We’ve pored over Ireland’s exit in some detail. Here’s a run through the other nations who’ll have fancied their chances to do well.
Scotland: Failed to Qualify from Group
Poor wee Scotland. Pipped by both England and Argentina by last-gasp tries. Against Argentina they managed to work a drop goal opportunity to win it, but hurried the kick. Against England they probably would have won had they not needed to win by more than seven and seek a try themselves when in front on the scoreboard. They manned up impressively in both games, but the reason they failed to qualify is available in just one statistic: no tries in their final three group games. They have plenty of grunt in the pack and can keep teams like England on the back foot for long periods, but they just can’t buy a try. Their backs moving the ball look slower and less accurate than most AIL teams.
Mike Tindall Dwarf Rating: Sleepy. Time to wake up and learn to catch and pass the ball properly.
Argentina: Quarter Final exit to New Zealand
Worthy recipients of the medal for bravery and courage in the face of unlikely odds. A shadow of the force of 2007, but their great warriors Ledesma, Albacete and Contepomi refused to go quietly, even if they couldn’t conjure up the same quality as four years ago, with Juan Matin Hernandez a notable absentee. Should have beaten England and squeezed through against Scotland at the death, and can take real pride in their showing against New Zealand. They came up with the try of the tournament, with Conters showing a touch of his fading genius, and held the Kiwis tryless for three quarters of the game. Not bad considering Lobbe was injured and Nigel Owens was shafting them at every opportunity.
Mike Tindall Dwarf Rating: Happy. Can go home knowing the left nothing behind them.
Italy: Failed to Qualify from Group
Italy have become an obstinate side at the Flaminio, but the task for the next coach will be getting them to perform on the road. Showed up well against Russia with slick hands and fast-paced attack, but in their final win-or-bust pool game, their surrender to Ireland was meek and indisciplined. They talked a good game, with Castro declaring himself ‘ready for war’, but when the moment came they were blown away by Ireland’s greater arsenal. Somehow, somewhere, a 10 has to be found who can organise their backs and dictate the play. Until then, they’ll continue to struggle.
Mike Tindall Dwarf Rating: Grumpy. Need to keep composure when things go awry.
Rather unlucky to lose to Australia, but they couldn’t cross the whitewash and paid the price. They brought physicality and certainty to the tournament, and in Francois Steyn, had perhaps the player of the group stages. The problem was, without him, they really showed their limitations. Short of the ability to kick penalties from the halfway line, and without his creativity at 12, they ended up spending 75 minutes camped in the Aussie 22 and losing 11-9. Schalk Burger was immense all tournament, and they played better against Oz than Wales or Samoa, but when you can’t score you can’t win.
Where do we start? The scarcely-deserved victories over Scotland and Argentina? The late and nasty tackles? The lack of ambition? The stupidity of some of the penalties they gave away? The chambermaid incident? A huge pity that Johnno bottled it and let the running game of last November fade into nothingness, for there are some quality players in this side. It may sound harsh, but they brought nothing to the tournament. It appears Johnno has taken them as far as he can, perhaps its time for a new beginning?
After beating the Wallabies during the summer/winter, Samoa went into the tournament very much on the Welsh and Saffa radar, and any chance of being taken lightly was gone. And they duly weren’t, with both sides playing very sensibly against the Islanders and winning. Samoa themselves rarely took the handbrake off and paid the price. Having said that, they didn’t exactly get the rub of the refereeing green, and generally played well – for example, they might have won Group B (the group of dearth). And although Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu might have a point about IRB bias, he didn’t exactly make it very well, did he?