For 19 of the teams, the 2007 World Cup was, as the officials said, hosted by France. But the All Blacks didn’t feel like it was. They had to play a pool game in Edinburgh and a quarterfinal in Cardiff. Even more bizarrely they had to play against France in Cardiff... go figure? The French had traded a couple of games to Wales and Scotland for their respective vote at the hosting ballot and the All Blacks were the victims of that. Not that location was their big problem in 2007: no, the damage to their disastrous campaign was self-inflicted. They mucked about all year with conditioning plans and rotation and reached the World Cup with too many players undercooked and no real idea of their best line up. South Africa on the other hand came to France with their eyes on the prize – were consistent with selections, played solid rugby and finished off a well hosted, well run World Cup as champions.
HOW IT PLAYED OUT
This was a World Cup that lacked great rugby but not great drama and surprise. France were beaten by Argentina on the opening night and Ireland, fancied to go far, collapsed in the pool stages. England were hammered by South Africa 36-0 in a pool game and in total disarray barely a week into the tournament while the All Blacks played pass and giggle rugby against Italy, Scotland, Romania and Portugal.
The quarterfinals kept up the incredible surprise: England, so out of sorts, beat Australia in the first match and then a few hours later France beat the All Blacks. Fiji, who had made it there by virtue of a brilliant victory against Wales, were on track to beat the Boks until the South Africans pulled finger late in the game and the Pumas, unloved and unwanted by either the Six Nations or Tri Nations, defeated Scotland.
The miracle of the tournament was England who found their way to the final and nearly won it.
But in the end South Africa were just too strong – too sure about what they were doing and so determined to not take any risks.
GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT
FIJI’S victory against WALES was one of the most extraordinary encounters seen at a World Cup. Fiji were 24-0 up in less than 20 minutes and then trailing with five minutes to go. Talk about ding-dong. But just as Wales thought they had pulled off the great escape, they let Fiji rumble the ball up field and score with a rolling maul. Amazing.
The ALL BLACKS producing a devastating opening 20 minutes in their first game against Italy.
ARGENTINA UPSETTING FRANCE on the opening night.
The ruckus that erupted in FRENCH MEDIA following revelations about a poem coach Bernard Laporte had read to the team before their first game.
The bravery and camaraderie of TONGA.
The way the FRENCH FACED THE HAKA in the quarterfinal.
USA wing TAKUDZWA NGWENYA skinning Habana.
SURPRISE PACKAGE: Fiji were superb in 2007.
France didn’t flinch during the haka.
ania were no match for the
Chris Jackon the charge.
ITA LIAN JOB: The All Blacks stuffed Italy.
Luke McAl ister scores against France.