The Rugby world cup has just finished for 2011. While the players in the southern hemisphere take a well deserved rest, those from the northern return back to their respective clubs and continue the job of the full time sportsmans. As is the case, there could be only one set of players that reflect on this time as one of job completed and for 2011 that was the New Zealand All blacks.
In a final where the excitement came not from tries scored or gripping game play, the winners by a margin of one point cam off the field battered but victorious. Their opponents, France held their heads up high and in many quarters might feel agrieved that they were not the victors on the day.
So, after 4 pool games per team, quarters, semis and a final what does it take to win a RWC, or any sporting tournament for that matter. Here are my 3 key ingrediants that I think it takes to win.
1) Injuries (or rather lack there of)
2) Playing good enough rugby to win a few critical games
3) The luck of the irish
Injuries (or rather lack there of)
Tournaments are gruelling affairs and is as much a battle of nutrition as it is gamesmanship. With limited squad members and most often teams having a definitive best first choice lineup, injuries can play a key component in seriously hurting their chances of winning. If you look at most teams that make it through to the final with mainly their top strength team. The might lose a player here and there but come finals they field their best team. Now NZ and SA must say were not quite true to this. Both lost key members leading into the finals which could have hurt their chances. However both teams only lost one person. If they had of lost 1-2 more key members I doubt either would have gone further (in fact SA didn’t).
Playing good enough rugby to win a few critical games
The team has to at least be capable of winning the big games. Most teams that make the top eight tend to have that one game capability.
The luck of the irish
As much as they don’t want to admit it, the referee can have a huge influence on the game of rugby. With the laws placing more responsibility on the referee to police the game, and the game itself not getting any less complicated, the decisions the referree makes (or doesn’t) can severly effect the course of a game. They might not be directly responsible for a teams loss, but they could have the greatest impact on a close game going one way or the other.
The game of rugby is complicated. And it’s not getting any simpler. The purests love this. It add’s complexities and diversity to the game that means all shapes, forms, tactics and strategies can take place. Look at the ruck for example. Can anyone honestly say you cannot find a penalty at every single ruck situation. Here are some things that I notice time and again that a ref, if they should wish could police strictly (probably not for the better but they could)
1) Attacking players while attached to the ruck bringing the ball back for the half back. Only feet are allowed
2) Attacking players not on their feet while bridging over the ball
3) Defending tacklers falling out your side of the ruck thereby slowing down your attacking supporting players
4) Defending non tackling players hands in the ruck slowing down the ball
5) Defending players not releasing the tackled player when they hit the grand
6) Defending players going to granding by placing a hand on the ground but then going for the ball
I could go on and on with things players do and either get away with or are referred inconsistantly. If referees want more responsibility on their shoulders for enforcing the rules of the game then it’s a sad fact of life that the game will become more and more about what the players get away with and what the referee enforces that will determine the outcome of a game. Especially those of two closely matched teams.