Rugby Celebrity Corner

Pressure Pressure Pressure

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France, England, S Africa, Australia, New Zealand Scotland, Ireland. Did any of them look like they were firing on all cylinders? England and S Africa could just as easily have been beaten and most of the others were second best for large portions of the games they played. What does it tell us?

Well first it tells us that the gap between the minnows and the bigger fish is not quite  as big as it used to be. Japan had the best player on the park. Rumania were better than the score suggests and all Argentina’s pretending to be underdogs fooled nobody. Argentina performed at the same level than 4 years ago against France in the opening game of the World Cup in the French Stadium! Are the two old continent’s countries regressing at the same time as the others are progressing?

Second perhaps only New Zealand and Australia are anywhere near being great teams. Someone else may discover greatness along the way but S Africa didn’t look to have many tries in the locker and France didn’t look capable of 80 minutes concentration let alone a whole tournament’s worth. England need to remember that Martin Johnson is not playing and show some of the aggression on the pitch that he shows in the stands. Perhaps the only other team that played to their potential was Wales and they failed to finish the Springboks when they had the chance.Third and final we are discovering the affects of tournament pressure. Things are happening that shouldn’t happen. The clearest example has to be the kicking. If you told a Welshman that James Hook would lose the game for Wales because he couldn’t pressure kick they would laugh you all the way back to the Millennium Stadium and to watch Wilkinson, the World Cup’s highest points scorer, kick like a part time club kicker is unbelievable. That’s what pressure can do.The first weekend has probably raised more questions than given answers, which is what has made it so fascinating. The team that wins this tournament will be the one that can break past the pressure and deliver their A game. Who that will be is still anyone’s guess.

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