It was supposed to be the day that England Rugby laid down the gauntlet and showed the rest of the world what it had to offer. Expectations were understandably high, after a successful 6 Nations campaign and victories against Australia, Wales and Ireland. England have undoubtedly been the form team of the Northern Hemisphere and went into the group stages with confidence and a belief in their own abilities. The only problem seems to be our sporting teams don’t seem to cope with high levels of expectation particularly well, and that’s not just an issue for rugby alone. All our national teams have a habit of underperforming, save the cricket team which hasn’t done too badly of late. So, what did our Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, make of this weekend’s events, and have they changed his opinions about who will eventually lift the trophy in five weeks time?
What are your thoughts about the prospects of the home nations after the weekend’s results?
“I was very impressed with Wales. I thought they played really well, and that’s coming from someone who’s not well known for giving the Welsh any credit either. I thought they were tremendous, and it was just a shame they couldn’t nail things down better. I thought they were outstanding in possession, open field play and defence and were unlucky with the result. They certainly deserved a good deal more than they got. What still gets me is how these touch judges can’t get seem to get their acts together. For me, watching on TV, that Hook penalty kick went through the posts. How I could see it, but they couldn’t astounds me. Anyway, they did really well and if they carry on playing like that they might surprise people.”
“I thought England were really disappointing. Alright they won, so that’s something I guess. They always say if you can win when you’re playing badly, or win by not playing well, then that can often be a good omen, because when you do play well you’ll definitely get the result. I’m sure they will pick up and improve as the tournament progresses. We all hope there’s much better to come, but what’s really disappointing is that there wasn’t really an area around the field that you could pinpoint and say, well that was good.”
“Instead almost every aspect of the game was disappointing: the forwards, the attack, the midfield breaks all were substandard. The whole game was uninspiring and ordinary. I think we got one line break, and that was it. Now Argentina are capable of giving anybody a game, but I mean. Is that all we’ve got to offer? If it is, it’s going to be a disappointing tournament. If it isn’t, then they’ve certainly got some work to do. Still, having said that Argentina were probably the strongest side they were going to face. I don’t really see Scotland being all that competitive against us, relatively speaking.”
“As for the Irish game – oh dear, oh dear: what a terrible disappointment. Anybody who got up at half past five to watch that would be pretty angry. After the first round of matches, you’d have to say that the Welsh are carrying the flag by miles. Their performance was tremendous, and everybody else’s was – well put it this way, wasn’t. Mind you that seems to be a common characteristic of the tournament so far anyway. None of the fancied sides have particularly shone for the full 80 minutes. Australia were very subdued in the early stages and only came good later on when they played some attractive rugby. New Zealand sparkled for the first half, then went into their shells against a pretty average side, and South Africa didn’t threaten like we all imagined they would, though you’d have to give the Welsh great credit for that. Have I changed my opinion? Well, yes and no. Let’s wait for the end of the group stages, then we’ll see what’s what.”