2,439 points scored. 48 matches. 271 tries. 224 penalties. 1 winner. This was the Rugby World Cup 2015.
Some will say they are the greatest ever, others the greatest of the decade. But wherever they go from here in World Rugby, the All Blacks will be considered greats. Their 34-17 victory over Australia in this year’s final was certainly an encounter fit for the brave. New Zealand started well, taking it to 9-3 in the first half hour. Then, there was a moment of brilliance from the All Blacks, as quick hands sent Nehe-Milner-Skudder in at the corner for a 16-3 halftime lead.
The brilliance continued after the break, as New Zealand once again overpowered the Aussies, and an offload meant the great Ma’a Nonu could stretch his legs and run 40 metres to score the second try of the game. It was now 21-3. But then Ben Smith received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, and the Wallabies drove to the line, Pocock with the try. Foley got the conversion, it was now 21-10. Then once again the Aussies scored, big centre Kuridrani over the line. 21-17 the score. But Australian hearts were broken as Carter scored both a drop goal and a penalty, 27-17. Finally, the celebrations began for New Zealand, as Barrett scored again, 3 minutes from the end. A great match, and a great man of the match, Dan Carter, scoring 19 points of the final 34.
Now, onto the rest of the tournament. It truly lived up to its name as Rugby’s greatest event. Around two and a half million people from around the world turned out to watch the matches, with an attendance in the final of over eight thousand, from all corners of the world. This was the most popular World Cup ever, beating the previous record of a total attendance of just under one and a half million in 2011. Also, it was a massive success for the teams, with most moving up places in the world rankings. Argentina and Japan moved up 4 places each! New Zealand remain top the world, with the usual competitors, Australia and South Africa following closely behind. There were some shock results as well, as Japan beat South Africa, in what could be called one of the greatest rugby matches ever. Also, Georgia claimed victory over Tonga, who were 9 places higher than them in the world rankings.
However, for England it was not such a good tournament. They dropped 6 places in world rankings, from 2nd to 8th respectively. They were humiliated as the first hosts to be knocked out in the group stages of a world cup. But then, you could argue, their group consisted of both Wales and Australia, two very well disciplined and respected rugby nations. The team will feel they could have done better, and the nation will always look back and say: ‘If only’. But what is done is done, and soon English rugby will decide if it requires the services of Stuart Lancaster any more as Head Coach. But when comes down to it, England will be ready for the next World Cup, no matter what. Bring on Japan 2019….