So, its been a great five weeks so far, but we’re now at the business end of the tournament. Who would have thought that it would be four Southern Hemisphere teams fighting it out? Who would have thought that there would be bundles of spare tickets knocking around for the matches, all dumped by previously optimistic English and Irish fans (and a few deluded Welsh ones!)? Who would have thought that Scotland would have got the closest to the Semi finals? All the hallmarks of a great if unpredictable tournament.
But who is going to make to the final? The ABs must be favourites, given their vast experience, their unstoppable backline, and the way they just make it look so easy, with 1 to 15 handling the ball like Gods. Their opponents in the green corner have been playing knock-out rugby ever since the final whistle of their match in Brighton, and so are ready for this (not that any Springbok side playing the All Blacks wouldn’t be anything but ready). An exciting young 10-12-13 partnership could unlock the old men in the Kiwi centres, but I’m not sure I’d bet on it. However, I’d never bet against a side with the awesome Bismark du Plessis in it, so I have no idea which way this will go. Firmly on the fence.
Tomorrow, should be more straightforward, with the mighty Aussie juggernaut that has dealt with the two of the Northern Hemisphere’s finest already surely going to be too good for Argentina. But will they? The Pumas were sublime in pummeling a below par and under strength Irish side, but in their last meeting the Wallabies gave them a good hiding in Argentina. A well respected commentator (well, my mate Chris actually) has them as his tip for the cup. But he knows nothing, so its the green and gold for me.
But regardless of who wins this weekend, hasn’t this whole tournament been a joy? We can moan about the group of death, extortionate ticket prices, and corporate sponsors denying a man is right to have a decent pint of stout at the match. But it’s popularity has been summed up just now by a text from two Norwegian mates of mine in Oslo, settled in to a nice Irish pub with a screen to watch the match. They said thanks for introducing them to this great sport of ours – says it all, really.
Enjoy the rugby, and good luck to all.