The NZ Herald has published its Team of the Tournament.
A little surprisingly, Ireland supply the second highest number of players to the team [three], with the victorious All Blacks supplying just one more. Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Brian O’Driscoll all make it into the final shake-up. Rory Best is also named in the Readers’ Second XV – a tribute to his exceptionally good tournamen.
There was a clamour amongst the meeja in the aftermath of the Ireland vs Wales match to throw the baby out with the bathwater and declare Ireland’s World Cup a failure. Cian Healy was apparently ‘taught a lesson’ by Adam Jones, and Sean O’Brien had to sit in the ha’penny place to Sam Warburton.
The general consensus seems to be that the Welsh backrow totally outplayed ours, that Warburton had a field day … not really, in the Mole’s opinion. Brian O’Driscoll won as many penalties at the breakdown as Warburton did. The Welsh guys knocked down our big boppers well, but Ferris and O’Brien still had some great runs, as did Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe – they broke tackles, found space, got passes away.
Faletau, Lydiate and Warburton tackled like dervishes all day [according to The New Zealand Herald, the latter two made almost fifty tackles between them] but they didn’t really contribute anything with ball in hand. In contrast, Sean O’Brien was the top ball carrier in the match with 23 runs for a gain of 81 metres. If the Welsh backrow had been as successful at the breakdown as some are claiming, Wales would have had more ball than they did.
Healy got popped up badly in one scrum, and for a lot of hacks, that was all they needed to write off his excellent World Cup. Lions tighthead Adam Jones – the man Healy was up against all day – didn’t make a single carry during the game, while Healy made no fewer than twelve. It wasn’t on one scrum that the game was lost, and Healy deserves all the plaudits that are coming his way. Not that he can’t improve, but he’s already a hell of a player.
Paul O’Connell can consider himself unfortunate to miss out; he had an enormous tournament, and clearly outshone some of the younger NH lights like Richie Gray, Bradley Davies and Courtney Lawes. Pato Albacete probably has the strongest cause for complaint however; he was simply magnificent, and is probably the most complete second-row in the game. Very physical, very hard-working, a skillful lineout technician, well-disciplined and a very able footballer for somebody his size.
Unfortunately, the Readers’ First XV poll doesn’t even have the charm of those age-old selections that named Colin Meads in all fifteen positions – it reeks of that strange blend of chippiness and arrogance that hangs around New Zealand rugby in an unattractive fug.
The Kiwi rugby public can be the sorest of losers [viz. the reaction to RWC07 quarter final loss to France], but they manage to double up the irritant quotient by being pretty ghastly winners as well! Their players come across as extremely decent – who could begrudge McCaw, Carter, Conrad Smith, Mils Muliaina and Big Bad Brad Carnegie Thorn their World Cup winners medals – but the fans can be the hardest of work.