So here we are! After weeks of drama, joy, tension, the odd upset, and plenty of tries, the Rugby World Cup final is upon us once more. It’s (amazingly) the first time the rugby heavyweights of New Zealand and Australia have met in the final, and it promises to be an absolute belter. Australia have actually been my tip as champions after watching their performance against England, although I must admit they were less than convincing against Scotland, and could easily have fallen to Argentina in the semi-finals too. The Kiwis, meanwhile, are looking to win back to back tournaments, and while they looked to have been in second gear for the group stages of the tournament, they have typically known when to pull a massive performance out of the bag. In other words, ladies and gentlemaen, we have a final on our hands. My prediction for the final score is Australia 19 – 15 New Zealand.
I enjoyed the bronze medal game last night. In the end, South Africa were deserved winners, but both teams truly put their bodies on the line, and were playing with true passion and pride. Like most people, I thought Argentina really lit up the tournament, showing great ambition in their style of play. They will definitely be a handful to play against in the future, having improved massively for their inclusion in The Rugby Championship.
Moving on to domestic rugby, the sporting headlines have been dominated in Wales this week by Taulupe Faletau’s proposed move to Bath, which was subsequently blocked by the WRU under the Rugby Services Agreement. The whole situation seems so complicated. From what I can tell, Faletau wants to leave Rodney Parade, and The Dragons want to sell him, but the WRU are reluctant because the RSA contractually restricts the number of players who play for “overseas” clubs that can play for Wales. In other words, Faletau could put his international career in danger by moving to play for a club outside of Wales. I can understand the WRU wanting to keep our most talented players in Wales, and in the long run this could massively help improve the regional game – at the end of the day, as supporters, we want to see our best players on the pitch for our regional sides week in, week out. It’s awful that Faletau (or any player, in fact) should be caught in the middle of this kind of power struggle, and I just hope it doesn’t end up affecting his performances on the pitch.
With the world cup drawing to a close, attention will now turn to the domestic leagues, the Pro12, and the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, and it’s a packed schedule between now and Christmas. The first of the this year’s Pro12 Welsh Derbies was played out last night, with The Scarlets beating The Dragons 25-15 in Llanelli. The West Wales Region have had a fantastic start to their season, and currently sit deservedly top of the league.
The Cardiff Blues face Zebre away this afternoon, in a game I’d love to watch, but which, as far as I can tell, isn’t being televised in the UK! I would have thought, given the competitive nature of television broadcasters, someone would have picked it up! Isn’t it time that every Pro12 game is broadcast on T.V? Anyway, hopefully the improving Blues can return to winning ways in Italy after four weeks on the road without a win. I’ll be at the Blues v Glasgow game next week with Emily (wifey) and my mate Karl, and hopefully Dan and Bek too, and I’m really looking forward to returning to the Arms Park! For today, though, I’ll have to make do with online score updates.
Here’s to a great weekend of rugby, and hopefully an epic conclusion to a fantastic World Cup.