Thursday, December 7, 2023

OPINION: All Blacks resurrection after quarterfinal thriller 

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The All Blacks haka before their thrilling Quarter-Final against Ireland. Photo / World Rugby


Sam Whitelock!

The name that rung through thousands of televisions and households across New Zealand just before the final whistle was blown in the All Blacks’ 28-24 victory over Ireland at the weekend.

The 35-year-old most-capped All Black stepped up to earn the underdogs a penalty, ceasing a 37-phase rampage by the Irish in the dying minutes of the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.

In a tournament which has failed to conjure up as much excitement in New Zealand as in the past, this was one of the greatest All Black games in a long time.

Fit for a Rugby World Cup final, the former champions were back at their finest against the best in the world.

And then there were four… finally.

As the All Blacks gear up for their semi-final against Argentina on Saturday, here are a few of the Times’ biggest talking points from the tournament to date:

The dreadful draw 

The 2023 Rugby World Cup draw has been a shambles.

And the organisers have fessed up, saying the schedule was decided over three years ago.

Its structure meant only two sides of Ireland, hosts France, New Zealand, 2019 winners South Africa and Scotland had a chance of reaching the semi-finals.

It was evident from the South Africa vs France and All Blacks vs Ireland quarterfinals at the weekend, the four top teams in the world shouldn’t have to face off until the Semi-Finals.

These were two matches that could have easily been thrilling finals.

Not to mention the weekly delay in-between games. It’s not so exciting for fans. A one-and-a-half-month tournament is too long.

Men at Home – Go back to the land down under 

It’s always a pretty sight for Kiwis to see our neighbours across the Tasman get beaten, but even this was a tough one to watch.

Even before the Rugby World Cup, there was not a lot of hope for Australia nor their head coach Eddie Jones, but missing out on a quarter final spot for the first time in the history of the tournament wasn’t even a thought.

With losses to Fiji for the first time in 69 years and a humiliation by Wales, the Aussies have plunged to their lowest depths, ranked the ninth best side in world rugby.

Some dark days ahead for Australia Rugby amid talks of Jones now packing his bags and taking up a job with the Japanese national side.

All Blacks or Warriors? 

After dropping the opening game of the tournament to hosts France, New Zealand’s interest in the World Cup plummeted.

New Zealand is saturated with union year-round, evident is the diminishing crowds at super rugby and NPC matches over the past couple of years.

Are Kiwis tuckered out?

I haven’t seen the type of support that the Warriors or Wahs had during their impressive NRL season for the All Blacks in a long time.

And with the possibility of New Zealand hosting a State of Origin match as early as 2027, I think many sporting fans will convert to primarily watching league.

It will be interesting to see if there is a spike in Kiwi kids registering in rugby league next year.

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