- 20 Oct 07, 08:22 AM
So it’s all over. After all the waiting, the hype and all the expectation, the tournament seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and leaves us with another four years to dwell over the next one.
What a tournament it was though. I think in hindsight, it will be regarded as the best yet for a number of reasons.
Most importantly for the game, France 2007 can be remembered as they year when the supposed also-rans came to the party.
The performances of the South Sea Island teams were a breath of fresh air for the tournament and although it was only Fiji who managed to break into the promised land of the last eight, neither Tonga nor Samoa would have been out of place there either.
And I am in total agreement with the weight of comment I have read, urging the IRB to help their respective unions by means of sheer financial clout and more importantly a sound infrastructure which will allow the sport to progress in the long term.
Argentina were arguably the team of the tournament and their ascent into the world’s top three is a massive achievement.
They didn’t get there through clichéd determination, passion or spoiling tactics either. Their brand of rugby was attacking, adventurous and fearless and their play-off win against the hosts was one of the highlights of the tournament in what the experts predicted would be a damp squib of a game.
The challenge now is for the IRB, the Six Nations Committee, the Tri-Nations Committee and the Argentine Rugby Union, to come together and discuss where Argentina’s future lies with regards to their future competition.
For the third ranked nation in the world not to be included in any meaningful annual competition cannot be right and therefore, it is imperative they find a home.
Another triumph of this tournament turned out to be its unpredictability. Granted, after All Blacks, South Africa would have been second favourites to take the crown, but apart from their victory, very little else went to script.
The elimination of Wales and Ireland at the group stage and, although it seems strange to say now, the progression of England to the last eight, when they had looked down and out after their first encounter with the Springboks, started the trend.
Then there was the unforgettable quarter-final weekend when the rugby world was turned on its head.
New Zealand is still in mourning following their trip to Cardiff and the Australians are probably still wondering where their world cup went. The Fijian’s gave the eventual champions their biggest scare of the tournament and Argentina qualified for their first ever semi-final.
It was the most amazing and dramatic weekend of rugby there has ever been and in years to come, I think it will be that weekend that will live in the memory.
The English, typified the unpredictability of the tournament in by-passing the hosts, who had seemingly played their final that day in Cardiff, to make the final but in the other semi, Argentina’s dreams were dashed.
And the final lived up to all expectations, those expectations being that it would be forwarded orientated, very tight and lost by the team who blinked first.
The South Africans came through without ever really hitting first gear - which had been the case throughout the tournament, and they have walked away as champions without ever really breaking a sweat. The draw panned out very well for them, with them not having to face New Zealand, Australia or France at any stage.
For England, the final proved to be a step too far and they will have been disappointed to have been beaten at their own game. I’m sure if you had offered their fans the journey they’ve had though in the wake of the South Africa group game, then you would have had your hand bitten off.
Congratulations must go to them for the way in which they came back from that defeat so doggedly and ultimately came so close to retaining their title.
As for Wales, it was a turbulent period and we will rue a missed opportunity. It was disappointing that we came into the game too late against Australia and the loss to Fiji has been well documented.
As I have said previously, it is down to us as players to prove that we can get to the level we think we are capable of with the talent that we have at our disposal and, contrary to recent newspaper headlines regarding my comments in this blog, achieve a blend of rugby utilising the undoubted attacking flair that we have in this country on the back of a solid structure based on a sound set-piece and an effective defensive system.
Overall, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable time in the world of rugby union delivering emotional highs and lows for all involved and in the first blog of this series I said how I hoped the French flair and attitude towards the game would rub off on the competition as a whole and I think it is safe to say that it did.
The French have raised the bar again for New Zealand in 2011 and who knows what will happen there; how about a Fiji v Wales final? We can but hope!
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank a friend of mine, Paul Barry, without his help this blog would not have got off the ground and to all at the BBC thanks.
Stay sexy Wales!
Ryan Jones plays number eight for Wales but misses the World Cup through injury.