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Bryn Palmer (archive)

Bryn Palmer

Team of the Rugby World Cup (277)

Well, it’s all over folks. Forty-eight matches, 44 days, 12 different venues and one winner.

South Africa took the ultimate honour, but many other teams and players gave us plenty of memories to sustain us through until New Zealand 2011.

So if you were picking a composite side from all the 20 nations competing in France, who would make it into your team of the tournament?

I’ve canvassed the opinions of my colleagues in BBC Sport who have contributed to this blog over the last seven weeks, and this is our selection...


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Bryn Palmer

Highs and lows of the group stages (48)

Paris – So 40 matches down, eight to go.

The group stages are over and we are down to our eight quarter-finalists.

So I thought it was time for another batch of awards, reflecting on what we have seen so far. Again, let me know if you disagree or want to offer your own suggestions for additional honours.

Best game: Wales 34-38 Fiji .
No contest this one. Much as it was painful to watch, as a Welshman, Saturday in Nantes threw up one of the most enthralling games in the entire history of the World Cup. Nine tries in total, Fiji scoring 25 points in 10 crazy first-half minutes, Wales hitting back to lead 29-25, Fiji going back in front, Martyn Williams’ intercept try to give Wales the lead again…Fiji winning it at the death. Bewildering, breathtaking, heartbreaking stuff.

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Bryn Palmer

Irish fall under magician's spell (115)

Paris - As Argentina’s players cavorted round the Parc des Princes after the final whistle, Ireland’s stood around in stunned silence, staring vacantly into the distance.

They looked like unwanted guests at someone else’s party, not uttering a word.

They then had to go through the torturous process of collecting a medal as a permanent memento of their participation in this World Cup.

It is safe to say it won’t take pride of place in any of these players’ trophy cabinets.

Continue reading "Irish fall under magician's spell"


Bryn Palmer

Ireland ratings v Argentina (271)

Paris - I was at the Parc des Princes on Sunday as Ireland’s dismal World Cup campaign ended with a 30-15 defeat to Argentina.

Here’s how I rated each individual player’s performance. See if you agree and let us know your own thoughts.

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Bryn Palmer

Can England dare to dream again? (216)

Paris - And so it came to pass. Next Saturday, as expected, we’ll be settling down to watch England against Australia do battle for a fifth time at a Rugby World Cup.

Two wins apiece (Australia in 1987 and 1991, England in 1995 and 2003) so far, a chance for one country to edge ahead, and into this year’s semi-finals.

Four years on from that night of nights in Sydney though, the roles will be reversed.

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Bryn Palmer

England ratings v Tonga (154)

Paris - I was at the Parc des Princes on Friday night as England beat Tonga 36-20 to book a World Cup quarter-final date with Australia next Saturday, a repeat of the 2003 final.

Here’s how I rated each individual England player. See if you agree and let me know your own views.

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Bryn Palmer

England can expect some friendly fire (49)

Paris - The Kingdom of Tonga might also be known as the Friendly Islands, the name Captain Cook gave them when he arrived on the archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean in 1773.

But England are expecting a rather more hostile reception in Paris on Friday as they confront the surprise package of the World Cup.

The stakes are high for both teams, with Australia awaiting the winners in Marseille a week on Saturday in the quarter-finals.

Reaching that stage would represent a historic first for Tonga, while England aim to avoid becoming the first world champions not to advance to the knock-out stages.

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Bryn Palmer

Tonga's secret weapon - all the way from Stourbridge (31)

Paris - Heard the one about the Tongan player with the pop star name who warmed up for the World Cup with a season in the third division of English rugby?

No? Well read on.

Continue reading "Tonga's secret weapon - all the way from Stourbridge"


Bryn Palmer

England enjoy dice with death (89)

Versailles - England may still, in the words of Brian Ashton, be “looking down the barrel of a gun” as they prepare to face World Cup shock troops Tonga this week.

But if the world champions remain in do-or-die mode after their victory over Samoa, at least they now give the impression of enjoying their dice with death.

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Bryn Palmer

One Pacific Island opponent down, one to go (89)

Nantes - So England, like France, survived what the hosts billed as another match couperet in this World Cup – couperet being the blade of the guillotine.

One notoriously dangerous Pacific Island opponent overcome; another, increasingly bullish, one awaits at the Parc des Princes on Friday.

The 44-22 scoreline would suggest the world champions were twice as good as Samoa, but that is misleading in the extreme.

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Bryn Palmer

England ratings v Samoa (106)

Nantes - I was at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Saturday as England survived another scare against Samoa before pulling away to a 44-22 victory.

Here’s how I rated each individual England player’s performance. See whether you agree and give us your own thoughts.

Continue reading "England ratings v Samoa"


Bryn Palmer

Relieved hosts leave Irish in a stew (75)

Paris - From the “scenario catastrophe” of their opening-night faux pas, the cathartic effects of a comfortable and critical victory enveloped France on Friday night.

Given the enormity of what was at stake, the relief of a nation - and perhaps many neutrals who feared for this World Cup’s health without its hosts - was palpable.

Continue reading "Relieved hosts leave Irish in a stew"


Bryn Palmer

Ireland ratings v France (168)

Paris – I was at the Stade de France on Friday night as Ireland’s World Cup hopes were left hanging by a thread after a convincing 25-3 defeat by France.

Here’s how I rated each individual Ireland player’s performance. See whether you agree and let me know your own thoughts.

Continue reading "Ireland ratings v France"


Bryn Palmer

Five reasons why Ireland can beat France (91)

Paris - France are hot favourites to put their opening-night catastrophe against Argentina firmly behind them and pulverise an under-performing Ireland on Friday, taking a huge step towards the quarter-finals in the process.

So is there any hope at all for Eddie O’Sullivan’s boys? Could they upset the odds and effectively eliminate the World Cup hosts before the end of the group stages?

Let’s see if we can come up with some reasons why Irish eyes might be smiling, rather than sobbing, at the Stade de France…

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Bryn Palmer

The Caveman cometh (75)

Paris - A phenomenon sweeping across France will reach a new peak in Paris on Friday.

With the country on tenterhooks for the do-or-die World Cup clash with Ireland, the man they call “L’Homme des Cavernes” (The Caveman) will rumble into the Stade de France with millions roaring him on around the country.

Sebastien Chabal, the shaggy-haired, bearded behemoth beloved of Sale fans, has belatedly found fame and popularity in his own country.

His image is everywhere, on television, publicity posters, newspapers. He even has his own puppet in France’s version of Spitting Image, “Les Guignols de l’info”.

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Bryn Palmer

Succour for Scots in Italy mind games (31)

Paris - It is not only England it seems who are struggling to translate training-ground effort into match-day mettle.

The good news for Scotland supporters is that Italy are proving equally inept.

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Bryn Palmer

Best and worst of RWC so far (56)

Paris - With all 20 teams in this World Cup having played two matches each – before Italy and Portugal kick-off ‘round three’ on Wednesday – how about some ‘halfway through the pool stages’ awards?

Not the snappiest of titles I’ll admit, but we’ll revisit them at the end of the group stages, and again at the end of the tournament.

Do let me know who I’ve missed out, which ones I’ve got wrong, and your own nominations for further awards.

Continue reading "Best and worst of RWC so far"


Bryn Palmer

Over to you boys, says Ashton (66)

Versailles - Out of despair and darkness, lucidity and light. Out of chaos and carnage, clarity and control.

That appeared to be the message from the England camp on Tuesday, four days after their humbling by South Africa, and 15 days after their arrival on French soil.

Better late than never, you might say. But from where has this new brains trust emerged, this new well of optimism sprung?

Continue reading "Over to you boys, says Ashton"


Bryn Palmer

England search for right notes (31)

Versailles - For a while on Monday afternoon, it was possible to believe England were still world champions in more than just name.

Anyone passing the Stade Montbauron, the team’s training base in a quiet corner of Versailles, might have thought an international boy band was in town, such was the high-pitched squealing frenzy awaiting the squad from 2,000 local schoolchildren.

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Bryn Palmer

Reality hits home for England (97)

Versailles - Hallelujah, the fog appears to have lifted.

If England’s displays over the last few weeks and months were not evidence enough, then Friday’s 36-0 humbling by the Springboks seems to have done the trick.

Those inside the camp have finally admitted the reality: England no longer have any world-class players.

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Bryn Palmer

England's head on the block (152)

In the country where the guillotine was the preferred method for dispensing with the great and not so good, England’s stay of execution at this World Cup could be brief.

Eight days to be precise, in which they must somehow lift themselves from the pit of despair into which Friday’s savaging by the Springboks has sunk them, and find a way of beating Samoa in a likely winner-goes-through clash in Nantes next Saturday.

No easy task on the basis of what we have seen so far from Brian Ashton’s men, whose much-talked-about potential remains firmly unlocked.

Failure to beat the Pacific Islanders would in all probability see them become the first world champions not to reach at least the quarter-finals in the defence of their trophy.

Continue reading "England's head on the block"


Bryn Palmer

England ratings v SA (339)

I was at the Stade de France on Friday as England's World Cup campaign was blown to smithereens by a dominant South Africa, who crushed the defending world champions 36-0.

Here's how I rated the individual England players' performances. See what you think and let us know what you made of the performance.

Continue reading "England ratings v SA"


Bryn Palmer

Farrell facing ultimate test (246)

Versailles - So how did it come to this?

After four years of planning - or maybe four months, no, on second thoughts, weeks, perhaps days – England's number 10 jersey for the critical game of their World Cup campaign will be occupied by a man with no experience of playing senior rugby union at fly-half.

Surely some mistake? ‘Fraid not, for those of you of a red rose persuasion.

You could put it down to extreme bad luck, and Brian Ashton certainly deserves some sympathy there.

After all, who could have predicted that Jonny Wilkinson would get injured in an innocuous training ground incident?

Oh hang on, with his record…

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Bryn Palmer

Ashton laughs in face of adversity (55)

Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles - You had to feel for Brian Ashton.

Three days before the critical game of England’s World Cup campaign against South Africa, one that will probably define his reign as head coach, and things weren’t exactly going to plan.

Continue reading "Ashton laughs in face of adversity"


Bryn Palmer

England Ratings (217)

Lens

England opened their World Cup in less than emphatic style with a 28-10 victory over the United States.

I was at the Stade Felix Bollaert and here's how I rated each individual player's performance. Let me know what you made of it and add your own thoughts.

Continue reading "England Ratings"


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