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Rugby World Cup

Springboks Roar to World Cup Glory

South Africa have added another Webb Ellis Cup to their name with an incredible victory over England in the final

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(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

South Africa have claimed their third Rugby World Cup title with a resounding 32-12 victory over England in Japan this morning.

Fly-half Handre Pollard contributed 22-points from the boot to add to tries from wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe to see the Boks sweep aside the English. 

The Springboks started the better of the two and had a chance to go ahead as early as the second minute when Pollard misplaced a simple enough penalty kick. 

England were handed a massive blow less than a minute later as Kyle Sinckler was taken off after being knocked out cold after hitting his head against teammate Maro Itoje’s elbow. 

Things got worse for the men in white when Pollard made no mistake from a penalty in the ninth minute to make it 3-0. 

However, despite looking off the pace it was England that hit next as Owen Farrell knocked over a penalty of his own just after the 20 minute mark. While for the Boks both hooker Bongi Mbonambi and lock Lood de Jager went off through injury. 

Straight from the restart the Springboks put pressure on the opposition and showed their dominance in the scrum to win a penalty which Pollard kicked over to put them ahead once again. 

England hit back again over the next ten minutes and but for some impressive defence from the Boks they would have been in for a try but they had to settle for a penalty kick from the boot of Farrell to level once more. 

With just over five minutes remaining before half-time Pollard put South Africa in front again with yet another penalty and things only got better for them on the stroke of half-time as they won another scrum penalty with Pollard smashed over to leave it at 12-6 come the whistle. 

The Springboks opened the second period as they ended the first winning a penalty at scrum-time just inside the England half. Pollard sent the kick from the left-hand side flying over to stretch the lead to 15-9. 

However, the tables were turned five minutes later as England won a penalty from a scrum this time around and from the penalty Farrell ensured a further three-points to make it a six-point game. 

Farrell had a chance to cut further into the lead moments later but sent the penalty wide of the posts and they were punished as Pollard notched up his sixth penalty two minutes later to make it 18-9. 

However, England hit back right away as Farrell made up for his miss with an easy penalty kick won from the restart to put them within six once again with just over a quarter of the match remaining. 

Pollard had another penalty attempt from almost 60 metres out but couldn’t connect properly with the kick as the score stayed the same. 

South Africa were celebrating four minutes on however, as they sent the ball out wide left to winger Mapimpi who chipped over the top for centre Lukanyo Am, who caught the ball before sending a beautiful pass back inside to his No 11 to waltz over for his sixth try of the tournament. Pollard added a further two points to the scoreboard to make it 25-12 with just over ten minutes to go. 

England went in search of a score to get within touching distance of the Boks but they were driven back time and time again. 

Eventually centre Henry Slade knocked the ball on just inside his own half, Pieter-Steph du Toit picked up the loose ball before sending the ball to Kolbe who darted forward showing incredible dancing feet to charge over for a vital try. Pollard converted to give the Springboks a 20-point lead with six minutes remaining.

South Africa went looking for further scores but couldn’t find a way through the English defence for a third time and as the clock struck 80 minutes Pollard kicked the ball out to the delight of the men in green. 

The win now means that the Springboks are level with New Zealand having won three World Cups in their history, and in doing so have become the first team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup having lost a game earlier in the tournament. For England it is a massive disappointment following last weekend’s brilliant victory over the All Blacks, but for South Africa it is a deserved trophy to add to their Rugby Championship from earlier in the year. 

Player Ratings

England Starting XV:

Elliot Daly (4), Anthony Watson (5), Manu Tuilagi (6), Owen Farrell (7), Jonny May (5), George Ford (5), Ben Youngs (6), Billy Vunipola (6), Sam Underhill (7), Tom Curry (7), Courtney Lawes (4), Maro Itoje (6), Kyle Sinckler (n/a), Jamie George (5), Mako Vunipola (5)

Replacements (5)

South Africa XV:

Willie le Roux (7), Cheslin Kolbe (8), Lukanyo Am (8), Damian de Allende (7), Makazole Mapimpi (8), Handre Pollard (9), Faf de Klerk (8), Duane Vermeulen (9), Pieter-Steph du Toit (8), Siya Kolisi (7), Lood de Jager (6), Eben Etzebeth (7), Frans Malherbe (7), Bongi Mbonambi (7), Tendai Mtawarira (7)

Replacements (8)

International

Fans Player of the Decade Confirmed

World Rugby have announced the winner of their Fans Player of the Decade vote and there’s no surprise who’s won

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Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter has been named World Rugby’s Fans Player of the Decade following their polls over the past couple of weeks.

The organisation narrowed the competition down to 16 players, as they split them into a last-16 style format, with backs on one side and forwards on the other. With two players going head-to-head in the polls to make it through to each respective round. 

Last week it was brought down to the final four, with all of them being New Zealand internationals as Carter was pitted up against Beauden Barrett, with Richie McCaw facing Kieran Read. 

McCaw and Carter were victorious and now Carter has come out as the overall winner as the best player over the past 10-years. 

It is not hard to see why fans have gone for the 112-cap All Black, who finished up his international career in 2015, having guided his country to historic back-to-back Rugby World Cup crowns. 

As well as that he holds the title for the most points scored at test-level rugby with an incredible 1598 to his name. 

On the international stage he was impressive, but he has been equally so at club-level, winning domestic crowns in both France with Racing 92 and in Japan with the Kobelco Steelers. 

The 37-year-old is still under contract with the Japanese outfit, but has been unable to play for them for the majority of the year, having suffered a major injury, which also prevented him from a brief return to Racing 92 for the latter-half of last season. 

However, he is poised to return to the playing field shortly and will be hoping to guide his team to further success and will have the aid of another All Black great joining him in the form of Brodie Retallick, who is linking up with the side for the season during his year sabbatical.  

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Read Admits to Injury in RWC Semi-Final

Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read has opened up about an injury he picked up before the Rugby World Cup semi-final against England earlier this year

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Former All Blacks captain Kieran Read has admitted he was injured leading up to his side’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against England, but played anyway.

The 128-cap international retired from test-level rugby following the tournament in Japan and has confirmed he was injured for the semi-final defeat to England in his new autobiography “Straight Eight”.

He claims that he suffered a calf injury during New Zealand’s incredible quarter-final win over Ireland and that it prevented him from preparing properly for the last-four clash.

“What if I had been able to train with the team that week instead of watching from the sideline? What if I had been out there to offer a little more direction, or reassurance, or assistance?” he wrote in his book.

However, despite losing the game 19-7 while injured, Read also admitted that England were the deservide winners on the day as they overpowered the All Blacks.

Many will now question the coach’s decision to allow Read to play while injured and hamper the team’s chances as they bid to win a third Rugby Cup on the trot, with Read part of a back-row that was up against the likes of Billy Vunipola.

At 34, Read has now chosen to move abroad and taken up a role with the Toyota Verblitz in Japan, where he will once again work with former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

It is doubtful that even if he was at full tilt for the game that there would have been a different outcome due to England’s sheer dominance on the day, but it does show that the All Blacks went in with a chink in their armour before the match had even kicked-off.

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Is Schmidt to Blame for Ireland’s RWC Failings?

The IRFU have placed the blame of Ireland’s dismal World Cup campaign on Joe Schmidt, but is it really that easy?

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Yesterday, the IRFU held a meeting with a group of handpicked journalists to deliver their verdict on Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

The result according to the IRFU was that Ireland failed to evolve a game plan, failed in performance due to anxiety, had poor preparation ahead of the tournament and had a skills deficit compared to the world’s best teams. 

All of which appears to have been placed on head coach Joe Schmidt, who stepped aside following the conclusion of the tournament. 

The conclusion of where the team failed was reached by IRFU high performance director David Nucifora, who interviewed coaches and staff, while an independent body held discussions with the players, with all roads leading to the four failings mentioned above. 

Schmidt, who took over as head coach in 2013, a year before Nucifora took his role with the IRFU, is becoming the sole person responsible for the team’s failure, but is that fair?

Yes, Ireland appeared to be stuck playing the same game-plan as their impressive 2018 campaign, which saw them defeat all before them, which is a failure to evolve, but Schmidt had a full team of back-room staff, were they not capable of coming up with a different plan? Or were the players themselves unable to use their own initiative to bring forward a case of how they should play to Schmidt?

In terms of performance anxiety, these are international stars, playing on the biggest stage in European rugby for their provinces on a regular basis. Some criticized Schmidt for not rotating the team enough, but that meant that the same players where playing on the international stage for Ireland on a regular basis too, why are they anxious? 

These are the cream of the crop in Ireland, players that have won Champions Cups and PRO14 titles with their clubs, Six Nations titles and Grand Slams with Ireland, winning series tours with their country and some have even represented the British and Irish Lions on the grand stage. Why are they anxious and what does it have to do with Schmidt? 

Schmidt is a man renowned for his tactical and thorough preparation, looking at teams inside out to find their weaknesses and looking at his own team to find their strengths so what changed this year from a man that admitted his only regret when leaving the job was the fact that he only took one day off in six years. 

The team had played together many times before, went on training camps weeks before the tournament in Japan, including hot-weather camps to prepare for the soaring temperatures and humidity, and played pre-World Cup warm-up games. So why weren’t they prepared and once more how is Schmidt to blame?

Lastly, a lack in skills, an area were former players have noted Ireland failed to capitalise on during the past year. Some pointing towards Leinster’s style of play and asking why players weren’t following that example. 

It is true that Schmidt prefers a risk-free game, but surely once on the pitch, the players must use their initiative when opportunities arise, and play expansive rugby when the chances come if that’s how to win a game of rugby. 

Schmidt may have asked them to be more careful, but it is up to the players on the pitch to seize a game by the scruff of the neck and create openings. It seems unlikely that Schmidt would have argued with his players if they made it further in the World Cup by taking more of a risk. 

The four areas where Ireland failed to seem to be somewhat of the overall problem, and it would be foolish not to place some of the blame on the head coach, but it seems strange and even more foolish to pile the sole blame on him. 

There was a group of staff and players that prepared and went to Japan, a group of talented individuals, if Schmidt was falling short they should have been able to point it out and take it upon themselves to help solve the issues at hand. 

May the environment had gone stale after six years of the same routine, may the players needed more of a challenge, but what appeared to happen this year more than before was the players looked to lack motivation and desire in the green jersey, and that is on them no matter who tries to cover it up. 

While others find it easy to point the finger of blame to a man no longer associated with the IRFU, a look in the mirror may be a good idea. Afterall, if Schmidt was the problem then questions may be raised as to why it is his former right-hand man becoming Ireland’s head coach. Hopefully exciting times lie ahead under Andy Farrell, but don’t be surprised if more of the same is to follow.  

Four years ago Ireland were trounced in the quarter-finals of the World Cup by Argentina, in between then they arguably became the best team in the world under Schmidt, before being trounced again by the All Blacks at the same stage of the competition. The hope will be that Farrell can produce something others have failed to in the Irish hot-seat, but a review of a tournament isn’t what will help, a review of the system is needed and each member involved with Ireland’s failings should hold their hand up for the failure, because one man isn’t the only person at fault.

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