Match Preview: NZ v Japan

Happier times in Cardiff

Mole’s greatest concern about hosting the RWC in NZ is: what happens if the All Blacks lose? A fanatical rugby public expects nothing less than victory. Anton Oliver compared last tournament’s exit to Passchendaele*. “It feels desolate, decay, the putrid smell of, I don’t know, death.” Steady on, old boy. What a cocktail for a good time!

The tension seems to have affected the players with both Sur Rutchie and His Dan-ness pulling out of the starting line up for the game against Japan with muscle strains. Mils gets pulled as a consequence of McCaw’s injury. There’s only one All Black getting to 100 caps first.

Their absence should make no difference to the result, although it will to the margin. However, at this stage of the tournament, NZ should have their combinations playing together and getting familiar with each other.  The absence of Read and McCaw through injury, combined with uncertainty about the starting nine means that the middle five combo that lines out in New Zealand’s first knock out game will be missing some cohesion.

Hopefully the rugby will take the players’ minds off the pressure. There’s been some good stuff so far in this World Cup but NZ undoubtedly play the best of it. Even vehement underdog supporting neutrals will not begrudge some of the game’s greats if they can produce on the biggest stage.

The bookies make this a 57 point game. It looks a tall order, but the Mole thinks that the favourite will bring home the bacon for the first time this tournament.

*The Battle of Passchendaele was one of the major battles of the First World War, taking place between July and November 1917. Casualties were estimated at about 700,000 men.

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