Friday, March 23, 2012

Rugby World Cup 2007 - Canada vs Fiji

Host venues for France 2007
The best Rugby World Cup ever was not Rugby World Cup 2011 but rather 2007. Both tournaments delivered quality matches with upsets taking place and were well organzed. The crowds were larger at France 2007 not only because the venues are larger but because there were some matches that were not well attended in New Zealand 2011. The crunch Pool 3 match of Argentina vs Scotland in Wellington had a crowd of under 30,000 at a venue of 40,000. The empty seats painted a negative image. The same did not happen four years earlier as France delivered big crowds with crowds packing matches throughout the country. The one weakness of the tournament was the allocation of two matches to Edinburgh and three to Cardiff. These British cities hosted matches in exchange for voting on France rather than England as the host nation for Rugby World Cup 2007. Ireland had been set to all host but missed out due to the reconstruction of the former Lansdown Road in Dublin. Curiously, Wales will host yet again in 2015 as England looks to utilize the Millenium Stadium, a venue which failed to deliver for two of its three matches in 2007. 

Should Argentina host Rugby World Cup 2023 it can do so on its own and has absolutely no need to have a subhost involved. The stated requirements of a minimum of ten venues can be more than catered for by the Republic of Argentina. The South American country´s home matches in 2012 are a strong indication that the country has the capability with six different cities confirmed to host Los Pumas´ six home matches. The UAR had given cities throughout Argentina the opportunity of officially bidding to host internationals this year and delivered on its promise with Córdoba, La Plata, Mendoza, Rosario, San Juan and Tucumán confirmed to host matches. All meet the requirements as cities to host World Cup matches and, with the exception of Tucumán, all are modern stadiums. In awarding these cities matches, there were other´s interested in hosting  who missed out. Buenos Aires, Resistencia, Salta and Santa Fé had all applied for matches too and all have appropriate stadiums. This would give Argentina with ten venues, one less than what Australia used in hosting Rugby World Cup 2003 and the same number of French venues in 2007.

Morgan Williams passes from a ruck
On the second weekend of France 2007 Canada vs Fiji took place in Cardiff. It was the second match for both teams with Canada having pushed Wales hard before at a packed Nantes being overwhelmed  and Fiji having played one of the best matches of the tournament to hold off Japan for a 35-31 victory in front of a packed Toulouse. It was a match that neither Fiji nor Canada could afford to lose as both were chasing the dream of a Quarters Finals appearance, with Canada having made the final eight in 1991 and Fiji in 1987. Whoever lost this match would see its chances of advancing evaporate. With a highly visible large quantity of unsold seats, Fiji held off a Canadian team that was determined to get the job done but missed ou on scoring tries at crucial times. Having been leading 15-6 at the interval, Fiji were able to complete a 29-16 win but it was Canada playing all the rugby in the second half. Had Mike Pike´s 70th minute try been awarded by the video referee then Canada could well have won the match. Fiji´s spontaneity, however, proved to be match winning.  

The tournament was the end of an era for Canadian rugby with legendary internationals and former Stade Français players Morgan Williams and Mike James playing international rugby for the final time. The strength of Canada in certain positions meant Jamie Cudmore was playing in the backrow and Ed Fairhurst was on the bench. Curiously, Canada´s 2011 no. 8 was also on the bench but as hooker. Another play to change position was Ryan Smith who in New Zealand 2011 played inside centre but was the teams flyhalf vs Fiji in 2007. He replaced Ander Monro for the match and had a good performance, scoring Canada´s only try. At the time he was based in France with the then Top 14 Orange side, Montauban. 

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