Rugby World Cup 2015

My take on the RWC2015 so far. After my initial disgust over the banning of bagpipes at all of the RWC venues, I decided to adopt the measured and philosophic attitude of the Scottish players. But I will comment: I started going to Scottish rugby International rugby matches in the mid 1970’s, and have been watching rugby games live and on television all my life. The sound of the bagpipes has always been a part of the Scottish rugby scene just as it is part of the Scottish football scene. But rugby fans, unlike their football counterparts, are social and friendly; fans are not separated in the stands; the banter – or craic – between fans of the opposing teams is playful and joyous without taking anything away from the passion they feel for their team – especially when talking about their national teams, or, as rugby people say, international teams. And when the unmistakeable sound of the bagpipe’s drone signals the wail or skirl of the chanter, the faces of all the fans light up – the Scots in pride, the opponents in delight. Its a delight in hearing a sound so identified with Scotland. It’s the same delight I feel when the Welsh fans sing.
And the stated reason for the no-bagpipes edict: something about “compromising the spectators’ enjoyment.” I’ll end my comment on that subject and move onto the RWC itself.
This World Cup has gotten off to a cracking start. Undoubtedly the biggest story of the opening salvo of matches was Japan’s stunning victory over two-time World Cup Champions South Africa (34 – 32). This was no fluke either; Japan played clinical, brave and inspired rugby; South Africa looked disorganized. The biggest game so far has been England v. Wales in what has to be this RWC’s group of death (Australia, Fiji and Uruguay fill out this group – only the top two go through). Wales won 28 – 25 at Twickenham – Twickenham is to English rugby what Wembley is to English football. A huge victory for Wales; a devastating blow to England. The USA were disappointing in the their opener to Samoa losing 25 – 16. They then lost to Scotland 39 – 16, having led 13 – 6 at the half. Scotland, who also beat Japan 45 – 10 now sit top of that table, and face South Africa, who manhandled Samoa 46 – 6, next. The best game so far has been Italy v. Canada; Canada lost 23 – 18 in a game in which Canada led in every statistic as well as playing the more aggressive, open, attractive rugby, and deserved to win. Georgia’s defeat of Tonga was a fantastic game. The All Blacks’ 26 -16 victory over Argentina was no surprise, but Argentina’s continued rise in world rugby can’t be ignored; their dismantling of Georgia, 54 – 9, is testament to that. The disparity in world rugby is shrinking, and that’s a very good thing.
New Zealand are clearly the favourite to win the World Cup. They are the best rugby team in the world. They’ve already played their toughest game – Argentina – in their pool and beaten Namibia 54 – 14. Georgia and Tonga are next. New Zealand will win Pool C and face Pool D’s runner up – my guess is that Ireland will win Group D and France will be the runner up. I see the All Blacks in the final versus either Australia or Ireland. I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m right I hope Ireland win. But I don’t expect that to happen either. If Scotland can’t win, then I want Argentina, then the USA, then I start getting realistic but still with a certain bias.
The stadium-selection for this RWC is perfect. In addition to the rugby mega-stadiums of Twickenham and Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wembley is the venue for a number of games (more than 89,000 showed up for the Ireland v Romania match!). And smaller, more intimate stadiums have been chosen to maximize atmosphere, such as Kingsholm in rugby-mad Gloucester; Sandy Park, the home to possibly the English Premiership’s most exciting team the Exeter Chiefs; and some football parks: Elland Road, Leeds’ storied football stadium; St. James’s Park; Villa Park; as well as other less well-known but fun and interesting venues all over England. The crowds have been fantastic at every game with massive traveling fans (most of my friends are there right now) and local English fans backing the underdogs and cheering them on with renditions of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”
The National Anthems, sung by (or “supported by,” as the PA announcers say) choirs local to the area, are wonderful.
As for up-coming pool games: for entertainment, I’d keep an eye out on Tonga v. Namibia, Canada v. Romania, Namibia v. Georgia, USA v. Japan, Samoa v. Japan; for big games: Scotland v. South Africa, England v. Australia, Wales v. Australia, France v. Ireland. If I don’t mention Samoa v. Scotland, then I jinx Scotland. If Scotland play as they did in their warm-up games, they should beat Samoa; if they play as they did in the first half of the USA game, they’ll lose.
If you were expecting a blog-post about the law, bad luck. Go read five statutes and some case law. Rugby is my passion.