I gotsa da blues

And so we have it. Another fearsomly disappointing Rugby World Cup. Our earliest ever exit.

We had the best squad in years. We had ample preparation time. We had massive resources. We just failed to turn up and play. France fielded a team that played intelligently to the ABs weaknesses, and then out gutsed them when it counted.

To be fair, I still think most of the blame falls on appalling decision making by the referee. McAlister should never have been sinbinned. It was barely even an infringement, and there was certainly no malice.
Worse still was the missed forward pass that allowed the second French try. How none of the match officials saw it I will never understand. Even the crowd heard it – you could hear them respond.
The French repeatedly infringed around the ruck, slowing the play of the ball and denying the ABs the free flowing play that is their strength. Again, this is an area constantly highlighted in rugby as lacking in consistent refereeing.

The IRB needs to make sure novice referees are never again allowed to officiate such important quarter finals.

All that said, the French played well, and passionately. Scenarios like this one do occur in finals rugby, and the ABs had enough depth, skill and class that they ought to have been able to clinch it regardless.

They just lacked the mental fortitude to grind out a win when things weren’t going their way. This has been a characteristic of AB sides in recent years, to my mind, but I feel it is not often exposed. They can often come out, stamp their mark on the game, and control it from there to the end. However, on the occasions where a side has cracked their armour, they seem to struggle to find a response.

I put it down to a lack of practice at having to fight tooth and nail for a victory that they must win. It’s something only seen in finals rugby, which means either World Cup or Super 14. I disagreed at the decision to not allow ABs to play in Super 14 teams this season, but gave the benefit of the doubt to the selectors. The rotation policy succeeded in producing a fit team, with depth in key positions. I supported that policy, but there came a time when they ought to have consolidated as a team by picking the top side and playing them in. Lacking a decent test in their round robin games, I believe this was their key failing.

Now they must face the inevitable storm of media looking for answers. In past cups, they could at least say they fought with honour and lost to a better side on the night. There is no such honour this time.

The public will not forgive easily on this one.

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