Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rugby World Cup 2007 - Australia v Canada

Canadian legend Mike James retired after RWC 2007
2012 was a transition year for many teams as the preperation for Rugby World Cup 2015 is well underway. The importance of the Rugby World Cup means that international competition operates on a four year cycle which is not handled correctly can harm a team´s chances in the following tournament. The 2007 Pool match between Australia and Canada was the end of an era for Canadian rugby. It marked the final World Cup appearances for a number of significant names such as Mike James, Morgan Williams, Jon Thiel and Rod Snow. James would be playing in his 56th and final test against Australia in what marked the end of an impressive year and career. Earlier in 2007 he had won the French Top 14 after helping Stade Français defeat Clermont Auvergne. He started in the secondrow while Jamie Cudmore started for the opposition. Sadly, Cudmore would miss out on facing Australia in 2007.

It was the final pool match of what had not been Canada´s happiest Rugby World Cup campaign. The North Americans strated strongly against Wales to hold a 17-9 advantage at the interval but the Europeans fought back well and changed the match with the secondhalf introduction of Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas from the bench. In 2012 Canada would likely be expected to defeat Fiji and in 2007 the teams were considered quite evenly matched. Fiji, however surprized many people by recovering from a scare against Japan to defeat Canada well and then eliminate Wales in its final pool match of the tournament. Canada could have defeated Fiji but did not always make the best decisions at crucial moments. It had a chance at redemption in its third match against Japan. A win would retain Canada´d proud record of always winning at least one match at every Rugby World Cup - a noticably better record than Japan. The Canada v Japan match was one of the best from the pool stages and ended in a draw.

Canada was not happy with the referee´s seemingly generous decision to allow the match to go on well into injury time despite the ball having gone into touch. It proved decisive as Japan broke Canadian hearts to score a converted try to seal the draw. Canada had four days before playing its final and toughest match - against Australia. Like the game against the Japanese Canada faced the Wallabies in Bordeaux. The match was not played in ideal conditions but it was Canada´s well organized defence and not the weather that prevented Australia from scoring as big of a win as had been expected. Canada  was playing for recognition as much as anything else and it certainly achieved this as Australia were made to work very hard to score tries.

In the end it was a confortable victory and won with a bonus point but the match was one to underline the importance of retaining twenty teams at Rugby World Cup´s. The IRB had been firmly wanting to reduce the number of participants from twenty to sixteen in an effort to prevent lop-sided results. Rugby World Cup 2007, however proved that with far better schedules for most Tier 2 and 3 nations than in 2003 these sides were able to play much better against Tier One sides. Canada´s performance against Australia and Wales were both important to contributing to the changed perspective.  

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