Take a bow
October 27, 2011
Adam Kleeberger's beard was one of the defining images of the World Cup - but is it enough to warrant a ESPNscrum award? © Getty Images
Taulupe Faletau Julio Farias Cabello Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu Jock Hobbs Jerome Kaino Adam Kleeberger Mario Ledesma Arocena Richie McCaw John Smit Piri Weepu
The dust is now settling on a spectacular World Cup where the hosts prevailed for the first time in 24 years. With the International Rugby Board honouring some of the players who have featured prominently over the last six weeks, it is only fair that ESPNscrum hands out some of our own awards.
With this in mind, this week's Scrum Sevens reflects on some of the good, the bad and the ugly moments prevalent in the seventh global gathering.
Player of the tournament: It is near impossible to narrow the 600 or so players who turned out during the World Cup to just one, but there have been some stand-out performances. David Pocock comes to mind for his sensational one-man dismantling of the South Africans in the quarter-final, while Wales impressed throughout. Sam Warburton's name enters the frame alongside the likes of Jamie Roberts and Toby Faletau, who finished the tournament with an incredible tackle record: 75 made, none missed.
Then you have the 'minnows.' Georgia's Mamuka Gorgodze was in inspired form throughout the group stages alongside Japan's James Arlidge, who put in a phenomenal performance against France, scoring 21 points. And then you come to France in all their tricolor glory. Thierry Dusautoir recently scooped the IRB Player of the Year award and was also awarded man-of-the-match in the final. Julien Bonnaire was an unsung hero while Imanol Harinordoquy and Lionel Nallet put their bodies on the line whenever they pulled on the blue of France.
But it is hard to ignore the All Blacks. Israel Dagg cemented himself as the number one fullback in world rugby, while skipper Richie McCaw played through the pain barrier to lead his side to glory - including a memorable performance against their perennial Trans-Tasman rivals in the semi-final. However, after playing nearly every minute of the All Blacks' campaign and putting in shift after shift, Jerome Kaino gets the nod.
Try of the tournament: Another category with a plethora of contenders. Ma'a Nonu's effort against Australia in the semi-final was a result of great work from Israel Dagg - and Nonu being in the perfect position to profit from his superb offload. Shane Williams' score against Ireland is also worthy of note as he finished off a team effort which displayed everything Wales did well during the World Cup. And Gethin Jenkins' barnstorming effort against Namibia is also worthy of mention.
The less-fancied nations also produced some moments to remember. USA Eagles' Mike Petri scored a superb solo effort against Russia in their Pool C clash, while Denis Simplikevich made a name for himself when he crossed the line in impressive style against Ireland. But our try of the tournament goes to Julio Farias Cabello for his score against the All Blacks in the quarter-final. Argentina made the break on the halfway line through No.8 Leonardo Senatore who then shifted the ball to talismanic fly-half Felipe Contepomi. Fullback Martin Rodriguez took the ball forward at a blistering pace before Cabello dived over in the corner. The Pumas were momentarily in front and a nation dared to believe before a second-half onslaught from the hosts teed up their semi-final with the Wallabies.
Match of the tournament: The final will go down in rugby folklore as one of the most closely contested games while New Zealand's win over Australia in the semi-final was tactically brilliant. Wales' heartbreaking loss to South Africa also warrants a mention while Tonga against Canada showed everything that is great about the game - two less-fancied nations going full throttle, with the winning score coming in the dying embers of the game as Canada prevailed 25-20. And that match ended up having huge bearing on the group as the defeat proved to be Tonga's downfall in a bid for a place in the knockout stages.
But our match of the tournament goes to Ireland's 15-6 win over Australia. The match had huge ramifications on the draw as it split the north and southern hemispheres and proved that the golden generation of Irish talent still had enough fire left in the belly to potentially shock the rugby watching world...until they met Wales in the quarter-final.
Moment of the tournament: In an event packed with incident, nominations for the category span the whole six weeks. Back in the opening round of the competition, Namibia's Theuns Kotze produced an incredible 10-minute kicking display as he contributed 12 points to the board with a series of seamless punts against Fiji. The tournament also saw the rugby world bid farewell to some stalwarts with Mario Ledesma's departure from the field against New Zealand in floods of tears a brilliant reminder of exactly what it meant to the man to pull on the blue and white of Argentina.
And then there were the moments that some people will want to forget. The image of Dan Carter lying stricken on the turf after he sustained his tournament-ending injury, and Sam Warburton's infamous tackle on Vincent Clerc and Alain Rolland's subsequent reaction.
However, the moment of the tournament goes to Richie McCaw for when he was awarded his 100th cap for the All Blacks by Jock Hobbs. With the former Kiwi international Hobbs struggling with illness and the current skipper clearly overwhelmed with emotion, it was a poignant moment in the tournament and one which will go down as one of the crowning glories of a remarkable career for McCaw.
Scandal of the tournament: In a World Cup riddled with scandal the dubious honour has a number of contenders. Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu came out with some controversial comments from his Twitter account hitting out at the IRB and referee Nigel Owens. The England team also make a pretty good fist of tying up the award having been involved with incidents involving hotels, late night drinking sessions, ball tampering, rule-breaking mouth guards and diving from ferries. France also put in their own claim for scandal of the tournament, getting slapped with a fine having crossed the line against the All Blacks while they performed their haka in the final. But in terms of being a revolutionary in the field of Twitter-warfare, Fuimaono-Sapolu gets the nod.
Quote of the tournament: Marc Lievremont's rant after seeing his side reach a World Cup final was fairly spectacular when he labelled his players "[a] bunch of spoiled brats. Undisciplined, disobedient, sometimes selfish. Always complaining". Quade Cooper also found himself the brunt of most jokes in the New Zealand press and when All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen was asked about the criticism levelled at Cooper he responded: "He's taken it on the chin like a good Kiwi boy."
But the press at the World Cup weren't always at their best, especially one question which was put to Scotland's Chris Paterson - when James McOnie asked the fullback: "Just wondering what Scottish things you'll be doing, maybe watching Braveheart or listening to the Proclaimers?"
Springboks captain John Smit found himself at the centre of a selection quandary with Peter de Villiers favouring him throughout, despite calls from supporters and press alike to favour Bismarck du Plessis in the hooker berth. But after de Villiers defended his skipper, Smit responded with: "When I hear the coach talking like that it reminds me of my wife. She thinks I'm the most handsome guy in the world."
However, quote of the tournament goes to Piri Weepu's mother. Kura Weepu coached Piri at under-seven level when he was playing rugby league for Wainuiomata and when asked how she remembered her son she responded: "He was our runt - now he can't keep the weight off. He was a p***k to coach."
Best facial hair of the tournament: Marc Lievremont's pencil Erryl Flynn-esque moustache gets a vote while Peter de Villiers' 'tache also warrants a mention. Dan Cole's beard was one of the highlights of England's tournament but the winner is Canada's Adam Kleeberger, who produced heroic facial-fuzz.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.