David Flatman: My man of the tournament is peerless Weepu

From the Front Row

Every rugby coach has, in order to relieve his charges of some psychological weight, described an upcoming encounter as "just another game". Of course every match is, by definition, just another one, but we all know that one always arrives which holds more significance than is usual. At every level – from pub to professional – there are some games that rank as vital where others actually fall into the slot marked "important".

It is easy to quip that any game at a Rugby World Cup should be regarded as vital, but this is stretching the truth for the purposes of romance.

When England took on Romania they did so with comparatively littlepressure and with, I suspect, much reduced anxiety. As you might expect,lots of players find it easier to perform well in these circumstances.

There will be some, however, who feel they need the massive pressure of a whopping match to get the best out of themselves.

The thing is, if you want to be a truly world-class player, you have to be close to immaculate as often as possible, not just in the easy matchesand not just in the big ones.

With this in mind – and having watched every match of this Rugby World Cup – I think the best player has been the All Black scrum-half Piri Weepu. This might cause a stir should you be a relative of Sean O'Brien or David Pocock, but that's OK; it's only an opinion.

I have watched him play against varying grades of opposition and the one thing I have noticed above all else is that his game has never altered one jot; it has never dipped.

Now consistency isn't everything, I know, but the mean standard of his rugby has been something approaching flawless. His core skills – passing, communicating, box kicking and keeping his opponents honest closest to the breakdown – have been so strong that he has now become the heartbeat of his team. He embodies the Kiwi ethos of doing basic things so well that, whether your opponents know it's coming or not, they can do nothing about it.

Watch the whole team and you'll notice that these basics are the foundation of their game and always – without exception – come before the flashy, flamboyant stuff. Their simple plan and attention to detail is what sets them apart, and Weepu is the arbiter in chief.

We all agree that a good deal of this sport is about mental aptitude and that the need to be big and strong – though important – isn't all it takes. Weepu – and I don't say this in criticism – doesn't look like many other scrum halves. When you think of just how much running, jinking and bending down a scrum-half does in a game at this level, it is not surprising that most of them look lean as whippets.

Clearly, Weepu is incredibly fit; in fact, I haven't yet seen him look tired in this tournament. Perhaps the little bit of extra timber he carries around helps me relate to him, or perhaps he is just one of those guys who is so good that his body shape becomes irrelevant. Seriously, look around; from the quarter-finals onward, there aren't many of those.

So the two real tests for a player in a World Cup are whether he can, when required, rise above the mire in the group stages, and continue to inspire when the sharp end comes to pass.

To be honest, there were a handful of players in my mind who had done amazing things over the past few weeks. But I chose someone who, despite the prominence of his position, chose not to exercise his ego by turning peacock but to do what was right for the team, time and time again.

He has always been a brilliant scrum-half but during this World Cup he has, through his actions, become much more; he has become the most important player in the best team in the world.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
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

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering