Well that’s it then for another four years. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of the Magners League once again.
It was a great World Cup for some. For South Africa, of course, who won it, having won seven games out of seven. They were by no means my favourite team, but it would be mean-spirited of me not to congratulate them on their win. For England, who completely defied the odds and somehow managed to find spirit and cohesion, even though their world was collapsing around them. For Argentina, who conquered the Pool of Death and dazzled us with some scintillating rugby. For Fiji, who showed that Pacific Island rugby can compete on the world stage, even if their small pool of players gets plundered by New Zealand and Australia.
For others it was not so good. The Webb Ellis should have been on an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland today, but once again, the All Blacks choked. Today, they suffered the final indignity of having their place as the top-ranked team in the world taken from them by the newly-crowned world champions. The next World Cup will be in New Zealand, so there will be even more pressure on them next time around.
France probably thought that they should have been the ones to win, given that they were the hosts. But the opening night loss to the Pumas hobbled them, and even though they managed to put the All Blacks away, they succumbed to the old foe from across Le Manche.
Wales got turfed out of a group in which they were expected to comfortably finish as runners-up. But Fiji thought differently, and with a stunning 38-34 win over the Welsh, they booked a quarter-final berth for themselves.
And of course, Ireland, who just didn’t show up. We were in the toughest group of the tournament, and at the start of the competition, Ireland, France and Argentina were in the top six in the IRB rankings. One of the three had to blink, and unfortunately it was us. Now, there is no shame in losing against either France or Argentina, but what disappointed was the manner in which we lost those games, allied with the completely unconvincing performances against Namibia and Georgia. There is also the annoyance felt in Irish rugby circles that this World Cup campaign is just going to be written off as a “blip” and things will carry on as normal.
So we look forward to the Six Nations, which gets underway in just over fourteen weeks. Can Ireland get it together in time, or will the ennui of the World Cup linger into the spring?
OK, that’s my lot. Even if the World Cup was an unsatisfactory experience for me as an Irishman, this blog went some way to make up for it. The Fear of God was a collaborative effort from Day One, and I reckon it would not have lasted the pace if I had set it up as a solo effort. I would like to thank all my fellow writers – The Swiss Job, John Cav, Rambling Man, Fence, Munstermad, and of course Flirty for their contributions over the last ten weeks or so. Also thanks to all who took the time to leave comments, even those who reckoned we were talking through our arses. And of course, all who sent traffic our way, not least the BBC Rugby blog which probably accounted for about 95% of the hits that we got.
I intend to canvass opinion amongst this fine team of scribes to see if there is the desire or the inclination to continue The Fear of God post-RWC. If the consensus is positive, then I will post a link here to the new home.
Otherwise, see you all in New Zealand in 2011!