Now that Ireland are out, I have a surplus of support to offer. Granted it won’t be as passionate as it would be if Ireland were still in the reckoning, but it’s support nonetheless and it has to go somewhere.
Who should be the beneficiary of this support? Eight teams remain in the competition – South Africa, England, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Scotland, Argentina and France. From a neighbourly perspective, perhaps I should offer it to England or Scotland, but seeing as both of them are going to be on their way home after next weekend, it’s probably not worth my while. Similarly Fiji, as the plucky underdogs, but again they have no hope of getting past South Africa.
Maybe I should support France. I used to live there after all, and have a great fondness for several things about that great country. However, their rugby is not one of those things, and the perennial hiding we get from them doesn’t endear me to Les Bleus. Anyway, the All Blacks are going to kick their arses in Cardiff next weekend, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of blokes.
So that leaves the Tri-Nations and Argentina. I can’t support the South African team. I just don’t like them. Sorry. I wouldn’t like to see Australia win the tournament either, as that would be their third World Cup win, and as a rugby nation, they’re not that good.
Argentina look odds-on to get to the semis, where they would come up against South Africa. Taking a romantic view of the game, for Argentina to win that one would be fantastic, as they haven’t been given a fair crack of the whip by the rest of the rugby world. If they got to the final, it would be a irresistible wake-up call to the IRB, Tri-Nations and Six Nations to invite Argentina to join an annual international tournament.
So, the last name in the pot belongs to the pre-tournament favourites – New Zealand. I like New Zealand a lot as a country, and have many good friends from there. A single World Cup title, won in the inaugural tournament, on home soil twenty years ago does not reflect with any accuracy New Zealand’s rightful place in world rugby’s pecking order. They deserve to win and I hope they do.
So, dear readers, where will your support find a home for the rest of the tournament?