Tag Archives: Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup 2019 Comes to Japan

12 of the 20 team jerseys that will be attending #RWC2019 in Japan.
Some of the team jerseys that will be at the RWC2019. Photo courtesy of CJ on Instagram @brisbanerugby.

From the inception of the Rugby World Cup in 1987, where Australia and New Zealand hosted the inaugural event, the manifestation of this great tournament has been at the forefront of international attention. None more so than the 1995 tourney in South Africa with the Springboks competing for the first time for Nelson Mandela’s newly minted, Rainbow Nation. Who would forget the galvanising of a population under the same banner through rugby union? It was the inspiration for the book, “Playing the Enemy“, by English journalist, John Carlin, that inspired the 2009 movie, “Invictus” directed by Clint Eastward.

Nelson Mandela presenting the Webb Ellis Trophy to Francoise Pienaar RWC 1995. Photo courtesy of news.com.au

Four years later at RWC 1999, former Wallaby captain and Australian rugby commentator, Andrew Slack, stated ahead of the New Zealand v France semi-final in Twickenham, that he would move to the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa if France won. When the French came from 24-10 down at halftime to upstage the Kiwis 43-31 by the fulltime whistle, Slack was packing his bags. The final that year saw the Wallabies, under John Eales leadership, win their second Webb Ellis Trophy, 35-12 over France.

Despondent All Blacks side after RWC1999 semi-final loss to France. Photo courtesy of planetrugby.com

By 2007, the tournament moved to an exclusively non-English speaking nation France. However, the memorable French 20-18 win over the All Blacks in the quarter-final was in Cardiff, Wales. Incendently, the Argentine Los Pumas affirmed their rugby pedigree defeating the French hosts twice. This time it was the South Africans that clinched their second title, 15-6, over England at Stade de France, Saint-Denis in Paris.

Los Puma’s halfback, Augustin Pichot, celebrates after their 17-12 victory over hosts France in the opening match of RWC 2007. Photo courtesy of The Irish Times.

It was the 2011 edition that finally saw the mighty All Blacks overcome 24 years of ridicule and derision to secure their second Webb-Ellis title. In front of 61,079 home fans at the sacred Eden Park, the crucible of rugby in New Zealand, the ABs overcame their nemesis, France, to hold on by the slightest of margins, winning 8-7. Despite the valiant efforts of the French captain, Thierry Dusautoir’s, Man-of-the-Match performance, Les Bleus, couldn’t overcome the Maori challenge.

New Zealand All Blacks do the Haka ahead of the RWC 2011 Final with France. Photo courtesy of the Irish Times.

The Rugby World Cup unites diverse ethnic cultures and languages. It brings the so-called second tier nations to compete against the best teams on the planet in front of huge crowds with a global audience. In RWC 2015 the average attendance across all 48 matches was 95.27%, the most well-patronised event with a total of 2,477,805 in attendance (Wikipedia 2018). The match between Japan and Samoa achieved a television audience record of 25 million in Japan and ITV in the UK recorded 11.6 million viewers for the England v Wales match (RWC site). However, the biggest revelation to come from RWC 2015 was the “Miracle in Brighton“, when the Eddie Jones coached Japan Brave Blossoms defeated the South African Springboks 34-32 after the fulltime siren. This has inspired Australian writer and director, Max Mannix to produce a movie of the lead up to this extraordinary occurrence, with filming commencing on Australia’s Gold Coast this month.

The jubilation on the Japanese team’s faces after defeating South Africa in RWC 2015 in Brighton. Photo courtesy of telgraph.co.uk

This year the Rugby World Cup carnival, for the first time, moves to Asia and the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan will host the third biggest sporting event on the global stage, with big shoes to fill after the successful UK edition four years hence. Action starts in 8 months with the opening ceremony on September 20th at Ajinomoto Stadium, in Tokyo’s western suburbs, followed by hosts, Japan, taking on Russia through to six weeks of competition culminating with the final at the cavernous 72,327-seat Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

4年に一度じゃない。
一生に一度だ。

Not once every four years. Once in a lifetime!”

Such a bold statement, though justifiably so with the tournament making an initial foray into the Orient, laying testament to the multitude of cultures that make up the rugby family. The Hong Kong Sevens continually draws on this diversity to host the most successful annual 7s rugby pilgrimage there, but for the Rugby World Cup to be held in Asia, this will surely be a once in a lifetime experience.

From the northern ocean roads of 北海道(Hokkaido)to the nine states of 九州(Kyushu)in the south, across 12 stadiums with dedicated host cities, rugby fans will be treated to not only 48 high-quality international rugby matches, but a sensory overload in this ancient country of temples, shrines and castles coupled with exquisite culinary delights presented to the highest caliber. Bring it on!!

The Wallabies at Odawara Castle near their training facilities. Photo courtesy of CJ on Instagram @brisbanerugby
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Queensland Country Looking Good for Another NRC Premiership

On Sunday, fans braved the second half rain at Bond University to watch the National Rugby Championship semi-final between last year’s premiers Queensland Country and the Western Force. The star-studded Country outfit did not fail to impress from the getgo with tries aplenty in the first 20 minutes. None more so than 2018 Reds bolter, 18-year-old Jordan Petaia. Some very impressive running from the young Wallabies squad member playing at outside-centre with two tries in 15 minutes under the watchful eye of Reds coach Brad Thorn, who was standing beside me. From our vantage point, Caleb Timu also ran in for a five-pointer, on the blindside, with the Western Force down to 13 men.

Jordan Petaia Country
Young gun, 18-year-old, Jordan Petaia running strongly in the NRC semi-final. Photo courtesy of Getty

Hamish Stewart did not bring his kicking boots which proved costly in the first half as Qld Country went to the sheds up only 20-14, after Western Force kicker, Ian Prior, converted their first two tries. Stewart did make-up for his earlier failures with the boot in the second half with two conversions and two penalty goals, but leaving points out there was scrutinised by Reds coach Thorn.

CJ & Brad Thorn
CJ with Brad Thorn enjoying the early tries by Queensland Country at Bond University. Photo CJ on Instagram @brisbanerugbycom

In the 53rd minute, referee Damon Murphy called the match off due to the lightning in the area, but after about 15 minutes the play was back on. A few spectators left at this juncture, however, there were plenty that stayed, eager to watch more from the impressive Queensland Country outfit. The final score was 45-24 to the home side, booking them a place in next weeks final in Suva against Fiji Drua.

Queensland Country coach, Rod Seib, said, “I’m really pleased with the team’s performance today. The team delivered.”

Some real standout performances by Caleb Timu and Angus Scott-Young that should see them get a future call-up to the Wallabies.

Centre of attack

Tim Horan & Jeff Wilson
Tim Horan on the attack against the All Blacks’ Jeff Wilson

By Chris Rea

(First published on 15th October 1999)

 
The last Rugby World Cup of the century began with much fanfare at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff two weeks ago. The top seeds won their pool games quite easily through the second week provided some interesting results.

The first real match-ups of rugby heavyweights took place last weekend with New Zealand verse England and Australia v Ireland.

In the former game, England realised it had to play 15-man rugby to repeat their finals appearance of 1991, but the superiority of the All Blacks came to the fore in Jonah Lomu. As in the 1995 tournament, the 58th minute proved Lomu was back with a trademark 60 metre run through the English backs to break the 16-16 deadlock.

New Zealand scored a further try by in-form halfback replacement Byron Kelleher and took the match 30-16.

In the latter match, the passionate Irish couldn’t back up their rough play with any try-scoring opportunities and the Wallabies went away with two tries to win a scrappy contest 23-3.

Instrumental in the win was mid-field saviour Tim Horan. As he was in the successful 1991 campaign three-Cup veteran Horan is the centre of attack.

I caught up with Tim Horan before he and the team left Australia a few weeks ago on a typical early spring day in Brisbane.

In contrast to the light rain that fell at Lansdowne Road before Sunday’s match, blue sky with the sun shining brightly greeted me as I parked out the front of Tim’s Queenslander house. His daughter directed me to ‘the office’ where the interview was conducted.

It had been about 10 years since we played in the Colts (under 19) “Dream Team” that won the 1988 Grand Final convincingly and just like then he can still carve through backlines as he proved with vintage aplomb on Sunday against the Irish.

Webb Ellis TrophyThe Aussie campaign to “Bring back Bill”, the affectionate name they have given the William Webb Ellis trophy, is underway and November 6, just three weeks off, is looming as a very significant day for a young nation entering the new millennium.

For also on that day a referendum will be carried out in Australia to decide whether to become a republic or hold onto a dying monarchy. The players have already voted and Captain John Eales had one regret that they won’t be playing England on that day.

“It would have been good to play England in the final,” he said. “We could stuff them on the field – and stuff them in the vote.”

I asked Tim his opinion as to Australia winning the 1999 World Cup. He said, “We have a fairly good chance, but Ireland won’t be easy.”

“At the moment we are concentrating mainly on Wales in the quarters”.

He didn’t seem too concerned about Larkham’s injury noting that it was not as bad as the thumb injury he sustained in a Super 12 match where he had to go off at halftime.

His lack of concern proved justified as Larkham had a solid return to test match level rugby last Sunday and again yesterday against the Americans.

At the moment we are concentrating on Wales in the quarters’

Tim Horan

Australia’s chances of regaining the Webb Ellis trophy are looking pretty good. As Bob Dwyer stated in his 1992 autobiography that the best two prepared teams contested the final in 1991 and should that be the case this time the Wallabies (and the Kiwis) are starting to come good at the right time.

An emphatic win over the Kiwis at Stadium Australia, 34-9, in front of 107,000+ people was a psychological shot in the arm after some lacklustre games preceding it.

“The atmosphere was ecstatic…great for Australian rugby”, Tim said. “Crowd support like that is something we don’t often get in Australia.”

“In New Zealand and South Africa you come to expect to play 16 (including the crowd) but at Stadium Australia it was excellent.”

This game provided the springboard for Australia’s assault at retaining rugby’s Holy Grail, the Webb Ellis trophy.

In a year that has seen our cricketers, hockey and netball players win their respective world championships it would be another piece of silverware on the mantelpiece of a proud young nation.

Australia’s first match of the tournament was against Romania in Belfast. Once again Tim Horan proved too good for the weak defence and scored in less time then it takes to pour a pint of Guinness (119 seconds).

For his effort, sponsors Guinness will donate £10,000 to the charity of his choice (this probably should go to the under-financed Romanian rugby team).

The tournament run by the Five Nations has had its detractors noting the lop-sided results. But as Sydney Morning Herald writer Peter FitzSimons says, “Wouldn’t rugby league love the chance to show it had a similar array of cultures, backgrounds and socio-economic firepower united through a common passion?”

IMG_0268
CJ & Peter FitzSimons

When Australia hosts the next rugby World Cup in 2003 these same arguments will be brought out along with the problems of where each game will be held.

As rugby has become professional the bottom line has been to make as much return from the game as is put in and that means bums on seats.

At the present World Cup, we have seen good numbers at games in England, France and Wales but poor ones for matches in Scotland.

The Scottish Rugby Union is responsible for this balls-up due to their traditional opposition to any innovations or improvements of the game and their initial rejection of having a World Cup when first raised by the IRB.

I remember asking a Scottish friend about tickets for the World Cup early this year and he told me that even the clubs are finding it hard to obtain any – what a travesty that has proven

Fast forward to 2003 where the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is calling the shots, will the spectators be looked after then?

Will Queensland, a strong backyard for Wallaby talent, be overlooked for the choice matches by Melbourne; or even Perth?

ARU head, John O’Neill has decided not to give Brisbane a Bledisloe Cup match next year opting for Melbourne where rugby is hardly played because they can guarantee numbers through the turnstiles.

However, when I asked Tim about the lack of major test matches in Brisbane he cited that only 34,000 people came to Suncorp Stadium for the Tri-nations match against South Africa in July.

With the present debates over a super-stadium in Brisbane in the professional age of rugby, Queensland may be left out on a limb.

The debacle when Queensland topped the Super 12 and was given a home semi-final over whether to play at Ballymore or Suncorp Stadium meant that those schoolboys who supported the Reds all season weren’t allowed to use their schoolboy passes.

Subsequently, many locals boycotted and a proportionally larger Kiwi contingent turned up to see Canterbury outplay an uninterested Queensland side.

A further point I raised with Tim was that of the end of season Rico Challenge played between Queensland, New South Wales and ACT.

He supported the concept saying it is a good way for fringe players to get a Super 12 contract.

Although spectators to these games are low if marketed properly and positioned better in the rugby calendar, as proposed, we may see this problem overcome.

Finally, I asked Tim of his plans after the World Cup.

“Well I have another year to go on my Super 12 contract, but after that, I’d like to play in Europe”, he said.

“The pressure of Super 12 and test matches are great and I’d like to relax for a while with my family”.

No chance of following in your father’s footsteps and entering politics?

“No way!!!” he replied.

“You could give me a million bucks for a day in politics and I’d say no.

“For all the hard work my father does he doesn’t seem to get any popular response”.

The interview ended at 3pm as Tim apologized that he had to pick up one of the kids from school.

This weekend the final pool matches of the World Cup will be wrapped up with Pool D looking the closest; the clash between France and Fiji to determine the winner of Pool C being unclear; and England against Tonga no certainty.

You could give me a million bucks for a day in politics and I’d say no.”

Tim Horan

New Zealand’s hundred plus points against Italy was very impressive while Australia’s line was crossed for the first time this tournament by the USA, but went on to win 55-19.

Finishing the top of pool E Australia is guaranteed a semi-final berth, however, they will be without star running loose forward Toutai Kefu banned for 14 days for his toe-to-toe with Ireland’s enforcer Trevor Brennan.

Australian coach Rod McQueen was upset about the “selective citations”, but acknowledges the tournament has been well run.

Whichever team holds aloft the Webb Ellis trophy on November 6 rugby will be the real winner.