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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
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

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches