When you spend as long at the top of rugby as has Wayne Barnes, recently retired after officiating at the Rugby World Cup FInal in his 100th test match, you are likely to attract opinions from all sides. Let me begin by saying that Barnesy is a personal friend as well as a member and supporter of […]
Unusually for me, I was left a little speechless – perhaps drained- by the Rugby World Cup until now. The final fortnight was a wonderful contradiction and sets the platform for the next World Cup cycle, the Good the Bad and sometimes the Ugly. What do I mean? Well, France put on a rugby version […]
You could tell there was a surprise coming, even pre match. Freddie Steward was in tears during the anthem and there was real emotion, especially from Maro Itoje who looked like he meant business and led from the front, a critical change. By contrast, Sia Kolisi and his team seemed subdued. From the whistle, the Boks were shaken by a whole series of little moments and they could not get a foothold. It happens to the best, and England held them in a vice of confusion and uncertainty -let us pay tribute to their performance which won the hearts of a nation who had no real expectation. I also hope that supporters will find some shared feelings with Owen Farrell who was close to tears in the post match interview and at last let down the guard which has alienated him at times. To be clear he had an outstanding game – strictly with the boot but that was the plan.
When two becomes one springs to mind at this stage of the Rugby World Cup 2023. I remember being told that the quarter finals of the Heineken Champions Cup were in some ways the highlight because of the titanic struggles which used to occur. This has most likely happened here, although all for the wrong reasons. The lopsided draw made it look as if we were witnessing two different competitions which have now merged into one.
There is no doubt that a World Cup Quarter-Final focuses the mind like no other rugby day in a 4 year cycle. I remember vividly in 1991 as we prepared for ‘ Le Crunch’ against France in the Parc des Princes we knew one certainty – lose and we go home. It became a huge driver for us and while the intensity or even fear doesn’t win the match it ensures that each player will perform with desperation. It was a historic win for England in a truly gladiatorial atmosphere…
I think we will recognise the coming together of the Springbok and Tongan squads in prayer as a great moment of RWC 2023. As to the match itself, Tonga showed their true capabilities and were remarkably unlucky not be leading at halftime against a fully loaded Springbok team.It was good to see a match of such intensity…
Jonathan Webb and I sat on a wooden bench in Nadi, Fiji, looking disconsolately at each other as Fiji had just completed a famous win over a rather battered England midweek side in 1991. We had been overrun and that can happen when you lose control against such a team.
We saw enough drama for a month’s worth of rugby, although hardly enhanced by an imaginative but unsuccessful attempt to change the singing of the National Anthems. Great for the kids to be on a World stage, but let the supporters sing!
I attended a wonderful event last night – MAD (Make a Difference) Leadership Foundation, set up by Francois Pienaar with the full support of Nelson Mandela and now in its 20th year. It raises funds to provide opportunities for underprivileged African youngsters and what a difference they have made.
It remains a moment in my rugby life when I withdrew from the Inaugural World Cup in Australia and New Zealand because I could not afford to take the time away, despite best efforts of the England Management to persuade me.