Thursday 22 March 2018

1 The Holy Grail of the World Cup to New Zealand

New Zealand has waited 24 years and the waiting has shredded nerves. This weekend, Kiwis have been like cats on hot tin roofs.

Some see a sinister plot in the fact that the French have been tearing themselves apart inside their own camp, with constant verbal spats between their coach Marc Lievremont and his players.

The reality is, France aren't much good; New Zealand are.

The All Blacks are the best team in the world because they have the perfect mix of immense forward power, efficiency throughout their side and a philosophy of getting the ball through the hands and trying to attack out wide.

No other side in the tournament has come close to achieving all those things.

But right now, the New Zealand public are like junkies who need their fix. The waiting is killing them.

2 The lesson that doing the basics remains crucial

Only New Zealand seems to understand this fact. Their dedication to such a creed is legendary.

They practise diligently, and the focus is put upon sharpening basic skills like passing, tackling, running straight and being ruthless at the breakdown.

Their coaches drive them hard to remember these points. And they never tolerate players easing off from this mantra.

It explains why they have been by far the most efficient side at this tournament.

3 A powerful message to world rugby

If New Zealand win, as they are surely destined to do, they can send a message right around the rugby-playing world.

Put simply, it will say, you can play this game in an entertaining, attacking manner. Now go out and follow us, it's perfectly possible.

The dross served up in the northern hemisphere at Test level in recent years has confirmed that the European nations have slipped far behind New Zealand.

Yet, as the All Blacks have shown, it is perfectly possible to play attractive rugby and keep the ball in hand, not just kick the leather off it.

What you need to do that is the right approach, the appropriate philosophy from your coaches.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry always insisted his men would continue to attack, even amid the pressures of a World Cup, and he has been true to his word. But others could play this way -- why not?

Wales certainly look capable of doing so and, with greater liberation and a willingness to embrace a less conservative approach, Ireland could too.

The French used to be able to play this way in their sleep, so who knows what they might achieve?

As for England, no-one knows where they are going right now.

4 A demonstration of world-class refereeing

Craig Joubert is the top referee in the world and rightly takes the final. The South African is calm, clever, switched on to what the players are up to and authoritative without being dictatorial.

And at just 33, he has years at the top ahead of him.

Some of the refereeing at this World Cup has been decidedly ropy. Bryce Lawrence's performance in the South Africa/Australia quarter-final was awful.

He ignored all the illegalities at the breakdown, allowing a free-for-all.

Alain Rolland was technically correct in his decision to show a red card to Wales captain Sam Warburton in the semi-final, but he could have shown more tolerance. His decision ruined the game and you never want to see that.

5 A memorable performance to cap a fine tournament

It's been a great World Cup, principally because the people of New Zealand have made it so.

Their legendary hospitality has shone through and they've supported the tournament by spending large amounts of money to buy tickets and share the experience.

They deserve a cracking occasion to celebrate what could be the last time the tournament is staged in this country.

IRB chief executive Mike Miller hinted the event could never return because it isn't possible to make mega bucks from a World Cup in a land of just four million people.

But sometimes, things other than money should be considered. This is a real rugby country, the whole nation has been gripped by the event.

It would be fantastic for them all if the climax were truly spectacular.

Peter Bills

Irish Independent

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