So that’s the trip of a lifetime over, and I’m home and back at the coalface. So what to make of Scotland’s World Cup campaign? Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of New Zealand 2011 from our perspective.The Good:
- Hey, we scored 4 tries against Romania, right?
- Ruaridh Jackson settled right in to the Scotland 10 jersey. Joe Ansbro showed enough sparks in attack (when he was allowed to play) to suggest that Max Evans has been finally sent back to the wing. Unless Joe can play 12?
- Ross Ford had a belter against England despite being tackled in all directions, often at the same time. Euan Murray (when he played) went to town on every scrum put in front of him.
- Giant portions of amazing food. Special mention to the Fergburger in Queenstown and the Fat Dog in Rotorua for the quality of burger and sheer epic size of the plates of food they put out respectively.
- The people of Invercargill and the whole of Southland for a truly warm welcome to Scotland players and fans. Dunedin? Where’s that? Who needs a roof anyway?
- The scenery on South Island. Anyone who says New Zealand looks just like Scotland is going to the wrong bits. Staggering views, around every bend.
- The atmosphere in the Cake Tin for the Argentina game. Flat out the most fun atmosphere pre-game, and the full 80 minute support and singing from the fans of both sides. The first time in ages I thought that we’d really done the team justice with our support.
- Peter Breiner’s jaunty arrangement of Flower of Scotland that made it almost pleasant to listen to.
- Banning people from bringing automobile parts into the stadium in Invercargill. It’s about time someone stamped out this despicable practice.
- Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu’s tweets, railing against IRB injustice and um, Nigel Owens. Shooting both barrels from the hip.
- Ireland’s performance against Australia. Things are all set for Ireland’s best ever World Cup, or at least one where they do not underperform. Wales look handy too.
- That ten minutes against Argentina.
- That led to that ten minutes against England.
- Nick De Luca, let’s face it, had a few howlers. Again. Lot of penalties given away and not much passing. He wasn’t helped by the speed refs are whistling up Holding On tournament wide. I don’t want to seem like I’m singling out Nick, who I think is a talented ball player, so I’ll also point out Parks was wildly inconsistent as usual. 2 restarts out on the full in the Romania match set the tone for an area of the game we didn’t really focus on, and paid for it. And he should have taken the contact, or passed out to 12, if he wasn’t ready for that drop. As A.D has already pointed out, big Richie and Barclay were also a little subdued, although the former wasn’t helped by heavy marking from opposition defences.
- Robinson not selecting Lawson for the final game, or Ansbro in the third.
- Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking.
- The way the smaller teams in the tournament were scheduled. Namibia in particular were shunted around, reputedly at the broadcasters’ whim. They were practically on the plane home before some teams had played 3 games.
- We went out at the knockout stage for the first time, after 2 matches we should really have won. Still, as my mate Doug said after each of them, we didn’t score the tries, and they did.
- Almost all of the rugby in Pool B, including a lot of the stuff played under a roof in perfect conditions.
- Al’s tour moustache. In fact, mine was pretty ropey too.
- The state of my credit card. For us poor Brits, New Zealand is expensive. Unless you want to buy steak at the Pak ‘N’ Save, then you’re quids in. Still, it was worth it.
- Most of the official RWC merchandise. While there was a massive amount more choice than in France, a lot of it seemed aimed at the older fans, shall we say. Where were the cool t-shirts? Rugby World Cup belt anyone? And how come the England supporters shirt was navy blue (and there wasn’t a Scotland one)?
- Mike Tindall’s nose. How any sort of mystery blonde could be interested in that, is in itself a mystery.
- New Zealand’s lack of love for Colin Slade. Surely they can win the big one without Dan? Nonu could probably beat Argentina by himself. After all, they’ve already beaten France and everyone else is playing rubbish Northern Hemisphere rugby, eh.
We might not be involved in the knockout stages, but there are some fascinating match-ups to keep an eye on while dreaming about what might have been.
Still, there’s nothing like the RaboDirect Pro12 to bring you back down to earth.