Australian rugby's chief executive, John O'Neill, has thrown fresh doubt on the future of the World Cup by delivering a scathing verdict on the International Rugby Board here yesterday.
O'Neill had arrived in town to support the Wallabies in tomorrow's quarter-final but managed to hijack the announcement of coach Robbie Deans' team to face South Africa when he appeared alongside Deans at a press conference.
After fielding questions about his selection, Deans found himself overshadowed as a measured but furious O'Neill tore into the game's world governing body, which is already under fire for fining Samoa over a branded mouthguard and handing the World Cup minnows a more brutal match schedule than the bigger nations.
"If you look at the IRB, we're 15, 16 years into the professional era, lots of good things have happened – a World Cup every four years, Tri-Nations, Super Rugby – but everyone's got to move with the times," O'Neill said. "It's time to have a serious look at the governance and management structures of the IRB."
O'Neill took exception to comments made by IRB chief executive, Mike Miller, who said on Tuesday that the All Blacks were replaceable after Steve Tew, of the New Zealand Rugby Union, had suggested that the side may stay away from the 2015 World Cup. "Threatening to boycott the World Cup is not our style but equally the notion that any team is replaceable is nonsensical," said O'Neill. "Without the All Blacks, the Springboks or the Wallabies it's debatable whether you could even call it a World Cup."
South Africa will take a leaf out of Ireland's book as they plot a grisly World Cup end for Australia, says centre Jaque Fourie. Ireland's defeat of the Wallabies in the group stages set the green-and-gold on a collision course with the reigning champions and Fourie, a member of the winning Springboks four years ago, says the blueprint for Australia's downfall is one he and his mates will happily plagiarise. Central to the thesis is sending the half-back axis of Will Genia and Quade Cooper into a spin. "If we can put them under pressure at No 10 it'll be much better," said Fourie. "We saw how Ireland did it by putting their No 9 and 10 under pressure and it worked."
South Africa: 15 Lambie; 14 Pietersen, 13 Fourie, 12 De Villiers, 11 Habana; 10 Steyn, 9 Du Preez; 1 Steenkamp, 2 Smit (capt), 3 Du Plessis, 4 Rossouw, 5 Matfield, 6 Brussow, 7 Burger, 8 Spies.
Australia: 15 Beale; 14 O'Connor, 13 Ashley-Cooper, 12 McCabe, 11 Ioane; 10 Cooper, 9 Genia; 1 Kepu, 2 Moore, 3 Alexander, 4 Vickerman, 5 Semo, 6 Horwill, 7 Elsom, 8 Pocock.
Referee: B Lawrence (NZ)
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