Swing Low Sweet Chariot
England has done it again - they beat France 14-9
I am happy about that because
A) I picked it
B) England plays like I would play and what I think is the ultimate in rugby
Here are my key theories
A) It is a totally different game that thrashes minnows by 90 points and one that beats a really good team. The former uses the wingers all the time the later is much tougher with an emphasis on resolute defense.
B) If your forward pack is totally dominant it doesn’t matter how good their wingers are.
C) if you can stop the other guy scoring any points and can kick a field goal - it doesn't matter if that is the only point you score.
D) If you beat percentage rugby with flashy antics you were a HELL of a lot better than the other team anyway.
Also I believe that habit is a fundamental part of psychology. What this means is that if you play 5 games against minnows just before a crunch game - you will probably screw up and try minnow tactics on a strong team. the down side to that is one stupid low percentage pass and your 7 points behind, that’s 7 points you probably can't make back. So you should ALWAYS play minnows as if they are super teams. Concentrate on ROCK SOLID defense, if a minnow scores a try against you ITS A DISASTER.
So it frustrates me when you hear commentators complaining that an all black team did not put 60 points on another team or are somehow ok wiht portugal scoring a try. I will take an 8-0 win anyday of the week and you shouldn't need any buffer bigger than that because your defense should be up for it.
here comes my VERY harsh call.
It isn't that the All blacks or the Australians played terribly badly - England (and to a lesser extent france) has stepped it up to a level that NZ actually never reaches even at there best. NZ just doesn’t even have that sort of top gear because
It is like trying to win a badminton tournament with a tennis racket - you can be REALLY good, you might even win games - you might even beat the other guy - but if the other guy is on form you just wont have the same top gear as him. Sure he wont be on form outside the world cup - but come finals time...
I note that technically the ranking for the knockout stage
South Africa / Argentina
Australia / New Zealand
Fiji / Scotland
with the team first of each pair probably having a 'points' advantage and of course the SA/Arg winner going to join England at the top.
Of course I pick England to win the finals if they can hold it together. having said that I think that South africa, of all the sothern teams is the best team to beat them. I picked them as the pre finals favourites. The reason for that was in addition to being good - they had a statistically much easier run to the finals, only needing to beat argentina and fiji.