With the 2023 Rugby World Cup having come to a close, what are five notable takeaways from the final weekend of the tournament? Two Cents Rugby investigates.
Defence wins World Cups
If you looked at the match statistics instead of the score of the Rugby World Cup 2023 final, you might assume the All Blacks had won.
More possession and territory, more run metres and clean breaks, more defenders beaten. They also scored the only try of the game. However, the defensive numbers show where the game was won and lost.
The Springboks made a massive 209 tackles on the night – the most they’ve had to make this year – with 10 of their players getting into double figures.
That was combined with a massive shift at the breakdown, with the turnover count finishing seven to two in South Africa’s favour. So, in this case, the old adage about defence rings very true.
All Blacks missed chances
It’s sad to see pundits going straight for the referees when a game is lost. It’s pretty standard fare, to be honest, and not confined to any one country.
People have been calling up talkback radio since long before social media to talk about the referees. Watching the half-time and post-match coverage in New Zealand, a lot of focus was put on the officiating, which is disappointing.
Jordie Barrett and Richie Mo’unga both had kicks at goal, which could have won the game for the All Blacks. New Zealand lost lineout ball twice in attacking territory in the first half. They finished the game with 19 turnovers conceded, which is the most they have conceded in any match in 2023. Against Ireland, it was only three!
Whatever people think of the officiating team, ultimately, there were chances simply not taken out there.
Red card didn’t ruin the game
Ian Foster said after the match that he thinks 20-minute red cards are preferable to the current system. He mentioned that an early red card affects a game far more than a late one.
I’m actually inclined to agree with him in that I think the game would benefit from it, and I think there are other measures which can be taken to ensure player safety, which tends to be the argument against the 20-minute proposal.
Putting that aside though, the first-half red card to Sam Cane didn’t ruin the game. Like England against Argentina in the pool stage, the red-carded side were able to manage the card well and still make a great contest of the game.
So, despite the card being dished out on the biggest stage, it by no means ruined the final.
Same three medallists
It’s a been a very different Rugby World Cup from 2019, but ultimately, it’s the same three nations that walk away with the medals.
South Africa going back-to-back is an extraordinary achievement. In four years, they’ll be looking to make it an unprecedented three-peat in Australia.
New Zealand and England have swapped places for second and third, but it could easily have been different. England were one point from a final, France one point from a semi, and Ireland too were less than a score away.
Hopefully, in Australia in 2027, we will see as many genuine contenders as we saw this time.
The Bronze Final was a cracker
The fixture that nobody wanted to be playing in still ended up being a game worth watching. It’s sad there doesn’t seem to be a better way to sell this game to people because those who didn’t watch it missed out on a great Test.
Clearly, the game meant something to the players because they went at things full bore for the entire 80 minutes.
The Argentinian players seemed distraught at the end, and head coach Michael Cheika vented his frustrations. The English players, like the All Blacks in 2019, took their medals and will hope to go a step further next time.