2013 Rugby League World Cup
By W D Nicolson - October 29, 2013
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Here's the question: Should the teams in the Group A and B not called Australia, New Zealand or England (and in this tournament Samoa as potentially the fourth strongest team) have played each other in the final group match rather than the first one?
Sure Australia's 28-20 win over England in the opener was a good game of footy and I totally understand why it was the first game of the tournament but the quality of the game might have been even better had this matchup been delayed for the reasons below.
Watching Fiji play Ireland this morning (I missed France beat PNG 9-8 on Monday morning but it appears the enthusiasm of the host crowds for the 'minor' nations has been awesome thus far) was a breath of international test match fresh air but with three of the four teams in each group qualifying for the Quarter Finals - some of the drama goes out of this contest with it being the first game of their campaign... as opposed to this clash dripping with the anticipation of it being sudden death for both teams as their final group game.
Now that's not to say PNG or France can't beat NZ or Samoa in their final two Group B games (likewise for Ireland and Fiji with Australia and England in Group A) - but there's a certain amount of 'ooomph' that's just been blown out of PNG and Ireland's sails with them both knowing they've lost the one game that really was their best chance at making the Quarter Finals... and it's happened straight away, bringing with it the feeling of their tournament is over before it has really even begun.
Watching Neville Costigan interviewed after PNG lost their match with France - you could see and hear the dejection he was burdened with because of the result.
On the other hand Fiji and France who won their respective clashes, now know that basically the only way they miss out on the Quarter Finals is if Ireland beat Australia or England or PNG beat Samoa or New Zealand. Granted Samoa could still get beaten by PNG or France, but realistically the remaining games in the Group A and B stage now unfortunately have an air of inevitability to them...
Which didn't need to happen - even if Fiji, PNG, France and Ireland were smashed in their opening two games against the higher profile nations - they would not have found it hard to find the enthusiasm needed to lift for a sudden death game at the end of the group stage. And the build-up to these games would've been a massive boost to the tournament's vibe as the group stages came to a close... but now barring a major upset - the Qualifying Finalists from Group A and B are pretty much set... two weeks before they really had to be.
But alas... this wasn't thought through quite enough and let's be clear this is more a case of 'opportunity lost' than any monumental blunder.
Still - the tournament has started superbly and bring on plenty more of it please!
Do you agree that the teams who are likely to fight it out for the 3rd seed in Group A and B should play in the final group match?
Let us know by commenting below or replying on Twitter.
And one more thing: The crowd at Cardiff for the tournament opener might have been impressive as a statistic but the enthusiasm of attendees at the other four games has been the greatest story so far of this World Cup. While there might be a high percentage of ex-pats helping boost the crowds for these games - really it is just a bonus because it appears they are there along with plenty of local 'neutral' supporters and that is a great thing. So take a bow UK fans - Australian fans have a long way to go before they realise that just because your team isn't playing doesn't mean you can't enjoy a great day/night out at the footy. And that mindset is sadly built-in to club level football and is a real problem the game has to try and address... at some stage.
Check back on www.wdnicolson.com tomorrow for analysis on where Australia, New Zealand, England and Samoa are placed one game into the tournament...
Click on the Game for the Match Highlights:
AUS 28-20 ENG | ITA 32-16 WAL | FRA 9-8 PNG | NZL 42-24 SAM | FIJ 32-14 IRE (Full Highlights for Fij-Ire to come)
Just quickly - congratulations to James Maloney for winning the #NRLTweetPlayerofFinals Award and the Grand Final Man of the Match on Sunday after his Roosters defeated Manly 26-18 in The Decider. You can hear the full voting results on Episode 145 of NOT The Footy Show - the Grand Final Review Podcast.
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We might be back for a few shows during the World Cup - but then again... we might not.Follow @NRLTweet