The final games are upon us

Friday, 21 October 2011 02:21 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

After the intense battle of the semi-finals our focus now shifts to the Bronze final for the third place play off between Wales and the Wallabies on Friday. The main final is on Sunday between the All Blacks and France, which could prove to be an anticlimax. I hope that I do not upset any French supporters, but I sincerely cannot see them doing what they did to the All Blacks in the 2007 quarter-final in which France came back from 13 points down to beat tournament favourites the All Blacks 20-18.

The Welsh have named a full strength side barring their regular skipper serving a three week ban for a tip tackle and one of the prop forwards out due to injury. There is pride to play for in the Bronze final and I am sure that we may see some open and fast rugby. This will certainly warm the hearts of the rugby public as certain games have had too much at stake for teams to play a natural game.

In the last game, the Welsh pack was reduced to seven players, and they were forced to call upon the services of centre Jamie Roberts for scrums, thus destabilizing their set-piece. In this context coach Gatland and his staff are supposed to have discussed the possibility of exploiting the rule that states that if a team does not have enough props at their disposal, scrums must go uncontested. This feigning an injury to one of the props was considered.

However sanity prevailed and the think tank decided that it would be morally wrong to instruct one of the remaining front-rows to feign an injury. It has been reported that the IRB is stunned by this revelation and Gatland may be asked to explain himself. The events that unfold in the next few days could be interesting indeed.

Another sore point during the RWC has been the number of alleged inconsistencies and anomalies in the current rule book, with the law which states that a prop forward must be penalized if his shoulders drop below his hips being put forward as a case in point.

Thus the argument that is being circulated is that supposing one prop was six feet four inches and the opposing prop was five feet 10 inches - a difference of say six inches then, if everything were equal, it would be likely that the hips of the taller player would be above the level of his shoulders. Thus it is felt that the law constitutes a bias against taller men.

Another point that has evoked heated debate is the number of times that a scrum can be reset before the referee initiates penal action. There is a school of thought that scrums should only be reset once before the referee takes action and that the current command of “Crouch, touch, pause, engage” should be replaced by “Stand, touch, engage, push”. The thinking behind this is that by removing the collision which currently comes after the engagement could result in less spinal injuries among front-row forwards.

On a lighter note the tales of misadventure from England’s unsuccessful RWC 2011 campaign continue to be a subject of mirth in New Zealand.

During a boat cruise around Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour on Tuesday, the ferry passed the old white lighthouse, which had a St. George’s flag flying from it. “Perhaps an England fan put it there,” the cruise guide quipped over the PA. After a brief mention of the England team’s exit from the tournament he added: “One of them even took a dive off one of our ferries.” This cheeky reference to England centre Manu Tuilagi’s unscheduled dip in harbour which also earned him a fine and the wrath of the team management must have given the passengers a chance to chuckle once more.

In another incident the Welsh training methods prior to the RWC exposes players to temperatures of down to minus-120 degrees Celsius clad only in their underwear and goggles, in an attempt to aid muscle recovery and supposedly improve the rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries. The Wallabies veteran Nathan Sharpe showed slightly more interest in the idea until he was told exactly how chilly the facility could get, given the clothing or lack of it on offer, after which he is supposed to have gone cold on the concept.

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