Shock result adds spice

By BOB ANTHONY

THE Rugby World Cup is finally underway and already we have been treated to a shock result.

Host nation France is just one loss away from elimination after going down to a gutsy Argentinean side at the famous Stade de France on Saturday.

The French now face Ireland and must win or face the total humiliation of being knocked out of their World Cup tournament before the quarter-final stage.

France's loss to the Pumas has added spice to a tournament which usually takes a couple of weeks to really fire up.

Another upset or two and we could see a surprise emerge from the pool stage and there remains the question: Will the All Blacks, clear favourites heading into the Cup, falter again in the semis?

With New Zealand coach Graham Henry at the helm, I can't see it.

The Rugby World Cup traditionally highlights the huge gap between the game's haves and have nots.

And already the opening pool games are producing the predictable tramplings of the minnows by the heavyweights.

Among those to impress are the Wallabies.

They showed good form against Japan (and so they should) but our hardest matches are yet to come.

A word of warning; don't expect the 2007 Wallabies to produce stunning victories over their semi-final rivals like we did in 2003.

(Note: I said don't "expect". They are capable but our opponents this time around will be far more wary of what we are can do and will no doubt be ready for any Aussie ambush.)

Australia's 91-3 opening round win over the Cherry Blossoms is sure to be the first of many lopsided results in France and while it doesn't seem fair to pit paid professionals against part-timers, there are positives As anyone who attended the 2003 World Cup here in Australia can attest, watching the underdogs playing for pride can provide the most entertaining encounters.

And with each tournament, the standard of rugby among the fledgling nations continues to improve a benefit of their participation.

The Rugby World Cup produces a huge revenue stream for the International Rugby Board and much of that income should be channelled into developing the code outside the traditional areas - how much actually does is debatable.

The game's smaller nations provide some of the greatest entertainment during the tournament.

Let's hope the tournament doesn't get bogged down in refs being too pedantic about the rules.

This is the game's showcase and needs to be treated as such, especially if the code wants to win over major nations such as the United States.

There is a great website established by Visa with a panel of five legends of the game (Kiwi Zinzan Brooke, South African Joel Stransky, Frenchman Phillippe Sella, England's Martin Johnson and former Wallaby World Cup winning captain John Eales) debating the various aspects of the 2007 World Cup.

It makes for fascinating reading and rugby followers and punters alike can even contribute to the arguments by logging on to www.visarugby.com



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