They said New Zealand was too small to host a World Cup. They said it didn’t have the stadia or infrastructure. They said New Zealand wouldn’t return enough money to the IRB. All of it proved way off the mark and New Zealand hosted a superb World Cup.
Stadiums were full. The nation got behind not just the All Blacks but every team and the Pacific Islands added an incredible flavour and presence. This was a World Cup about community values. It was a World Cup that left everyone thinking rugby had more good than bad and that it had reconnected with its spiritual home.
HOW IT PLAYED OUT
There were a couple of twists and turns that caught a few people by surprise. Ireland beat Australia in the pool rounds and Tonga beat France. But the quarterfinal line-up was largely predictable and threw together a few old rivals.
Wales beat Ireland, France beat England and Australia beat South Africa. England were pretty glad to be going home as their campaign had been dogged by off field incidents and they had to contend with a media circus as a result.
The All Blacks beat Argentina and then produced a brilliant performance at Eden park to defeat the Wallabies. It was a night the nation came together to will their team to the final. The previous evening France had scraped through after Welsh captain Sam Warburton was red carded early for a dangerous tackle.
And so – as it was in 1987 – France played the All Blacks in the final. But of course the All Blacks had been reduced to their fourth first-five and ended up with Stephen Donald on the field. Somehow he and the All Blacks kept it all together and despite playing poorly, held on to win by a point.
GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT
The final was tense and dramatic but the game many found compelling was SAMOA VERSUS SOUTH AFRICA at North Harbour. It was intense, brutal and littered with controversy.
South Africa won 13-5 but that was after a handful of poor refereeing decisions, a wrongful red card to Paul Williams and a healthy dose of spite and nastiness from both teams. Classic World Cup stuff.
GREAT GAME: Samoa rattled the Springboks.
Fra nce were lucky against Wales. Stephen Donald takes off with the ball.
Aaron Cruden looks for a gap.
Sam Warburte n is sent off.