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.
Pace, power, skill, physical prowess and passion were all on show in Paris for two days but down in balmy Marseille, equally dramatic yet rather more slow-motion action was on offer. Unbeaten England continue to find form, some smiles and a couple of stars in Marchant and Earl, who could not even get into Jones’ squad which speaks volumes. We can dream onto Paris with no one predicting anything other than a Bok blitzing. With two brutal packs, 4 world class centres, half backs aplenty and pace to burn out wide surely only one result. Every Englishman wants that challenge and perhaps even some revenge after Japan 2019. I predict they will play the game of their lives, and with 1000 caps of experience as well as a rainy, autumnal forecast the scene is set for something special, certainly no procession which every Bok supporter expects. Ask any player, they would much rather lose a quarter than a semifinal.
Not only Irish hearts were aching for the way Ireland exited, the world’s top team yet now going home. The fast moving All Blacks were always coming hard from the beginning which should not have been a surprise. By the end, the 37 phases of Irish play to win the game were self defining as not one line break occurred and it showed the tank was empty and Ireland had to admit defeat – one held up try and a missed penalty – by fine margins. I prefer to pay tribute to the men in Black, who I do not think could believe the outcome. They do now and will believe they can defy the pundits and go two better.
What can you say about France who played sensational rugby led by their all action hooker Peato Mauvaka who was peerless in the whirlwind start, a real hors d’oeuvre. Two bounces of an unpredictable ball and somehow the Boks were still in the game. Others would be 20 points plus down. My prematch midfield predictions proved wrong as Allende and Kriel were very dangerous, much more so than France who looked off it in the middle and time to access their multi talented reserves. Something deeper drives the Springboks, you can see it is a family thing. I recall the ‘Bath Family ‘ of the 80’s to which we attributed much of our club success and it seems the same here. Siya Kolisi was giving Kolbe’s son a piggyback around the ground after the match – that is family and adds depth and meaning to what is already a phenomenal squad.
FInally what price an England v Argentina final ……. the purist as well as World Rugby would be horrified but for England supporters, yes please ! Then this group of players will likely have their destinies fulfilled, a pay back from Japan 2019.
First things first – Paris awaits and England expects.