Hugh Farrelly: A final word from Down Under
A good, bad or indifferent tournament?
Pretty decent. Not as good as 1995, but not as bad as 1999 or 2007. While issues remain as to whether New Zealand should have been hosting in the first place, the Kiwis put on a good show and the country embraced the competition fully -- although this was undoubtedly aided by the All Blacks' progression to the decider.
Did the best team win the World Cup?
In terms of consistent performance and trying to play the best style of rugby, yes.
Did the best team win the final?
No. France were significantly better over 80 minutes.
Have the French reason to feel aggrieved?
Yes. Craig Joubert did not referee evenly and it was the home side that benefited -- some of the decisions were disgraceful for a game of this magnitude. They should also ask team manager Jo Maso why he did not insist on New Zealand wearing their away strip after France won the 'toss for colours'.
Strange happenings in the final
1. Did the winning kick go over? Replays suggest Stephen Donald's effort drifted just wide. Have a look and judge for yourself, http://url.ie/dd2x
2. France's 'holdy-handsy' response to the haka -- never has an act of aggression looked so camp.
3. 'Now Is The Hour' -- the post-tournament song evoked horrible memories of the Lions 2005 anthem and sounded like it was ripped off a Mary Black B-side.
Kiwis -- bad losers, worse winners
There was not one mention of the French in the post-match speeches of Graham Henry or Richie McCaw, while the expected orgy of back-slapping and hakas among supporters took no account of how lucky New Zealand were to win the final. You wonder would the fireworks display have taken place if France had won.
Would New Zealand have won the World Cup if it had not been on home soil?
1. Wales -- Have only themselves to blame for not making the final but, after stumbling upon their best team, the Welsh clicked in a big way and, with so many youngsters in their squad, will look to kick on from here.
2. Argentina -- Were never going to hit the heights of 2007 but were better than expected and gave a fine account of themselves against New Zealand in the quarters. Can look forward to their Four Nations participation with confidence.
3. The 'lesser' nations -- Despite being screwed by the schedule, the likes of Canada, Tonga, Romania, Georgia, Japan, the USA and Russia all justified their presence and added tremendous colour.
1. Tossing, diving, sexual harassment, putting the wrong things in your mouth -- England's World Cup campaign read like a Carry On film.
2. Peter de Villiers -- he came, he saw, he's bonkers.
3. Quade Cooper -- The Kiwis hated him, then they laughed at him. Cooper was pants.
The calls for a Plate competition after the pool stages make a great deal of sense. It would generate revenue, reduce the capacity for mismatches and keep the competition bubbling via extra games.
Tonga 20 Canada 25,
Whangarei, September 14
Enthusiastic crowd, evenly-matched teams, plenty of tries and a compelling finish -- all you could ask for.
New Zealand 37 France 17,
Auckland, September 29
The Kiwis celebrated wildly even though France clearly weren't arsed because it was just a pool game. The whole affair had a 'what's the point?' feel to it.
The one that got away
Scotland 34 Romania 24,
Invercargill, September 10
Romania were on the verge of the biggest upset in World Cup history when they went 24-21 up with 15 minutes to go, only to be denied by a late Scottish surge that relied on a forward pass (completely ignored by TV replays and analysts) for the game-changing try by Simon Danielli.
1. Shane Williams holding up Sean O'Brien over the line in Wales' quarter-final win over Ireland in Wellington. A game-changing act of courage and defiance by the little man.
2. Stephen Ferris picking up Will Genia and carting him back 15 metres, the stand-out image from Ireland's epic win over the Wallabies
3. Richie McCaw doing something similar to Genia in the semi-final -- classic timing.
And the worst ...
The risible efforts of the French to stop Cory Jane scoring in their pool clash. It was a well executed score by New Zealand and French hearts were not in a contest they always expected to lose but, even so, it was a disgraceful effort. Ireland's attempts to stop Jonathan Davies come a close second.
Plenty to choose from but Ma'a Nonu's touchdown against Australia, after sensational work by Israel Dagg, is hard to top, given the pressure of a World Cup semi-final against a side that had defeated the All Blacks a few weeks previously. Clinical.
1. Marius Tincu -- The veteran Romanian hooker and captain gave his all on the pitch and was unfailingly gracious in his post-match interviews. One of the greats.
2. Richie McCaw -- Truly admirable in the way he handled the intense scrutiny of his obsessive countrymen and in the quality of his performances whilst playing through the pain barrier.
3. Alain Rolland -- Knew that sending off Sam Warburton would put him in the firing line but did his job exactly as he was supposed to and protected future careers in the process.
And the villains...
1. Leonardo Ghiraldini -- A cowardly eye-gouge got the 15-week punishment it deserved.
2. The IRB -- If they want to expand the game, rugby's governing body has to provide a level playing field and stacking the fixture list to suppress the 'lesser' nations was shameful.
3. Craig Joubert -- The final saw the greatest one-eyed display since Odysseus met the Cyclops.
The irritation file
1. Hakas -- Seen one, seen 'em all, saw too many.
2. England's off-pitch antics -- Get a room.
3. New Zealand threatening to pull out of future World Cups -- Whateva.
4. Extortion -- Price-hiking policies left an extremely sour taste, not least when applied to local, rancid ales.
5. Crooked feeds -- In terms of the scrum and woeful TV camerawork.
Stupid is ...
1. Going on the lash in a dwarf-throwing bar and, months after you have married a British Royal, throwing shapes at a blonde in front of CCTV cameras. Mike Tindall = dumb-ass.
2. Calling out the Irish front-row -- Nick Mallett gave the Irish scrum all the incentive it needed.
3. Not starting Bismarck du Plessis -- Peter de Villiers opting for John Smit was like going with Red Hurley ahead of Elvis.
Passports please ...
1. Shontayne Hape (New Zealand/ England) -- tell us about the War Of The Roses, Shontayne, or the Lake District or John Major or ...
2. Italy -- Eleven of their squad were born outside Italy. Thankfully, pasta has global popularity and limoncello grows on you.
3. Thomas Waldrom (New Zealand/ England) -- got a free trip home to catch up with friends and family. Sweet as bro.
What women want ...
1. Thierry Dusautoir -- you would. We all would.
2. Mike Phillips -- you don't want him on your pub quiz team but the Welshman is very easy on the eye.
3. Cory Jane -- gives off that 'mother me' vibe the broads cannot resist.
The dark alley boys
1. Mamuka Gorgodze -- the Georgian would scare the lentils out of a Hare Krishna.
2. Fabien Barcella -- "Non, non, monsieur, do not hurt me, just take the wallet."
3. Dan Cole -- "Mum this is my boyfriend, Dan. Before you start, he's only 24, I swear..."