The end is near. It is six weeks ago today since England opened the Rugby World Cup with a win at Fiji’s expense at Twickenham, but the hosts will be nowhere to be seen tomorrow as New Zealand and Australia bring the final curtain down on the latest chase for the Webb Ellis Cup, writes Brendan O’Brien
Ireland, ultimately, lasted just one week longer before being escorted off the premises by Argentina and, though it all amounted to yet another quarter-final exit, it would be untrue to say that we have learned little as a result of our latest thwarted attempt at global domination.
This column spent 33 days covering some of the stories that added up to such an engaging tournament, most of them being spent in London or Cardiff, though there were exotic trips to destinations as far flung as Slough and Swansea.
Here, then, are 60 things we learned: that’s almost two a day!
1. Obvious, we know, but it was bloody brilliant, wasn’t it?
2. Euro ’96. The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The 2015 Rugby World Cup. The English are excellent, gracious hosts.
3. The price of World Cup tickets is ridiculous.
4. People will pay ridiculous money for World Cup tickets.
5. The ‘World In Union’ anthem needs to be decommissioned. Fast.
6. TV ad breaks between the anthems and kick-off are a sporting sin.
7. ‘Ireland’s Call’ won’t be sung like that again for another four years.
8. France are crap, but ‘La Marseillaise’ still kicks ass.
9. London really should have run the Underground all night at weekends as promised. Bad show, chaps.
10. The lack of foresight in adding extra trains on match days was a bad joke.
11. If you’re travelling by train from London to Cardiff on a match day, then get up early or stay up all night.
12. 2023? We’re going to need more trains! And beds!
13. Everybody loves a good FanZone. Don’t ask us why. They’re like festivals without music, but with all the annoying crap...
14... Like beer in plastic glasses. An utter abomination.
15. More games should have been played up north, and in smaller cities in general. Take note those directing Ireland’s 2023 bid.
16. Please, no more four-day turnarounds, especially for the tier two sides.
17. Japan rock. End of.
18. Dan Carter is even more gorgeous in the flesh than on the telly. Trust us.
19. Hard to believe, but Ian Madigan’s look was better before he shaved his head.
20. Move over Thierry Henry. Pascal Papé is now Ireland’s least-favourite Frenchman.
21. The Italian squad are a great bunch of lads.
22. So are the Argentinians.
23. Iain Henderson is a beast.
24. Freddie Michalak never was and never will be a Test out-half.
25. If Wales can do that with second and third-choice players because of injury, then why are their regions so crap in Europe?
26. Europeans play rugby. The southern hemisphere play ‘footy’. It’s true, we do play different sports.
27. New Zealand’s quarter-final performance against France was basically sex on legs.
28. Argentina are the new France: exotic, skilful and brutal, in the common sense of the word, when they need to be.
29. All that talk about 2017 being a good time for the Lions to go to New Zealand? Ehm, no. Probably not.
30. Vern Cotter is the new/old Joe Schmidt.
31. Joe Schmidt is still Joe Schmidt. He can still improve this Ireland team.
32. Ireland badly need another Paul O’Connell, in word and in deed.
33. Ireland’s defence was the Achilles heel against Argentina, not their attack.
34. Stuart Lancaster is a good, good man in a very bad position right now.
35. Choosing and then starting Sam Burgess as a centre was absolute madness.
36. England’s future is George Ford and Henry Slade, not Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt.
37. France need to ask themselves who they are, what they are about and what they want to be.
38. Dan Biggar could easily be the starting 10 for the Lions in 2017.
39. Michael Cheika is a bloody genius.
40. The Millennium Stadium should be the default design for every new sports stadium in the world.
41. London’s Olympic Stadium has the atmosphere of a morgue. West Ham United are welcome to it.
42. Olympic Park was class in 2012. Now, not so much. Why would any city want to host the five-ring circus?
43. Milton Keynes: awful city, but class stadium.
44. Rhys Ifans immortalised Swansea as a ‘pretty shitty city’ in the movie Twin Town. We liked it.
45. Old grounds like the Swansea Rugby and Cricket Ground should be preserved forever. Right down to the musty carpets.
46. Cardiff Castle is a superb if expensive attraction. Check out the city park beside it as well.
47. Buy something in Heathrow. Anything. It prepares you for the shock of opening your wallet in London.
48. London will soon be one vast property investment portfolio for the world’s elite.
49. The Underground is an astonishing achievement, but how do people put up with it every day?
50. Take a walk up Primrose Hill the next time you’re in London. Views are gorgeous.
AND THE REST…
51. Piri piri sauce is Portuguese, apparently. Who knew? It’s also gorgeous.
52. Cans of Red Stripe are awesome.
53. More pubs should sell cans.
54. It’s impossible to buy a sandwich made in front of your eyes anywhere in the UK.
55. No meal beats a home-cooked meal. Many thanks to Uncle Dennis and Kathleen in Bristol.
56. English tea is awful.
57. The price of alcohol is just horrendous over there.
58. The price of everything is horrendous.
59. People renting their gaffs out on Airbnb are making an absolute killing.
60. Eating chocolate every day makes you fat.
More games should have been played up north, and in smaller cities in general. Take note those directing Ireland’s 2023 bid
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