The wait­ing is over and fi­nally the real stuff is here

Gloucestershire Echo - - SPORTING INDEX - THE RICHARD­SON RE­PORT » For­mer Glouces­ter and Eng­land A coach Keith Richard­son

IT is a bit like wait­ing for a bus or a po­lice­man. You twid­dle your thumbs and con­sider the true mean­ing of life – then lots ar­rive at the same time. Rugby has been like that. We have acres of cov­er­age on who is go­ing to do what but there has been no ac­tion and Septem­ber is nearly done. Then the equiv­a­lent of a fleet of Routemas­ters and a Hand­cuff House full of the boys in blue turn up to­gether – and we have the start of Rugby World Cup plus the re­sump­tion of hos­til­i­ties in the Pre­mier­ship with their cup com­pe­ti­tion to give us all some­thing to cheer/moan at. Lon­don Ir­ish are wel­come vis­i­tors to King­sholm on a week­end when the (truly) World Cup gets go­ing.

The tour­na­ment in Ja­pan will prob­a­bly be bet­ter than ever and the tele­vi­sion cov­er­age will sur­pass pre­vi­ous ef­forts. The tech­nol­ogy keeps de­vel­op­ing and the cov­er­age will be ev­ery bit as good as domestic matches.

We all have our favourites and hours will have been spent on dis­cus­sions (ar­gu­ments?) on who is likely to do what.

The re­mark­able thing ihas been how New Zealand are out of many pun­dits’ reck­on­ing. Dis­re­gard them at your peril, but when you look at the groups it is easy to see how they have taken a bit of a back seat.

The open­ing match will ease Ja­pan nicely past Rus­sia, but there are fire­works to fol­low soon af­ter­wards.

Japanese sup­port­ers will turn their opener into a mem­o­rable oc­ca­sion, but that will pale into in­signif­i­cance when New Zealand and South Africa lock horns on Sat­ur­day.

This has the po­ten­tial to be one of the great games in RWC his­tory, but the truth is that a loss does not mean the end of the world – it might even af­ford the losers an eas­ier route in the tour­na­ment.

How­ever, it would re­quire a supremely con­fi­dent coach to try to ma­nip­u­late a loss to open up a slightly eas­ier route to the fi­nal.

That will not hap­pen and we can rea­son­ably ex­pect a cracker be­tween these two out­stand­ing teams.

The Kiwis have not been at their ex­cel­lent best all of the time, but they are ca­pa­ble of reach­ing corners other teams can’t reach.

France and Ar­gentina are ca­pa­ble of any­thing other than a de­gree of cer­tainty.

The Pu­mas threw the baby out with the bath­wa­ter when they went for an all-singing, all-danc­ing style. In this game you can only sing and dance when there is for­ward con­trol, but the once feared front rows are con­signed to the his­tory books.

France too used to have props to die for, but their top teams seem to think that an ex­pen­sive for­eign im­port is bet­ter than a home­pro­duced block of gran­ite.

Their domestic scene is awash with ex­pen­sive im­ports and they have a sys­tem where French play­ers are not com­ing through in the num­bers they once did.

There is that qual­ity of Gal­lic flair that of­ten emerges against all the odds and this may be their time, when they are to­gether for long pe­ri­ods and can get their act to­gether.

On the very same Sat­ur­day Aus­tralia and Fiji will bat­tle it out.

Aus­tralia have splut­tered re­cently yet they are ca­pa­ble of in­ven­tive­ness be­yond the scope of mere mor­tals.

They will need it and more to over­come Fiji, who will be un­der­pre­pared in in­ter­na­tional terms but will be a box of tricks.

One of the won­der­ful as­pects of this tour­na­ment is the teams ca­pa­ble of throw­ing a very large span­ner in the works of fan­cied op­po­nents, Samoa will leave in­jured op­po­nents in their tack­ling wake; Tonga will prob­a­bly not last 80 min­utes ibut the op­po­nents will be bat­tered and very bruised; and Fiji could be the team to stop oth­ers from flour­ish­ing.

Our domestic scene is full of big hits – well, we ain’t seen any­thing yet!

And that leads neatly into the most im­por­tant aspect of the game.

Ref­er­ees were once the sole judge of law, but there is an ever-grow­ing con­veyor belt of of­fi­cial­dom with back-up tech­nol­ogy to get the ‘right’ de­ci­sions.

We can but hope that the ref­er­ees do what they are there for – to make quick de­ci­sions on what is happening in front of them.

If that hap­pens, this could be a block­buster of a Rugby World Cup and get a cou­ple of quid on Glouces­ter to beat Lon­don Ir­ish.

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