Thursday, October 18, 2007

RWC Bronze: Argentina vs. France

The 3rd-place contest goes Friday between last weekends' semi-final losers France and Argentina, a re-match of the opening pool game of RWC 2007. I expect France to rebound and exact revenge against a very dispirited Pumas side that are licking their wounds and trying to pick themselves up after their loss to the Springboks on Sunday.

FRANCE: 1. Jean-Baptiste Poux, 2. Raphaël Ibañez (captain), 3. Pieter de Villiers, 4. Lionel Nallet, 5. Jérôme Thion, 6. Yannick Nyanga, 7. Thierry Dusautoir, 8. Imañol Harinordoquy, 9. Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 10. Frédéric Michalak, 11. Christophe Dominici, 12. David Skrela, 13. David Marty, 14. Aurélien Rougerie, 15. Clément Poitrenaud. RESERVES: 16. Sebastian Bruno, 17. Nicolas Mas, 18. Sébastien Chabal, 19. Rémy Martin, 20. Pierre Mignoni, 21. Lionel Beauxis, 22. Vincent Clerc.

ARGENTINA: 1. Rodrigo Roncero, 2. Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 3. Omar Hasan Jalil, 4. Rimas Álvarez Kairelis, 5. Patricio Albacete, 6. Martín Durand, 7. Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe, 8. Gonzalo Longo Elía, 9. Agustín Pichot (captain), 10. Juan Martín Hernández, 11. Horacio Agulla, 12. Felipe Contepomi, 13. Manuel Contepomi, 14. Federico Martin Aramburu, 15. Ignacio Corleto. RESERVES: 16 Marcos Ayerza, 17 Eusebio Guiñazu, 18 Esteban Lozada, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 20 Nicolás Fernandez Miranda, 21 Federico Todeschini, 22 Hernán Senillosa.

Date: Friday 12 October, 2007
Kick off: 21.00 (20.00 BST, 19.00 GMT) 3:00 pm ET (Toronto, New York)
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris
Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Stuart Dickinson (Australia), Nigel Owens (Wales)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

Full Rugby Planet preview click here.

As mentioned earlier, I've been super-busy and had to put rugby on the backburner. I did manage to catch all four QFs and both SFs. While there have been some nailbiting close contests and epic upsets, it's also worth noting the actual quality of the rugby being played has mostly been boring rubbish. Rather than write up reviews of all the matches, I will withhold comments until my RWC post-mortem. Let's just say the tournament pool stages had me feelng the love for the tournament, and ready to plead - against my earlier beliefs of the past several years - that the format should remain at 20 teams. But the knockout stage has me leaning toward the feeling that this may in fact have been the worst RWC played from the perspective of a "showcase" for both rugby fans and neutral observers.

It's the New Jersey Devils "trap" strategy applied to rugby. Lou Lamoriello, eat yr heart out! It may be a winning hand to succeed at World Cup, but it's not winning many new converts to the sport.

Case in point #1:

[French coach Bernard] Laporte said the All Blacks played the tournament's best rugby and in fact, they are the only team to play any rugby.

"This World Cup has been crazy. Who has played any rugby? The only ones are the All Blacks," he said on the BBCwebsite.

Case in point #2:

[The dropped goal] scoring method has been a blight on the latter stages of the tournament.

It became an all-too-repetitive points solution for sides in the final four, especially England and France, who had seven attempts during their semifinal, against three efforts in South Africa's playoff with Argentina. [...]

Administrators should consider whether the value of the dropped goal needs to be reduced to two, or perhaps even a solitary point, as a way of persuading sides to use the ball more to discover the tryline.

Case in point #3:

Criticism of the World Cup finals as boring, defence-dominated kickathons has been rife in France since the Wallabies and All Blacks were knocked out last week, but don't expect new rules that encourage running rugby to transform the likes of England into entertainers, experts say.

Viewers of the game's showpiece event have been treated to ping-pong with a rugby ball in the past fortnight as teams kick backwards and forwards in the hope their opposition makes a mistake. Tries have mostly dried up, with the defending champions advancing to the final despite scoring just one five-pointer in the knockout stages.

Enthralling risky play and counter-attacking has been virtually eradicated and critics are demanding that the Experimental Law Variations, new rules supposed to reward a ball-in-hand approach, be implemented as soon as possible.

Even England flanker Martin Corry, in his column for The Guardian after England's semi-final victory over France, admitted, "There was a lot of aerial ping-pong which doesn't make for great entertainment."

I'll expound more about this that in the following week(s).

In other news, the IRB has conceeded that wet-behind-the-ear referee Wayne Barnes, who infamously officiated the France vs. New Zealand boilover at Cardiff, was lousy.

I'll expound more on that later, too.

Back shortly...


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