WORLD CUP DIARY: The world in union but out of vision

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The Independent Online
THE RIDICULED citing procedure finally hit home when Leo Williams, the World Cup chairman, cried foul on many aspects of the tournament but, in particular, cited the coverage of ITV. Williams, an Australian to boot, admitted that ticketing, match scheduling, the condition of the Millennium Stadium pitch, and even the state of Jonah Lomu's hair were all matters of concern.

However, he reserved his fiercest criticism for the host broadcaster, whom he labelled a "disgrace". "We were badly let down," he said. "There was barely any promotion; there were some serious questions about the technical coverage - cameras pointing the wrong way for example. We were arguing as late as Wednesday for trying to get the third place play-off screened nationally." It wasn't.

Promotion had been great in Wales, not to mention Limerick, but non-existent elsewhere. In Australia and New Zealand in 2003, when the format will probably return to four groups instead of five, there will be matches every day. This one had four games on some days and then nothing for a week.

On the credit side, the tournament will make a profit of around pounds 48m, with the WRU receiving pounds 36m (it should enable Wales to keep hold of Graham Henry), record attendances and a huge TV audience - overseas. However, Rugby World Cup Limited should be cited for the timing of its press conference - on the eve of the final and on the day John Hart resigned as coach of the All Blacks.

Five-star send-off

FOLLOWING THE match that saved the World Cup - France's epic, of course, against New Zealand - the French retired to the Pescadou restaurant in London, while the All Blacks drowned their sorrows at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot.

The five-star hotel built its own rugby pitch for its guests. "It was sombre but there was no wall banging. They're a lovely bunch," said the manager Neil Kirby, who was a guest of the All Blacks at Twickenham. "I know more about soccer than rugby and the thing I couldn't understand is why they didn't use more of Jonah Lomu. It was like having an outstanding centre-forward and not passing to him." As for Lomu, will he or won't he play American gridiron? "I have no idea what he's going to do," was John Hart's last word. Or is it Bristol? If it is, the West Country club would be exceeding the new salary cap.

Cut to the chase

"WE'RE humble in victory and we must be humble in defeat," Joost van der Westhuizen said after the extra-time exit to Australia. Humility did not prevent the Springboks from smelling a rat when Ben Tune came on as a late replacement for Daniel Herbert. The regulations state that an injured player who has been substituted must not reappear unless it's as a blood replacement.

Jason Little came on for Tune after 61 minutes, and Nathan Grey, Australia's other three-quarter on the bench, for Tim Horan after 74 minutes. When the centre Herbert went off in the second half of extra time, he was replaced by Tune. The Springboks claim that Tune went off with a knee injury and reappeared with a minor facial cut, implying that the wing had mysteriously acquired the nick in the dressing room. The Boks lodged a complaint which was rejected.

Time out - or perhaps not

INFAMOUS FOR seven minutes. The more controversial talking point than whether Ben Tune was "nicked" in that semi-final was the injury time played by referee Derek Bevan. As normal time approached with Australia leading 18-15, there was an unusual announcement: two minutes of injury time would be played. The figure was also displayed on a board on the touchline. "I didn't hear the announcement and I didn't take any notice of the board," Bevan said.

"I had two watches, one constantly running, the other stop-start. I also had two touch judges to confer with. There was no problem. There were seven minutes of injury time and the referee's word is final."

In the stand Nick Bunting, the RFU liaison referee, was responsible for the two-minute warning. "Maybe he didn't stop his watch every time there was an injury," Bevan said. "The announcement probably confused a lot of people."

It was after seven minutes and 22 seconds of injury time in the second half that Jannie de Beer (who is already in the Guinness Book of Records) levelled the scores, taking the game into extra time. Bevan, incidentally, has known for eight years that he would not be taking charge of yesterday's final." It was indicated to us that nobody would do two finals," Bevan, who refereed Australia's defeat of England in the 1991 final, said. "I think that's fair."

Why Bobby didn't dazzle

CONSIDERING THEIR reputations, the two greatest under- achievers have been the New Zealand centre Christian Cullen and South Africa's No 8 Bobby Skinstad.

Skinstad's demise is no surprise to those who knew how seriously he had damaged a knee in a car crash prior to the World Cup. Having abruptly parted company with his No 8 and captain Gary Teichmann, the coach Nick Mallett may have felt that Skinstad was indispensable. Others feel that the 23-year-old should never have taken part in the tournament. As it is, Skinstad faces an operation when he returns home.

Rees wrong

LIKE EVERYBODY else, Gareth Rees couldn't quite believe what he was seeing as France took the All Blacks apart at Twickenham. Only a month before, Rees, captain of Canada, had fancied his chances against the Tricolores in Beziers. "Their defence in the Five Nations had been abysmal and we thought we could take them."

Although France won their Pool C opener against Canada 33-20, Rees, who has left Bedford for Harlequins, said: "We could have beaten them. They were struggling with each other but were fortunate in that Thomas Castaignede was injured against us and Christophe Lamaison controlled things a lot better. But the key to the whole French renaissance is Abdel Benazzi. When he's on song the rest of the pack are inspired. For France hit their peak, the All Blacks had a flat day at the worst possible time."

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