Coach of the Tournament: Whilst an obvious choice would be Graham Henry for successfully steering New Zealand to a World Cup under the pressure of the ‘Choke-O-Meter’, the wealth he has at his disposal must be remembered. Therefore we have chosen Warren Gatland, who inspired the Welsh to a record-equalling World Cup showing, that could have been so much more, if it wasn’t for Warburton’s Semi-Final dismissal.
Overachievers: Despite a brilliant display in the final, France, in typical laissez-faire fashion, did not seem interested until it really mattered. They limped through the tournament, benefiting from other teams’ misdemeanours and misfortune.
Underachievers: Though England faltered early and Ireland never regained the level of performance they reached against South Africa, The Tournament as a whole can be seen as the biggest disappointment. With kickers miscuing and a disappointing 16 tries in the knockout stages, the 2011 Rugby World Cup never got going.
Team of the tournament: New Zealand finally lived up to expectations and deserve plaudits for the strength of their squad, especially considering their fourth choice fly-half kicked the deciding penalty, and their sheer attacking intent. Samoa earned praise for their brilliant displays against Wales and South Africa, both games in which they deserved to get something out of and could well have done, if it was not for the poor infrastructure in Samoan rugby.
Player of the Tournament: Israel Dagg, impervious under the high ball and magnificent in attack was perhaps the pick of a powerful All Black side. Notable mentions go to the All Black back three of Kaino, Read and captain McCaw and the powerful Jamie Roberts, who never seemed to fail to break the gain line.
Top Tweets: Samoan and Gloucester centre, Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono made the headlines with astonishing complaints about the World Cup Scheduling, calling the IRB “unjust” when Wales got seven days off and Samoa got three. This was exacerbated as he described the treatment as “like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid.” Sapolu later went on to accuse the referee, Nigel Owens, of being a racist, resulting in a six month suspension, which could well lead Sapolu to turn his back on the game.
Flop of the Tournament: “Public Enemy number one”, Quade Cooper, always knew this tournament would come with a huge amount of pressure as not only was he the talisman of an exciting Australian side, but also is of Kiwi origin. Cooper, who usually shines in the limelight, found this tournament a stretch too far and after a string of poor performances, was finally put out of his misery when he limped off the pitch in the third-place play-off.
Ones to Watch: George North was perhaps most emblematic of Wales’ exciting running rugby. The 19 year old who stands at 6ft 4, whilst also being the fastest member of the squad, has even been hailed as the ‘new Lomu’. Actions off the pitch aside, Manu Tuilagi still proved a bright spark in a faltering England side, his direct and physical nature providing the team with the greatest attacking threat. James O’Connor, whilst already a recognised figure in the Australian side, is still only 21 and after his rumoured move into the centres, he could become an even more pivotal figure.
Bow out, Give up: The proverb “good players don’t always make good coaches” rings true in regards to Martin Johnson, whose selection and tactics left a lot to be desired and whose laxness in disciplining England’s tearaway squad was perplexing. Also on the England scrapheap is Nick Easter who was completely outclassed by France’s Imanol Harinordoquy in the Quarter Final and who now lacks the pace for the international game. Finally, let us hope that ITV do not regain coverage of the World Cup as their commentators, most notably Phil Vickery, made England’s languid performances even more painful to watch.
Best Celebration: The greatest expression of passion did not come as New Zealand finally lifted the World Cup or after a match-winning try, but when Tonga beat France. Whilst unable to qualify despite their win, the Tongans earned a lot of renown for their historic win, pointing to the growing strength of Tier 2 nations.
Will Cook, Tom Rowe, Matt Williams, Jake Batty