Friday, 31 August 2007
Haka! Tackle, side-step and it’s a Try! It’s back! That crunching game, lots of sweat, sprints, tackles and all there is to one of the games with most contact outside wrestling. New Zealand –All Blacks, Australia-Wallabies, South Africa-Springboks are some the main teams that will battle it out to dethrone England.
True it seems like a few years ago but that’s 4 for sure. Remember the Johnny Wilkinson kicks- well some rugby purists still believe England ‘robbed’ the Cup off the Australia’s Wallabies . Again, the same would be assumed of the Springboks who won the Cup in 1995 making an unprecedented comeback. What with Mandela wearing the Springboks jersey! Any one would play their hearts out to receive the Webb Ellis trophy from the world’s most famous living being.
Marking 20 years since the Rugby World Cup started, the game has continued to enjoy exposure and appeal to a wide world audience. This is especially so after the 1995 World Cup when one Jonah Lomu tore on every tackle and hold to take the All Blacks to the Final only to be stopped by an inspired Springboks.
Back to 2007, what do we expect?
Starting with the classification of the countries playing Rugby Union, there are 3 classes;
Tier 1: Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales
Tier 2: has a number of teams but the following will be playing in the World Cup; Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Spain, Tonga, USA
Tier 3: has majority of the rest of rugby union playing countries including Kenya.
We’ll take a look at the top tier teams who basically have the best chance of wining the Cup (no offence to the 2nd tier nations but truth be told, you’re miles away from the prize)
FIRST TIER NATIONS
Going by the colours they wear they are the best-known rugby playing nation in the world. The game is so big in the country it is a national sport. The All Blacks as we know them are also the most successful nation to date. They have won the Tri-Nation tourney 7 out of 11 times it has been held. They also have the most players in the International Rugby Hall of Fame. They gave us the player who demystified rugby and made it appeal to a wider world audience the life-size, speedy giant of a player, Jonah Lomu.
They are also better known for the haka-a traditional Maori posture dance-meant to intimidate opponents as they prepare for ‘battle’. This is performed before any of their games. They look set to win this year’s Cup but the rest of the nations have been preparing and it will be no walkover.
Some major players this year include colourful wing Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu,Tony Woodcock, captain Richie McCaw to name but a few.
They are currently ranked no. 1 in the IRB rankings a position they have maintained for a while now.
Official uniform colours: Black shirt and short & socks too with a silver fern on both.
They are also known as the Wallabies. This is one of the most successful countries in the World Cup having won it twice in 1991 and 1999, losing out narrowly to England in the Final in 2003. Competitively the team plays the Tri-Nations together with New Zealand and South Africa. They also play the Bledisloe Cup with New Zealand and the Mandela Cup with South Africa.
It has the highest number of players inducted in the Rugby Union including the unforgettable David Campese and Nick Farr-Jones. Their main sponsor is Qantas the region’s main air carrier thud the nickname Qantas Wallabies.
The team is ranked 2nd in the IRB rankings.
Official uniform colours: golden yellow shirts with green stars and jungle green shorts
They are also known as les tricolors or les bleus. This is the host country of this year’s World Cup. It is part of the northern hemisphere playing nations in the Six Nations tourney, they have won it 14 times. The country has managed to qualify for all the World Cups, having managed to get to the Finals twice.
They are currently the 3rd placed team in the IRB rankings.
Official uniform colour: France customarily plays in white-trimmed blue shirts with blue shorts and red socks. The French emblem is a red badge with a rooster.
This is Africa’s best representative and only nation to win the World Cup. They are popularly known as the Springboks or more culturally, amaBokoboko. They were out in the cold for the better part of the 1980s and early 90s due to the boycott by world nations (as protest to the apartheid form of government in place during the said period). However their comeback was one of their sweetest moments and most magical having to host the tourney and winning it before the home crowd. The image is stuck forever in our minds as Nelson Mandela-then President of new South Africa handing the Webb Ellis trophy to Francois Pienaar-captain of the Springboks then.
They have produced some outstanding players as seen in Francois Pienaar-captain in 1995, Chester Williams-a regular 7s player, Namibian-born Jan Ellis.
Currently they are a force to reckon with in world rugby . The captain is one John Smit.
IRB rankings: 4th position
Official uniform colours: green & golden shirts with a golden springbok emblem and white shorts.
They represent the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland both part of United Kingdom. They are regular participants of the 6-Nation tournament having won it 10 times. They have participated in all previous World Cups getting eliminated at the quarterfinals in almost all.
Though they have shown many weaknesses they seem to be emerging a force in Europe. One of the finest players to grace the sport, outside centre Brian O'Driscoll who is the current captain and Ireland’s leading try scorer. Other class acts include Gordon D’Arcy, Denis Leamy, Paul O’ Connell, Ronan O’Gara.
They rank 5th in the IRB rankings.
Official uniform colour: Olive green shirts and white shorts
Nicknamed Los Pumas it is the best team in the Americas playing rugby union. They have managed to participate in all World Cups since 1987. Argentina is currently the only International Rugby Board (IRB) tier one classed nation that has no regular competition, such as the Six Nations and the Tri Nations.
NOTE: The Six Nations features England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and Wales (top northern hemisphere basically) while the Tri-Nations has Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (southern hemisphere rugby playing nations). The Pumas current captain is Agustín Pichot, and the current head coach is Marcelo Loffreda. Argentina has managed from its form in the international arena to accomplish quite a few upset victories. It will be a nation to watch with the team likely to get to the quarterfinals or thereabout.
They are 6th in the IRB rankings.
Official uniform colour: sky blue & white-stripped shirts and white shorts.
Funnily it doesn’t have a nickname like other top rugby nations; it is the current holder of the World Cup having upset Australia in the last World Cup with a last-gasp drop kick by one Johnny Wilkinson. It’s part of the Six Nations rugby nations having won it 25 times. Their home ground is Twickenham Stadium. They have famous players such as Martin Johnson, Bill Beaumont and Johnny Wilkinson who will hope to shake off recurrent injuries to produce a magical performance.
IRB Rankings:They have not been as consistent dropping in the rankings to 7th position
Official uniform colours: white shorts, navy socks with white tops, and a white shirt with a red rose embroidered on it.
They are also part of the 6-Nations tourney winning it 23 times. They have been a consistent World Cup playing nation with the best performance being the 3rd position in the inaugural one in 1987. They were the hosts in 1999. They finish up the First Tier teams as listed by IRB.
IRB rankings: 8th
Official uniform colour:White shorts and shirts with a logo of the Welsh flag on the shirt
As it is with football, the Italian national rugby team is nicknamed the Azzurri or a more appropriate one, the “Gladiators of Rome”. They were the latest entry into the Nations Cup making it the 6-Nation in 2000. They have participated in every World Cup but have only managed pool wins.
IRB rankings- 9th
Official uniform colour: Blue shirts and blue shorts
They form one of the countries of the United Kingdom. They are consistent entrant in the World Cup since it’s inception in 1987. The best they ever got was a 3rd place play-off with New Zealand’s All Blacks. They are currently ranked 11th on the IRB standings. They are also part of the 6-Nation tourney.
Official uniform colour: Dark-blue shirts and shorts with white flanks
SECOND TIER NATIONS
Those playing in the French World Rugby Cup include;
· Samoa 10th on IRB rankings
· Fiji 12th
· Canada 13th
· Tonga 14th
· USA 15th
· Romania 16th
· Japan 18th
· Russia 19th ( didn’t qualify for World Cup)
· Uruguay 20th ( didn’t qualify for World Cup)
· Spain 21st ( didn’t qualify for World Cup)
· Portugal 22nd
· Korea 23rd ( didn’t qualify for World Cup)
· Namibia 24th
We'll be looking at the second part as we preview the Rugby World Cup starting in a week's time.Macaca where do we go as you enjoy the games ?