tanks in reverse gear; Les Bleus raised the white flag in Cardiff. We will never really know how good that All Blacks' performance was because the French simply gave up in the second half.
If you can't play for your coach - then at least do it for your team-mates.
Dan Carter. The Great One returns. After injury cruelly denied him playing knockout rugby in 2011 - and a lot of rugby since - DC looks back to his best and determined to finish his All Blacks career on his own terms.