Tuesday, October 11, 2011

saturday, 6am and I've got a semi

I reckon this has been one of the more interesting Rugby World Cups, and of course it's not over yet. My overall opinion may yet be coloured by what happens on Saturday morning, but for the moment it's all very exciting. As always Welsh expectation has gone through the roof, largely off the back of one very impressive performance against an Irish team who probably started the game as marginal favourites.

We were a bit up and down during the group stages, starting with a narrow loss to South Africa that really should have been a win, following up with a nervous win over our old nemeses Samoa, and then two easy wins over Namibia and Fiji that included lots of confidence-building tries but didn't really tell anyone anything useful. So we'll see. My only worry is that we may just go into the semi-final as slight favourites, which is an unaccustomed position for us, but if we play like we did against Ireland there's absolutely no reason why we can't win.

Inevitably there's been lots of harking back to the inaugural World Cup in 1987, which was the only previous occasion Wales got to this stage of the tournament, eventually finishing third after a last-gasp 22-21 win over Australia in the play-off match, thanks to this Adrian Hadley try and Paul Thorburn's touchline conversion. It's also been noted that the four semi-finalists here (Wales, France, New Zealand and Australia) are the same as at the 1987 tournament.

Here's another little statistical oddity that makes this current World Cup unique, though: three of the four semi-finalists have lost at least one pool match on the way.
France's qualification for the semi-final stage after losing two pool matches is unique in World Cup history. The only previous World Cup semi-finalists to arrive at that stage without a 100% record in the pool matches were:
  • France in 1987 who drew 20-20 with Scotland in the pool stages
  • England in 1991 who lost 18-12 to New Zealand in the pool stages
  • England in 2007 who lost 36-0 to South Africa in the pool stages
  • France in 2007 who lost 17-12 to Argentina in the pool stages
The first three of those went on to reach the final, but all lost. Unless the All Blacks win the tournament as expected (and given their history, plus a couple of key injuries, most notably to Dan Carter, you never know) then this will be the first World Cup won by a team who lost a match on the way. Exciting times.


Foxy & Shirlz said...

I think you'll find kick off is at 9am which gives you a bit of a lie in and a chance to put the bacon on. Last Saturday was a stressful occasion and this weekend will be no better. I hope they win cos if they don't I will have to buy yet another ticket to the bronze final, and I'm running out of money!

electrichalibut said...

Are they both in Auckland then? Different days though, I assume. We haven't actually beaten the French since the Grand Slam match in 2008, but I really think it could happen. Especially if France go back to being rubbish.