BREAK IT DOWN

All Blacks vs. Wallabies & Rugby World Cup 2015

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To me, this has been the best Rugby World Cup ever. Not just because Japan played well and almost qualified for the quarterfinals, but mainly because many teams have improved, and nobody has been the standout performer.

Fiji, Wales and Ireland all played some fantastic Rugby, but at this level, you need a good squad to progress to the next round, as obtaining heavy injuries is part of the game.

The gap in World Rugby is closing, not as fast as we would like, but progress is the word of the hour. I remember in the 1995 World Cup, there were some cricket score results but now the smaller teams are more competitive.   In the pool stage, USA were leading 13-6 against Scotland at half time.

An area that tournament organisers need to look at and study is the schedule. One thing they can consider is making the tournament longer, so teams have more recovery time between games. Japan had to play Scotland 4 days after their bruising victory over the Springboks, and suffered for it. This is a contact sport; athletes need more time to recuperate.

Many Rugby fans are disappointed that the semi-finals were an all- Southern Hemisphere affair. But these countries know how to play the game – technical excellence and running Rugby.

So there are only two teams left standing.   Someone once said to me, “Heaven is down under.” In this case, it’s true because two sporting rivals go head-to-head for rugby’s biggest prize – the William Web Ellis Trophy, or Big Bill as we Rugby fans like to say.

Both teams had an element of luck going into this weekends final. New Zealand could have lost their semi-final match against South Africa, but the All Blacks are now a side that knows how to handle the pressure of tournament Rugby.

In 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2007, New Zealand (NZ) lost their Rugby World Cup knockout matches because they could not handle the pressure. Let’s not forget Rugby is a religion in NZ. A loss is a national disaster.

Being a mad South Africa supporter, I was hoping NZ would buckle under pressure again, but we must give credit to their bench for making the difference. However, they need to step it up big time and be more disciplined as they gave away 6 penalties against the Boks.

Australia, on the other hand, can thank their lucky stars that they even made the final 4. I feel for Scotland, and how a referee at that level could have made such an error is unforgivable.   Many referees have struggled in this tournament and World Rugby really needs to educate the men with the whistle on how they should interpret the laws of the breakdown in real play.

The Wallabies were never really troubled against Argentina, but rugby fans must put our hands up and give credit to David Pocock. The Australian has been my pick for player of the tournament, and how he manages to secure possession when his team have the ball and steal it from the opposition, is superhero-like.

So who is going to win this weekend’s match? Before I make a prediction, let’s just say it’s going to be tight and there will be plenty of big hits.   Yes, both teams have to stick to their game plan and execute it well on Rugby’s biggest stage, but both teams have to be disciplined and clinical at the breakdown. As I said earlier, that is an area that the refs have struggled with, so both teams must not give the referee an excuse to blow the whistle and punish them for infringements.

Many Malaysian Rugby fans are All Blacks fans, especially the boys from MCKK. So most of Malaysia will be in the All Blacks corner.

Whatever happens, let’s hope for one entertaining match where nobody gets sent off. Fifteen against fifteen, and 80 minutes of hammer-and- tongs Rugby!

My prediction is that the All Blacks will win by a converted try, but don’t write-off the Aussies just yet – that always makes them more hungry and determined.


Ben Ibrahim is a TV Presenter with Foxsports Asia. He is a mad South Africa supporter and is also a former Rugby referee. When he was at school, his schoolteacher said to him, “Rugby is the game they play in heaven because in heaven, you never get hurt.”