Alastair Hignell

The word is 'non' (80)

Paris - It is not true that the first word a French child learns to utter is “non”. It just feels like it.

The petty bureaucracy for which the Rugby World Cup host country is infamous has, it seems, become even more of an art form.

The stadium entrance you used yesterday, you can’t use today. You‘re not allowed to take this lift - even though it’s the only one that will take you to the press conference. You mustn’t go through that door - even if your accreditation allows you to be on the other side of it.

You can buy a soft drink in the media centre, but not a sandwich - even though the two are stacked next door to each other in the cooling cabinet.

The restrictions are trifling, but, because they are unfathomable, intensely irritating.

You start to take seriously the words of a journalist who light-heartedly declared that France’s two national sports were going on strike and sidestepping laws they don’t agree with.

You start to understand how the big “non” himself, Charles de Gaulle, could pose the question,”how can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different types of cheese?”

But you don’t question what staging this World Cup, or what last week-end’s extraordinary victory over New Zealand, means to the French people as a whole.

The extraordinary scenes in old Marseille on Saturday, when, in front of giant TV screens, the delirium of England fans still basking in the glory of that afternoon’s shock defeat of Australia, was matched and then magnified by French acclaim for events in Cardiff, were repeated throughout the country.

And, while Sunday’s newspapers blared “Enormes” and “Immenses” in banner headlines, one of the most repeated shots on French TV was the joy on the face of President Sarkozy as he sat in the stands at Cardiff.

And well might he grin. He knows what happened to Jacques Chirac’s poll ratings in 1998; the then president didn’t know half the names of the France team which won the French-hosted football World Cup but still saw his popularity soar. Sarkozy has some painful reforms to implement. He’s desperate, therefore, to cash in on any feel-good factor engendered by “Les Bleus”.

And broadcasters TF1 have also got a lot riding on French success; if Bernard Laporte’s men make it to the final, the channel can charge over 200,000 euros per 30 second advertising slot. If it doesn’t, the price is less than half that figure.

While the French economy as a whole is looking for a boost - a successful competition could, it’s been calculated, bring an extra 1.6 million tourists and an extra two billion euros per year - the British economy is apparently already suffering.

One survey reckons that one in ten British workers will spend at least 30 minutes a day catching up on the World Cup, with a total loss of 31 million hours' productivity and about £461m.

From a rugby point of view, that’s worth every penny. After an abject performance against South Africa, England were written off by everyone except themselves.

Now, especially following the exit of Australia and New Zealand, they entertain a realistic hope of becoming the first side in history to retain the World Cup.

First in their way, though, is a French team that believes that, after its own near-miraculous victory over New Zealand, it too has a date with destiny. The nation as a whole believes it too, and in a million words or so has not been afraid to express it.

By contrast, Phil Vickery and his men only need to know one word on Saturday night. The word is “non”.

Alastair Hignell is a former England rugby international who commentates on rugby union for Radio 5 Live. He is covering England at the World Cup. 5 Live's full broadcast schedule is here.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:23 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Craig Baker wrote:

I think england have a realistic chance of beating france on saturday. Let me ask you one question: when was the last time you saw france play well in two consecutive games?

  • 2.
  • At 06:50 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • yassine wrote:

When they beat england 2 games in a row last summer

  • 3.
  • At 07:09 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Laurent Mialon wrote:

Against England just before the world cup. ;-)

  • 4.
  • At 07:38 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Rugbynewz wrote:

Who are the match officials for the semi finals?

It has been suggested elsewhere that France's name has already been etched on the Webb Ellis, surely not.

  • 5.
  • At 07:44 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Matty wrote:

England cannot score tries against top class defences. It's crazy to think that we will get through playing a tight game again. The french scrummage far better than the aussies, and have quality in the backs. We need a miracle to beat the French. Luckily, the French do seem to have a habit of giving them out.

  • 6.
  • At 07:47 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Rugbynewz wrote:

Who are the match officials for the semi finals?

It has been suggested elsewhere that France's name has already been etched on the Webb Ellis, surely not.

  • 7.
  • At 07:48 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • chris proctor wrote:

fair play to england to beating the aussies but come on, do you honestly think they have got a chance against les bleus. Comfortbale win for france i think. hopefully michalak will play and really press home the advantage

  • 8.
  • At 07:53 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

In a perfect world the final should have been SA v Argentina. They are the only two sides not to lose a game. What's more SA has already thrashed England and Argentina beat France. It's really a pity the two southern hemisphere sides can't meet each other in the final, where they belong. Perhaps the rules should be changed to exclude losers from the finals.

  • 9.
  • At 08:15 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

Living in South Africa, all the talk is that the cup is theirs to lose. However, although they have a strong side they are not invincible as the last Tri-Nations results show (1 win and 3 losses) and as yet they are untested. Should they reach the final I feel that the winner will be from the England / France clash. The Boks have a leaky defence and they don't realise it. The other remaining sides should show stout defence and the Boks will wilt in the last 15 mins.

  • 10.
  • At 09:01 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Alex Schuster wrote:

"Perhaps the rules should be changed to exclude losers from finals." Comment # 8. And perhaps pigs should also be allowed to fly.

If this were purely a knockout competition, then obviously losers would, in the final analysis, be excluded from finals. But this is a tournament involving both league and knock out stages. The whole point is that teams, such as England and France, are enabled, by the rules of the competition, to improve in calibre over the course of the "tournament".

If, for example, France and Argentina end up playing one another twice, once in the opening game and once in the final, no one is going to question France's entitlement to the Rugby World Cup if they beat Argentina in the final.

When Argentina played in the opening round, they recognised that the reward for beating both France and Ireland would be to banish the French to Cardiff and a match against the All Blacks. That was their reward for beating France. But the Argentinians also realise that, to win the tournament, it may also be necessary to beat France twice. They never, for one moment, would have contemplated that their initial victory against France (in the context of a league situation) would ultimately absolve them from the responsibility of having to beat France a second time in a knock out context in the final.

The same sometimes happens in football. Though beaten by Hungary and East Germany in earlier rounds of the World Cup during the 1950s and 1970s respectively, West Germany (as it then was) still went on to win the World Cup by claiming victory in the finals of these competitions.

  • 11.
  • At 09:32 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • nick wrote:

I don't think the french should take anything from the pre match world cup games, they beat us before the 2003 world cup and then when we met them in the cup, it was a different story. Besides England really should have won one of the 2 matches.

The English pack will boss the french but not in the same way as against Australia, but I think the battle at the breakdown will be much closer. The English back division has been written off but they have been gaining in confidence and the french will assume they can beat the english. It is not attack that wins world cups it is defence and England will be stronger in defence.England to win by 5-8.

  • 12.
  • At 10:04 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • spooner wrote:

8 Chris, take more water with it!
Let's change the rules as we go along then.
Let's get rid of all the underdogs shall we? Fiji shouldn't be allowed through to the 1/4s because they struggled to beat Japan.
And remember how Tonga were so close to beating SA, if one bounce had gone their way? It was the SA 2nd team I've heard people say, well that would have served them just right.
In the final where they belong??
Of course they do, it's the final that everyone predicted before the tournament, n'est-ce pas?
Mind you, just a thought, the rules do currently exclude losers from the finals.
Ask New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Scotland.
And whilst we are on the subject of answers to questions, chris proctor, "do you honestly think they have got a chance against les bleus"?
Did anyone honestly think they had got a chance against les australiens?

  • 13.
  • At 11:16 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • Mike Jones wrote:

I quote the relevent rules on putting the ball in at a setscrum situation:

The player putting in the ball shall
stand one meter from the scrummage and midway between the two front rows;

hold the ball with both hands midway between the two front rows at a level midway between his knee and ankle;

from that position put in the ball

without any delay or without feint or backward movement, i.e. with a single forward movement, and at a quick speed straight along the middle line so that it first touches the ground immediately beyond the width of the nearer prop's shoulders.

Could someone please explain to me how it is that the refs; seem to allow without hiderence non straight input!!!!!

  • 14.
  • At 11:45 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • BRYAN wrote:

It doesn't matter how you play the ref will decide who will win. Funny to see Barnes is to take no more part in the WC, could this having any thing to do with him only reffing one team at a time. France must be so good they played perfect rugby in the second half as there where no penalties which has to be a first. Has any another team been able to do this for 40mins or is it only because of the ref. Go take a look, it would to sad to see this happen in the final. My girlfriend still can't understand about not using hands in the ruck or forward passes, how can she ever learn the laws if the ref doesn't know.

  • 15.
  • At 11:56 PM on 08 Oct 2007,
  • BRYAN wrote:

It doesn't matter how you play the ref will decide who will win. Funny to see Barnes is to take no more part in the WC, could this having any thing to do with him only reffing one team at a time. France must be so good they played perfect rugby in the second half as there where no penalties which has to be a first. Has any another team been able to do this for 40mins or is it only because of the ref. Go take a look, it would to sad to see this happen in the final. My girlfriend still can't understand about not using hands in the ruck or forward passes, how can she ever learn the laws if the ref doesn't know.

  • 16.
  • At 12:10 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Gordon Mutch wrote:

So already the knives are out to cull the "minnows" from the tournament so that the expected favourites can win. What a bunch of cowards and whingers! It is the minnows that made this World Cup such a memorable tournament.

If it isa lack of hard matches for the big name teams that is the problem then perhaps Scotland should have been obliged to play there strongest side against the All Blacks, etc. Perhaps the squads should be reduced in numbers? How about some original thinking here not just knee jerk reactions. Also, some of the most entertaining games were between equally matched "minnows". How about Canada or Fiji vs Japan. How about the All Blacks allowing players to go abroad and still pick them for the national side? After all that is why the Argentiniams are world class now! Some of the best tries in the tournament came about when courageous minnows scored fabulous tries against more favoured opponents, e.g. the US vs SA or Portugal vs the AB. Oh no, it just doesn't do to embarrass the big guys.

  • 17.
  • At 04:31 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • gareth wrote:

This is twice now I have seen someone suggesting the rules be changed so that we can get a Southern Hemisphere final.

In the words of Paddy O'Brien some people need to "grow up". The traditional method of getting that final is winning your crunch games.

  • 18.
  • At 05:40 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Gary Thompson wrote:

The word should be "non" to John O’Neill, the chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union - his comments have carefully been swept under the carpet or should that be the turf, but I for one love my sport RUGBY and I have for the past 34 years of playing the game, I turned away form soccer at a young age as there was too much hatred in the game for me, RUGBY is a hard, physical battle and there is no room for the likes of O’Neill in the game. I have played all over the world – Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, France, Spain, etc. And nowhere have I ever encountered any racism as commented but Mr. O’Neill. Would he prefer our great sport to be reduced to the round ball game of fights in the streets, trashing town centres and segregated seating in stadiums? I have RUGBY friends of all nationalities many of them Australian, we slegg, each other and tell jokes and generally have a good laugh, but we do not hate each other
The IRB should stand up and be counted and get people like this out of the game.
O’Neill – get a life and another job

  • 19.
  • At 05:45 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Doug M. wrote:

I think The Pumas can consider themselves very lucky. Two chargedowns.. both ended in Argentinian hands - a forward pass called back that was no more forward than many that escaped notice in other games. I also felt the ref was very poor in the first half, awarding penalties against the Scots when the Pumas were continually not staying on their feet and handling in the ruck.

At this point I cannot see the Pumas rolling the Bokke, but it should be an excellent game.

As for Scotland - the backs were very poor for 3/4 of the game, Lamont should be ashamed of himself. But so many elementary skill errors from all players in a game that Scotland should have won. Unusually, Scotland looked the fitter side in the last quarter and should have won it from there.

On a positive note, we have what looks like some good potential, but we also need players who can run on to a pass, and who have the speed as well as the size to test defences. And what has happened to the Scottish breakaways of the past? Jefferies and Beatty must be devastated.

I don't think Hadden has been bad, and we must be realistic about the limitations of the pool of players, but surely we should be looking to make semi-finals at least. For goodness sake, we can be a better side than England and they have an excellent chance of reaching the Final.

  • 20.
  • At 06:40 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • david wrote:

Leave Wayne Barnes alone,
He had a good game as a ref on saturday. For once we had a ref who picked up on the AB playing the ball on the ground illegally most of time in first half 2nd half McCaw realised he was undone didn't do it! On the question of france under laporte they are no longer side who will give away silly penalties besides the guy who normally give them away serge betsen was off the field in the 1st 30seconds.
The forward pass hands up who would have seen from 20meters away at full speed (contenious as even with slow motion the action is the ball is being passed backwards with interia of the ball and players at such speed it will always look forwards), refs are taught people come to watch a rugby match not listen to someone blow their whistle. Barnes remembered this and refed a fantastic match in terms of drama.
A pity Barnes isn't playing any further part as he has been one of the best refs of the tournament so far, who has always communicated clearly with the players and got 90% of the calls right. I wish I could say it was because England are in the semi's that he is no longer involved but with Kaplan refing the Eng Vs France I don't why? I am also aghast that Kaplan and Steve "i'm on tele" Walsh are still involved, although Kaplan has actually picked up a rule book about scrums. I don't envy the Boks or the Argies with Walsh who takes self importance to a new level (he is the ilk that think people paid good money to hear him do a shrill on his little piece).
At least they have put the best Ref in the final Alain Rolland is probably the best in the world at the mom it is also interesting that he is an ex international player.
PS as Sad Welsh man I glad that a Celt will pick-up a finals medal.
PPS We should just clone derek bevan to be honest he was the best ref ever. I know I'm biased but compared with some the current bunch i would him have run the match even if he needed a zimmer frame at least I know it would fair.

  • 21.
  • At 07:44 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Cliff Betton wrote:

Rugby is first and foremost a team game. A good team will nearly always beat a team of more talented individuals. England have not had a team since 2003 - until the last few weeks. The not-scoring of tries will be overcome as the team develops and players trust their relationships with their colleagues. Sheer bloody mindedness, which England have always had, is now starting to be bolstered by the trust and inate understanding of a team. Will they win? Who knows. Can they win? Of course, and that knowledge is all that is needed. Never bet against the French, but do not bet against England in this one either, sheer bloody mindedness may make the difference on Saturday, and we have that in abundance.

  • 22.
  • At 07:59 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Joe RYAN wrote:

One thing that both sets of fans should work on, is their singing. I'd rather listen to the "Fields of Athenry" than "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" or "Allez les Bleus". Saturday night's win over the ABs was disfigured by the mindless chants of "On a gagné, on a gagné" and "On est en demi, on est en demi". Five minutes is OK, but it does get on one's nerves after an hour.

  • 23.
  • At 08:04 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Chris Edelsten wrote:

Hi I know this is slightly off the point but can anyone find an article written by Zinzan Brooke since the England victory and the NZ downfall? He has slated England in his column for along time but then as soon as he needs to eat humble pie and admit he was wrong about everything for the last 3 years there is no site of him.

  • 24.
  • At 08:16 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

Keep the sin bin empty, france are brilliant when they play against 14.
John St.Etienne.

  • 25.
  • At 08:41 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • weakone wrote:

England have to recall and study the Argentinian V France game. Every single Argentinian appeared to wish to die for the cause. I was at the game and was immensely impressed with the way they laid their bodies on the line. It was relentless. For France, it might be 'non' But for England it has to be 'do or die.'
Everyone acknowledges what Martin Johnson said about the last twenty minutes. But we have to be in the game for the first hour. France will know that it is critical to make us play catch up. If England can repeat the performance of last Saturday. It will be a marvel.

  • 26.
  • At 10:02 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Iggystan wrote:

"One survey reckons that one in ten British workers will spend at least 30 minutes a day catching up on the World Cup, with a total loss of 31 million hours' productivity and about £461m."

Perhaps some of this shortfall should be provided by yourself Mr Hignall as, indeed, I am not being productive whilst reading this just now. ;0)

  • 27.
  • At 10:30 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Lawther wrote:

Just read that Serge Betson has been passed fit for Saturday.
What a joke!
The man looked as if he was dead on Saturday and they now say he isn't even concussed!
The same happened to Chris Patterson v New Zealand- he got a bang on the head and wondered around for 10 mins on the pitch and was deemed fit to play in the next game.
The Concussion 3 week rule is now a joke!

  • 28.
  • At 11:01 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

With one exception there has been no comment regarding the appointment of Jonathan Kaplan as the referee for the England France semi, does no-one remember the Ireland game in 2005 - why does the IRB seem so insistent on causing contention? It seems incredible that someone who has been so outspoken against one team should be officiating them in a WC semi-final.

  • 29.
  • At 11:07 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

We can see some upset kiwis here.. LOL
In 4 years, maybe ;-)

  • 30.
  • At 11:42 AM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Jacky wrote:

For heavens sake Bryan, get a life, I have heard so much of this crap on New Zealand talk back radio, everyone blaming everybody but the team and their management. If the All blacks had any get up and go they would have recovered from these setbacks, flattened the opposition and scored tries. Instead they stood back and sulke, 'we were hard done by again'. I not that whenever the all blacks flout the rules and get away with exactly the same sort of thing people like Bryan aren't protesting they are praising 'intelligent thinking'! As a Kiwi I would prefer we were honest.

  • 31.
  • At 12:05 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Paul Booth wrote:

Yes, we are all looking forward to Zinzan Brooke's next article on the BBC's rugby page. Incidentally, he did say he wanted England to win against Australia. If only, because that would be an easier passage for the All Blacks. Thanks Zinzan, perhaps you could back England against the French because they might be easier for South Africa in the final!

  • 32.
  • At 12:05 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • hugh thompson wrote:

How can Betsen be available to play? He was clearly KOed. Surely he has to have a break from the game for 3 weeks?

I hope its a cracking game on Saturaday. England demolished the Aussie pack, but must find a way of scoring at least 25 points against Les Blues. Tries are a must.

Les Blues fully desirved their win and well done to Mr Barnes for spotting the deliberate block by McAlister. The ABs have been getting away with this for years (ask Lewis Moody in the Lions shirt.

Roll on Saturday

  • 33.
  • At 12:24 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Gareth wrote:

The difference with now and 2003

Twickenham - England smash france
Marseille - France squeak past England reserves

Twickenham - France edge England
Marseille - France never in trouble

France are better now than 2003, England aren't. I think it is very intruiging, I would like France to get to the final but like any match between a 6N side, any result is possible.

  • 34.
  • At 12:25 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Charlie wrote:

As if New Zealand couldn't be more humiliated, their rugby public is blaming a referee for their exit from the RWC! This, lest ye forget, is a team rested during the Super 14s to achieve PBs in all activities (self confessed) and has for two years boasted about having two first XVs (but no first choice centre partnership).

NZ couldn't have prepared better for this RWC but choked it. The big players didn't front up, the tactics were naive. Case closed.

One last thing. Hope all the northern hemisphere fans noted a huge turnaround in Aussie and NZ affection for the drop goal! Demeaned and mocked for years, it was highly amusing to note Latham take a 50m potshot v England as the game ebbed away, and McAllister try the same as his forwards retreated up the pitch.

Maybe a bit more practice eh?

  • 35.
  • At 12:37 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • BigJW wrote:

I think the IRB believe France have a date with destiny appointing the French speaking Monsiour Rolland as the ref for the final. And they said the Kiwis were wrong about conspiracy theories!

  • 36.
  • At 12:39 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Lee wrote:

Chris #7
I hope Michalak plays too, he was awesome in 2003 when we met the French in the semis in the rain ....... Oh hang on, he disappeared like a sulky school boy and France got beaten easily.

England by 15 points the seige mentality in the rain to triumph over lacy French knickers that are all frills and spills.

  • 37.
  • At 12:40 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Carl Simons wrote:

I fully agree with Alistair about the baffling French organisation.

I went to both games in Marseilles and sat in practically the same seat. When we left the ground after the Fiji/SA game there was a cordon of Police preventing us from going the same way around the ground as the previous day. This meant we had to walk almost entirely round the stadium to get to where we wanted to be.

When we asked why this was so we got the increasingly familiar catch all answer nowadays of "security" and that was it.

  • 38.
  • At 12:44 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Carl Simons wrote:

I have saying for ages that the All Blacks persistently infringe at the breakdown. They are one of the most cynical international sides going.

Barnes got it spot on with his refereeing at the ruck and it was a nailed on yellow card for obstruction. McAllister cynically and delibrately obstructed a player who was about to past him in pursuit of a try. This was exactly the kind of offence for which the sin bin was introduced.

  • 39.
  • At 01:11 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Johnno wrote:

Great results for European rugby...

This part of the globe has needed a bit more self belief. Some here (speaking from an English perspective), seemed to be intimidated by all the hype from the SH teams. Besides that, it´s great to see the Australians having to eat humble pie. They´re not God´s Gift to world sport, as some would like you to think.

Can´t wait for England-France. But if France are good enough to beat England, I´ll be cheering them through to the Final. They have a quiet non-arrogant confidence, but are respectful of England, its close neighbours.

  • 40.
  • At 01:19 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Roy wrote:

Isn't this supposed to be about rugby? I see the English press are already digging deep into the well of anti-French cliches. This week of all weeks, lets talk about the rugby, and not indulge in moronic nationalist tripe like this.

  • 41.
  • At 01:32 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • John Cooke wrote:

Looks like a France v Argentina Final on present form. With France to win it. In truth, England are happy to be where they are now having found some half-decent form. SA have not even flattered to deceive and have not had a real match yet. Just look what happened to Aus and NZ because of this. Both were kicked out by far lesser teams.
France and Argentina have been building up nicely to this stage and both have had some real heavy games up to now. They are both ready mentally and physically. Boy, am I glad I backed them both to make it at 50-1! SA and England are not in the same zone as Fra & Arg, I'm afraid. Sorry boys and girls, but you know it’s true. It is nice to dream though. You got to have a dream

  • 42.
  • At 01:37 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • BartonAlan wrote:

Come on, you lot complaining about NZ illegal play, EVERY team does it as much as they can get away with, and they get away with far too much with referees giving evryone 2 chances not to infringe "No Hands!", "Leave the Ball!", Roll Away!", "Release!" - every time these are shouted, it is a player getting away with attempting illegal play. Some teams may get away with more, probably as they are better / more experienced players, but they all try it on. The sooner we get rid of the referees instructing the players all the time, and they call the penalty when they first see the offence, the sooner we will stop this.
For myself (not a Kiwi), I was sympathetic to NZ on the refereeing decisions, but the ref is human and is just as prone to the odd mistake as the rest of us. I don't think McAlister's obstruction was deliberate, and Jauzion's dive was blatant.
France - SA final, I think.

  • 43.
  • At 01:41 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Brodders wrote:

PLEASE (BRYAN of comment 15, and everybody putting a negative spin on this RWC) stop insulting the referee. Wayne Barnes made a mistake for a forward pass and he has recognised that. That really is it, and all about it. Any talk of conspiracies is just an hysterical and idiotic reaction. Barnes is being fully backed by the IRB, and (of course) they are now part of a conspiracy too....why wouldn't they be? (note irony)

Has anyone stopped for one second to consider Wayne's record in the Guinness Premiership, or (*gasp*) how this hype over ONE mistake might affect him? Referees are human, and will officiate as such until such time as one of the agressive NZ fans invents a better system.

You forget that without a referee you wouldn't have been able to watch a game in the first place.

Now, just because NZ have been knocked out it doesn't mean that the rest of us can't enjoy a good end to an exciting World Cup. Anyone would think that something catastrophic had just happened...

  • 44.
  • At 01:47 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • PhilDog wrote:

I am amused by the comments of those who have never refereed a rugby match in their life. As a former ref, let me make some observations.

Barnes missed the forward pass from Traille to Michalak, but the touch judge should have seen it. The pass from Michalak was a very close decision. Spotting forward passes all depend on positioning and the ref is not always in control of that. Sometimes the straight line is not an option for the ref as players do get in the way, especially loose forwards.

The yellow card for McAllister was spot on. he impeded the runner by moving into his path. It was cynical foul play and the yellow was correct.

Rolland was excellent in the QF. The reason he penalised England early on was because the English front row was driving Australia down. That is a penalty offence. Full credit to the English front row for changing their scrummaging. They kept the front row up and put legitimate pressure on Australia. That is why Rolland changed the penalty count. Full marks to him and Sheridan and Vickery.

Walsh is a joke - he is the star, in his own eyes and should be dropped from the panel (Ireland v France @ Croke Park, his inconsistency was appalling. Kaplan is not much better - look at when he was knocked over by the Italian centres v Scotland. He should have been well out of the way. Jonker is the best Saffer ref by a long distance. He should be looking to get the 2011 final.

What about the semis? I think the French team will change and Laporte will encourage his team to play wide. England cannot defend that as the team is too slow. If Laporte plays it tight, England could win.

If SA go asleep as against Fiji, they will lose. I can't wait for the scrums in that! Both games are potentially close, but France and SA by at least 10 in each.

  • 45.
  • At 02:05 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Steve C wrote:

I'm really looking forward to England getting knocked out of the World Cup so we can get some unbiased TV commentary. Also they are by far the most unattractive rugby side left in the competition.

  • 46.
  • At 02:31 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Tez wrote:

#45: non they're not ... Argentina are by a country mile.

  • 47.
  • At 02:42 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • BigJW wrote:

I am largely amused also by English fans now openly supporting the French, who they generally lambast! I guess the tables will be turned next week. I wonder then if they will be as open in their support of a referee if he does not give any penalties against France for 55 mins, wouldn't that negate the English game plan? How will they score if their kicker is effectively 'refereed'out the game?

  • 48.
  • At 02:49 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • alec in France wrote:

"I'm really looking forward to England getting knocked out of the World"
I love it when people say inane things like that, it's like saying:
"They cant possibly lose from here"

  • 49.
  • At 03:27 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • alastair wrote:

spot on gary (comment 18), the big difference between football and rugby always has been the fact that in rugby, before and after the match it is all about the banter, and the comments about all aussies hating the english only goes to ruin the amazing reputation rugby has (a thugs game played by gentlemen)

As for Bryan, please follow jackys example (comment 30) and be gracious in defeat, yes barnes missed a couple of decisions but mcalister did not help himself by raising his arm...if it is as he said non-intentional he should have kept his arm down, that slight raise is probably the reason he got the yellow card as it makes the run look intentional!!!

Finally comment 42 Bartonalan, you have hit the nail on the head...the problem is most teams seem to get penalised whilst ye southern hemisphere teams SEEM to (this doesnt mean it always happens), but they seem to get away with it more than most teams.

But to leave you with a quote, i think it was matt dawson but i cant quite remember, but whoever it was said "In rugby, you cheat, and cheat and cheat untill you get caught...and then you cheat some more"

  • 50.
  • At 04:00 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • sacha wrote:

Right all you england haters we are comming into form and whilst underdogs have a chance of winning I am sorry your nteams were not good enough but get over it. as for commentry it is not biased Barnes seems to pick any and every fault with english players and in any case french commentaters are biased to them and so on also get over it

  • 51.
  • At 04:06 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Nick Christodoulou wrote:

Amidst the hype about England's win over Australia, some pee for the bonfire and some praise for under-rated players-

Wilkinson is not playing well. His place kicking is below average, his kicking from hand is poor, his passing forces the recipient to take the ball standing still and even his tackling (probably wisely) has lost its ferocity. He has to play, of course, but he needs to lift his game.

Easter is playing blinders every time, with big hits, long carries and great steals. His solidity is Deano-esque.

And someone give Mathew Tait a break and some praise. I've watched the England games several times. Offensively he's been by far the most elusive England back and defensively he's hardly put a foot wrong. Stuart Barnes can't say a good word about him.

  • 52.
  • At 04:55 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Brett1967 wrote:

Hey, the best thing I've heard all week, out of the Valleys of Wales is that not only is our Ref Gay - Half the team and Gareth jenkins are too! The rumours are abound, and this would all be quite funny if it wasn't so sad. If these are the only constructive comments to come out of a proud rugby nation like Wales, what chance of we got of having a really close look at the set up. The irony is however, it's nearly the same team that won the Grand Slam in 2005 and nobody was complaining then about their sexual preferences, and even funnier is the fact that the people of Wales actual believe this rubbish and give it creedance in conversation. As a proud and openly Gay Welsh rugby fan I think it is an insult to spout such homophobic clap trap, because I can assure you if the whole team had been Gay, they'd have looked better, warn the jersey with more pride and performed better than the team that did take the pitch.

There seem to be quite a few comments of the, "England have got no chance," type. I would have thought that, after last weekends amazing matches, people would be a little more wary.

  • 54.
  • At 07:28 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • paulcedron wrote:

The final will be England- Argentina. No doubt about it :)

  • 55.
  • At 09:36 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Ronan wrote:

Re: Big JW'S comments about Alain Rolland speaking French. Surely it is a positive development that the IRB may be beginning to realise that rugby is not only played by English speaking nations. It has always struck me as profoundly unfair in the Six Nations that people like Tony Spreadbury go down the old British tourist route of assuming that if they speak slowly and loudly, the French (or Italian) player will understand.

  • 56.
  • At 10:35 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • steve wrote:

not sure if you can compare with footbal world cups but the dark horse for me is england who have made steady progress without setting the world on fire!!!And if they do really hit their straps god help france and the saffers.Its the business end of a competition and england id say are favourites

  • 57.
  • At 12:17 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • David Falder wrote:

I like to see England beat Australia for the same reason I like to see England beat Germany in footie... they set a benchmark that we aspire to... it's a genuine achievement to be proud of whether it's union, cricket or rugby league. What is the satisfaction (as a player or fan) in seeing cricket scores on the board against a weaker team providing little contest.
This statement, however, is not meant to back the suggestions of slimming down the world cup at the expense of the smaller rugby playing nations. The effort and ability displayed by the "no chance" teams in this tournement have been the best advert for world rugby the IRB could have hoped for and made the whole event a pleasure to watch. Dropping them would devalue the title "World Cup" to the point of being completely irrelevant... a bit like the American world series in baseball.

  • 58.
  • At 02:32 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

Rugbynewz get over it, your team lost but the players still show a lot more class in defeat than their supporters. When I think some of you guys burnt the All Blacks flag, it says it all. I live in Auckland and I am used to go to Eden Park, never been particularly impressed with the mood in the stadium. Try Toulouse, Biarritz, Toulon or pretty much any rugby Stadium down the south of France and you will get a real blast of celebration. But now I have the confirmation that most Kiwi supporters do not deserve to have such a legendary team as the ABs.
Good luck to McCaw & co. with such a sad environment I wonder why they would bother to win every single game they play.

  • 59.
  • At 02:52 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

Chris I bet you are neither South African nor Argentinian. You are probably a frustrated Kiwi or Aussie who suddenly found a passion for those two countries.

I love the way those guys from the Southern Hemipshere pretend they really care about the minnows. Every single time, Argentina or any of the Pacific Nations asked you to play in the Tri Nations or the Super 14, you rejected them like dogcrap.

And now you would like us to believe you are loyal to their cause... you have got one hell of a reversible jacket, mate. The truth is, the more I look at the Tri Nations today, the less I see what makes rugby such a noble and humble sport.

Bring us back Jonah Lomu, he had class on and off the field at least.

  • 60.
  • At 04:19 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

England did show some improvement but compared with what? They still did not manage to score a try and as usual Wilko fill the scoreboard on his own.

If there is one thing that should be changed after that World Cup, it is 3 points for a dropped goal. 2 points would be fair and would force every single team to attack a bit more and at least try to score tries.

If the French show as much belief and commitment as in the Cardiff match, we are in for a great semi final. If we cannot get over the Cardiff game, then we are screwed. There will be little surprise from England apart from Farell at centre maybe. Hopefully whatever is the French team that turns out, it will show a lot more than against the Argies. For me the Argies game remain the reference that should keep us away from any complecency.

  • 61.
  • At 04:21 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

BRYAN your girlfriend should get ride off you, you are such a cry baby you would certainly not go through a game like this alive.

  • 62.
  • At 04:32 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

Sure England is a dark horse, a shetland driven by a little blondie.

  • 63.
  • At 04:54 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

BigJW, all referees speak English since ages ago. If Rolland speaks French, Spanish or Chinese, who cares? First it shows that the guy has a bit of culture, second, it makes even more difficult for the French to call you a toss-pot on the field, doesn't it.

Let's face it at every world cup you will manage to put out a list of excuses as pathetic as you are. LOSER that's you!

  • 64.
  • At 05:05 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bonux wrote:

Please try to spell it right:

Les Bleus

and not les Blues. Otherwise I have got the blues.

  • 65.
  • At 05:53 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • DaveKiwi wrote:

My enduring memory of this Cup will not be how well France or England played but rather, absolute amazement at the complete load of arse the British media is capable of spewing out when required.

  • 66.
  • At 07:44 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • bokkieboy wrote:

my prediction, which is often right(just won £25632 from rwc bets so far) is that france bt england by no more than 10. boks bt pumas by 15. boks to win final, by 10 pts clear.

  • 67.
  • At 08:52 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • anysparechange wrote:

Chris #8 - that's the most ludicrous thing I've heard this world cup.

SA and Argentina shouldn't have to play each other in a semi because neither has lost a game? what absolute rubbish.

for the record, at home after beating NZ, I can't see past France. this view is foolish though, as I couldn't see past Australia on friday. England thoroughly deserved their hard fought victory on saturday and proved that they can compete with top sides. thus, this game could go either way but I think that at home, with their momentum and try scoring ability, France will beat England.

  • 68.
  • At 09:51 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • The Landlord wrote:

"In a perfect world the final should have been SA v Argentina. They are the only two sides not to lose a game. What's more SA has already thrashed England and Argentina beat France. It's really a pity the two southern hemisphere sides can't meet each other in the final, where they belong. Perhaps the rules should be changed to exclude losers from the finals."

There, in black and sort of grey, is all the pure, undiluted arrogance of the Southern Hemisphere in one neat, easy-to-read package. Thank Chris - it's validated perfectly my feelings towards you and people like you.

Fair play to England for beating Australia, it was a good result.

However for rugby's sake I hope to see France in the final against South Africa. Otherwise we will all be bored to complete tears come Saturday week.

Besides rugby, every now and again can throw out a one off shock result but rarely too in a row.

There was a large concensus prior to the game that France could get a result against the All Blacks but no one expected Englands win.

Therefore, I believe France will beat England comfortably by at least 12 points.

  • 70.
  • At 10:03 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Iggystan wrote:

#65. "My enduring memory of this Cup will not be how well France or England played but rather, absolute amazement at the complete load of arse the British media is capable of spewing out when required."

My enduring memory will be the gracelessness and vitriol of some of the NZ supporters in defeat.

Actually, this is not true as I wouldn't let a few perochial, blinkered, cyclops-esque opinions tarnish my memory of what has been the best world cup to date.

  • 71.
  • At 11:18 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

Consistent refereeing is all that we ask.
If the TMO was used to determine that Williams try was not legal, then the TMO also should have been used to show that French forward pass was not legal.
Give Williams his try, then ABs win by 23-20, disallow the French “try” and the ABs win by 18-13

And some contrition from the French for their immoral “win” would be appreciated

  • 72.
  • At 11:25 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • jerry white wrote:

France vs. England result may come down to whether it rains or not. Remember Sydney 2003, according to the french press at the time, as soon as they pulled open their curtains that morning their heads sunk. What's the forcast for saturday?

Also France play well when its totally against the odds and often away from home. Parc de Princes was a fortress but le Stade has never been. No expectations last weekend, too many expectation now.

England however have lacked one thing for ages -confidence. They have some now.

  • 73.
  • At 12:59 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • dex wrote:

All you people who go on about the british (or rather English) media, don't read it! I don't, it's the curse of our country. Unfortunately the media is half the reason why our football team bottle it (ie the pressure put on them) and why England managers get the sack unfairly (Bobby Robson, Glenn Hoddle). It's all sensationalist clap trap written by people less endowed than the average man.
In rugby we're either world beaters who'll brush anyone aside or not good enough to grace the local park.
Anyway England have a good chance of beating the french, however I still believe they'll provide too stiff a contest. Also SA will reach the final.... in my humble opinion.

  • 74.
  • At 01:24 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Hamboo wrote:

English confidence post 03 has been and remains a very delicate flower. However, it is not unknown for the French heads to drop in the wake of a couple of poor pasess and couple of iffy ref decisions. But there is certainly no chance that the French front five will wilt a la Oz, and can both sides repeat the almost astonishing tackle count seen on Sat. Both teams defend better than they attack - perhaps its down to Jonny again.

  • 75.
  • At 02:31 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • eugene wrote:

Neither the French nor the English deserve to be in the semis. Australia and NZ are far better sides. The trinations is leagues ahead of the 6Ns which has now been caught up by the minnow nations - the northern hemisphere needs to look at its rugby and make changes.

Saturdays quarters were an anomoly. I am gutted for Australia as they are a far more exciting side to watch than the dreary English.

As for the KIwi game can anyone tell me the last time NZ lost a game with 70% of the possession. Do not bother looking as the answer is never. What does 70% possession mean - well it means that the ABs absolutely stuffed the French up front. Yet they still lost because their backs did not perform - yet with the Aussie backs these are easily the best backs in the game. So what happened?
I would note the following, they came back on the field looking worried - I can only guess that it was because they knew that Carter was carrying an injury and he has a talisman effect on the side. Add to that the Mcallister sin binning, then the lose of Carter and kelleher then Evans and the result is that the AB backline was in chaos throughout the second half.

Yet they could still have won the game in the last 5 minutes when they were camped in the French 22 - yet they did not take a simple drop goal opportunity.

A very strange combination of events led to the defeat of the best rugby side on this planet the RWC is poorer for it.

PS C"mon wales

  • 76.
  • At 05:32 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Alex Schuster wrote:

"A very strange combination of events led to the defeat of the best rugby side on this planet and the RWC is poorer for it."

Taken in isolation, the above comment has a ring of truth to it. But the so-called "best team in the world" has been defeated in five consecutive World Cup competitions in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 respectively. ABs were certainly beaten by better teams on the day in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003. And, notwithstanding their "strange" loss in 2007 despite having 70% of the possession, most commentators seem agreed that the calibre of the French defence was amazing last Saturday night. And rugby is as much a game of defence as of attack.

And, putting it in simple terms, the All Blacks will never be regarded as the best team in the world until they actually regain the Rugby World Cup. And that will not happen for another four years. The reality being that teams like England and France reserve their best results for the Rugby World Cup. Tours to New Zealand are exciting, but not all that important in the general scheme of things. You have to be able to turn it on, rugbywise, in the white heat of a Rigby World Cup. New Zealand seem unable to do this.

  • 77.
  • At 07:33 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • alastair wrote:

"Neither the French or the English teams deserve to be in the semis. Australia and NZ are much better sides"

There are 2 fundamental things wrong with this statement eugene

1.) The fact that they are in the semis means they beat the teams in the quarters...simply put...they deserve to be there because they beat what was put in front of them

2.) Australia and NZ are much better sides?? yes maybe so but just because they have been good against minnow teams who are still full of amateurs does not give them a god given right to progress through the quarters and to the latter stages. This is pure arrogance and this is why ultimately they lost

for gods sake it is the knock out stages of the world cup.....if you do not beat the teams, you do not progress!!!

Whilst england and france have not been utterly convincing...they have played the game of their lives and do deserve to be there because for what ever reason you choose to use for the defeat....they beat the teams put in front of them

  • 78.
  • At 08:07 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Zido wrote:

The Bok's havn't yet showed their hand. Saturday will see the seperation of men from the boys. I see the springboks home by 21. As for the England-Les Bleus match, I tip the French to win by 3, through no fault of the Enlish players, but for the verbal diarhea of its bias press.They just dont learn! The countries soccer team bear testimony to this. One keeps on hearing how strong the championship is, what great players the English have produced........But sadly have nothing in its cabinet to show off. Dont tell me about the 66 cup or the 2003 RWC.It just does'nt show for all the big talk.

  • 79.
  • At 08:14 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • JASON wrote:

I see a comment about the Aussies and AB using drop goals to try and win their respective 1/4 finals. This only my idea but drop goals should stay at 3 points and penalties reduced to 2. Pens you set the ball on a tee and have 1 minute to complete the kick, drop goals you have a moments chance and then you are being charged. Taken this in to account Austrailia 9 England 8. A team that scores tries should be more rewarded than a team that kicks pens.

  • 80.
  • At 01:02 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • eugene wrote:

comment 76 Alex get a grip mate

the ABs are the best rugby side on this planet - there are no ifs or buts. Look at their standings in the IRB during the last 20 years -it is not that they are better - but when you delve into it they are actually miles better than the rest of us.

As for getting defeated during the world cup - well actually that is true for all the other nations as well, every side has been defeated in the world cup. Are you trying to say that if you are defeated during the world cup then automatically you cannot be the best side in the world!

I have to disagree with you when you say that the ABs were defeated by better sides in previous RWCs. In south Africa in 95 they were the better side but still lost. In 1999 the game against France was absolutely glorious and neither side was better than the other. Now again in 2007 they were the better side, but still lost.

I agree the French defence was great and perhaps even more importantly their discipline to avoid easy penalties was better still but they were not the best team on the field that day.

As for Alistair, post 77

people and teams often win things but this does not mean they deserve to - there are thousand of examples of this every sporting weekend.

I agree that the ABs and Aussies do not have a god given right to go through. But all this "arrogance" spin is just that, - invented by the british media who long ago stopped worrying about the truth issue in their reporting.

I guess I will get my comeback for disagreeing with you guys. So I take this opportunity to say the French will win comfortably on Saturday and grab a win against the springboks next week!

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