A World Cup painted glorious black

New Zealand lived up to its promises with a tournament that expressed a national passion

We were promised that New Zealand would provide a "stadium of four million" for the seventh Rugby World Cup and almost everywhere we travelled up and down the North and South Islands of this beautiful country, the reality matched the hype.

From the oyster-rich shores of Invercargill over the mountainous Remarkables to Queenstown and Dunedin; sadly bypassing the shaken ruins of Christchurch; across the Cook Strait to Wellington and Palmerston North (where it seemed only natural for Georgia to play Romania in front of men with yellow buckets on their heads and middle-aged Kiwi ladies wearing red spangly wigs and screaming "Go Georgia" at every opportunity) and the central hub of Auckland, All Black flags fluttered on flagpoles, smirking ex-All Blacks joshed on radio and TV and shop folk and doctors, waiters and prime ministers discussed the ruck and the maul and the sweet spot on the ball. England, who are the next hosts in 2015 in a football-dominated country unlikely to bill itself as a rugby stadium of 50 million, have a lot to live up to.

After today's final there will be the re-examination of the laws that follows each of these global gatherings. Expect the awful scrum engagement call of "crouch, touch, pause, engage" to be revised and the lack of aimless kicking here to be applauded. The number of reset scrums that had been building to ruination was mercifully reduced, but mercilessly too by referees penalising front rows. Australia suffered that fate against Ireland and lost a pool match that gave a Heimlich hump to what was panning out as a lifelessly predictable, drawn-out event.

The romanticism of following the "minnows" as they drown in pools dominated by traditional teams has begun to weary into accusations of an old pals' act holding the game back. The double votes available to the home unions on the International Rugby Board play awkwardly against whole areas of the planet lumped together with just one raised hand. The Georgians looked the likeliest to upset the order soon but after 24 years of World Cups we were left again with a quarter-final line-up of eight teams you could have picked without the fuss of 48 matches, the All Blacks' entirely expected march to the final and the £19 million loss to the New Zealand government and organisers.

But to have done without all that would have been to miss out on the simple pleasure of rugby people gathering for a seven-week party. If some of England's players misunderstood the exact ratio of fun to hard work expected of them it should not be forgotten there were those such as Simon Shaw and Lee Mears who had only the "couple of beers" prescribed by Martin Johnson and made friends wherever they went. What a shame the early indiscretions of a few were not jumped on. Change is afoot for the red rose.

Wales lost three matches but won friends; Ireland had their day against the Wallabies; Scotland must reflect on how much their lofty place in the scheme of things is based ever more on history.

As Johnson said, the All Blacks' league-sevens-union hybrid style is easy to copy but difficult to do as well as them. It does not look so beautiful to some. Overall though in this land the South Africa coach Peter de Villiers described as having "five seasons in one day" we were happy to charge our final glass of pinot noir and say, "Cheers New Zealand, you smashed 'em, bro."

Seen and heard...

"Smashed 'em, bro'!" – TV catchphrase, translates into English as "jolly good tackle old boy".

"Fear the Beard" – Canadian supporters greet three hairy players into Napier.

"I didn't think my accent was that strong" – Georgia's Scottish coach, Richie Dixon, after half his reply to a question was translated into... English.

"And hopefully he never pulled an opponent's shirt again" – young female museum curator on an old photo of Wales hooker Jeff Young lying face down with a broken jaw.

"Public enemy No 1" – routine NZ media description of NZ-born Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper.

"Nine days derailed us because we lost momentum" – Dixon says too long a gap between matches can be just as bad as a short turnaround.

"International rugby has changed. If you're not able to compete physically you will struggle" – Wales attack coach Rob Howley.

"We call ourselves an exclusive club and we'd like other members to join it" – All Black lock Gary Whetton, a 1987 World Cup winner.

"You can't have guys getting suspended out there, on or off the field" – So much for Martin Johnson's warning to his squad on 20 June. There were bans for Courtney Lawes and Delon Armitage, fines for Lawes, Lewis Moody and Manu Tuilagi and reprimands for James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton.

"For us a big night out was the Masterton Operatic Society's production of 'Oklahoma'" – John Taylor recalls the 1971 Lions tour.

"The crown jewels are a bit sore" — Moody after an accidental kick where it hurt from the Queen's new relation, Mike Tindall.

Team of the tournament I Dagg (NZ); V Clerc (France), C Smith, M Nonu (both NZ), D Ioane (Australia); M Kvirikashvili (Georgia), D Yachvili (France); C Healy (Ireland), K Mealamu (NZ), A Jones (Wales), B Thorn (NZ), R Gray (Scotland), J Kaino (NZ), S Warburton (Wales), M Gorgodze (Georgia).

Try of the tournament Ma'a Nonu for New Zealand against Australia in the second semi-final.

Moment of the tournament Mike Phillips' try for Wales v France in the first semi – a shocked, sad, sullen depression after Sam Warburton's 18th-minute sending-off turned to intense joy and hope. Up to a point. Wales still lost.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower