No Back up plan for key world cup rugby matches

World Rugby’s frustrating failure to have a back-up plan in place for adverse weather conditions was scathingly summed up Sergio Parise, the Italy captain and one of the game’s greats.

After hearing that Italy’s game against the All Blacks on Saturday has been cancelled, the disappointed Parise said: “If New Zealand needed four or five points against us it would not have been cancelled.”

One hundred percent Sergio. You can also bet the rent money that if England needed to beat France (in the other cancelled match) to advance to the quarter-finals the match would have been moved to a safe venue.

Just a hint of the possibility of it being cancelled and England coach Eddie Jones’ howls of indignation would have been louder than the typhoon. France has been quiet on the issue because they know that the two points they are being awarded for the cancellation are probably two more than they would have got if the game had been played, but as far as Italy is concerned, the message is that they don’t really matter.

As Sergio says: “Sure, everyone might think that Italy versus New Zealand being cancelled counts for nothing because we’d have lost anyway, but we deserved to be respected as a team.”

The match would also have been the highlight of the World Cup for Italy and their fans. Every rugby player in the world dreams of playing the All Blacks.

“It is difficult to know that we won’t have the chance to play a match against one of the great teams,” Parise added. “We had the chance to play in a big stadium, against an awesome team…”

The effete suits at World Rugby tell us that the drastic action is all about the safety of the players and the spectators, and nobody is questioning that, but once more Parise neatly sums up what everybody is wondering, and that is why has there been no back-up plan?

“It is ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made because it isn’t like the fans arrived yesterday. It is crazy that there was no Plan B because it isn’t news that typhoons hit Japan. When you organise a World Cup, you should have a back-up plan in place.”

The typhoon is not going to hit the whole of Japan, and this is arguably the most technologically advanced country on the planet, the land of bullet trains travelling at almost supersonic speeds …. It would have been a massive inconvenience to move the games but, to borrow from showbiz, the show must go on.

Strangely, the game that has a quarter-final place at stake, Scotland vs the host nation, is being given to the last minute on Sunday before a decision is made.

If Scotland goes out of the World Cup because of cancelation it would be scandalous. In the last World Cup they would have gone through to the play-offs but for a last-minute mistake in their game against Australia by ref Craig Joubert that gifted the Aussies the penalty that won the game.

Surely they can’t get shafted again ….

by Mike Greenaway

The last time Italy played a Test match in Durban they lost 101-0

The last time Italy played a Test match in Durban they lost 101-0 on a day when Stefan Terblanche scored five tries on the wing, and indeed the average result in the 10 matches to date between the countries has been 55-13 to the Boks, but anybody who is expecting Italy to roll over at Kings Park tomorrow is sorely mistaken.

The Azzurri have come a long way in recent years thanks to their exposure in Six Nations rugby and a few months back they beat France and Ireland, and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was in the stands at Twickenham when England were given the fright of their lives before defeating the Italians by seven points.

That said, the Boks are obviously expected to win and it is a question of how much, with respect to Italy. The chances of an upset of the century would be that much higher if this game was played in Rome, but it is Kings Park and the Italians are surely a touch fatigued now that the marathon Northern Hemisphere season is winding up.

They have their share of world class players, notably talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, and the opportunity to watch this truly world class player is alone worth turning up or tuning in. But the man that the TV cameras love, the stocky, hirsute and bearded battler that is Martin Castrogiovanni, has been restricted to a role off the bench because he picked up a niggle playing for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions in Hong Kong last week.

His opposite number, Beast Mtawarira, might secretly be pleased.

We all know about how well Castrogiovanni and company scrum, it is their trademark, and like the Boks they are no slouches at the driving maul, but it is their improved attack under new coach Jacques Brunel, that has most impressed Heyneke Meyer.

“They carried the ball more times than any other team in the Six Nations,” the Bok coach said. “I am not trying to do a PR job on them when I tell you that they almost beat England in London by keeping the ball.”

This is a reflection on the change of tack from Brunel. His predecessor, Nick Mallett, who once employed Meyer as his Bok forwards coach, funnily enough, had Italy playing a conservative game that was probably about keeping the score down. It was not about expression, but Brunel has induced the old Italian fire in his charges and a team that beat 2011 World Cup finalists France has to be keenly respected. And Ireland are hardly pushovers either.

Yesterday, Italy’s Australian-born winger, Luke Mclean, was a popular target at the Italians’ team announcement given his obvious ability to speak English, and he calmly said that Italy were confident that they would win. True story.

“We are not here on holiday,” the Brisbane product said. “We are here to beat the Springboks. We will have to put our best foot forward from one to 23, but we know that on our day we can step up and play against the best teams in the world. We have to go out and be confident. If you go out expecting to lose, there is only going to be one result, and we are confident that we can get the result we want. We have beaten two of the best teams in the world this year and believe that if we go out there and play our own style of rugby, and back ourselves to compete over the whole 80 minutes, we can win this one.”

Good on cobber McLean. Spoken with true digger spirit, but do they really believe they can win? It would appear so.

“You must understand that this is no ordinary end of season tour for us,” Mclean said. “Fatigue is not a question. We consider playing against the Boks an honour and it is something we would never take for granted. We have three games in this quadrangular competition to finish of what has been a good season for us. We don’t want to render what we did in the Six Nations a waste of time.

“We are pitching up to play and win, not to make up the numbers,” Mclean concluded with sincerity.

But the Boks know this. Meyer is no fool and he will have been talking up the opposition all week to his players. And the coach knows that the reality is that a correctly focussed Springbok team should never, ever lose at home to Italy.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

Kick-off: 5.15pm.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Italy : 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Alberto di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto de Marchi.

Substitutes: Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Valerio Bernabo, Joshua Furno, Tobias Botes, Luciano Orquera, Tommaso Iannone.

by Mike Greenaway

%d bloggers like this: