This is fascinating reading… The IRB report on the Rugby World Cup clearly points to why NZ didn’t make it through. They abandoned their winning ways. Blame the ref. Blame the coach. Blame whoever you want. But when the players let the game get dictated by the opposition, or worse still, veer from the winning formula like a runaway truck, you don’t have to look far…
There is however a risk in the 15 man distribution approach – or at least there is a perceived risk. Passing from all parts of the pitch requires a solid platform as well as skill and pace. It also requires confidence since it is thought to heighten the risk of losing possession when compared to a tight kicking and rucking game. Successful as the New Zealand approach had been, the one question that was critical therefore was whether an expansive approach would stand up under the pressure of a winner take all knockout competition.
It did not – and this has never been more dramatically illustrated than in the France v New Zealand quarter final game. In order to understand the immensity of this game, it is necessary to go back to November 2006. In that month, New Zealand defeated France – in France – by 47 points to 3. This suggested that New Zealand seemed to have found the right formula for beating one of their major world cup rivals. They scored 7 tries, creating just 43 rucks and kicked the ball 29 times. They made few passes – just 91 – but were clinical in their execution.
This formula disappeared however in their RWC quarter final match
against France. Instead of creating 43 rucks, New Zealand created 165 or almost 4 times as many. This was around 100 more than a normal New Zealand game; was around 50% higher than the next highest in the tournament and is almost certainly the highest figure ever seen in an international match. It was at a scale that New Zealand had never remotely experienced before with an often seen expansive approach being replaced by forward attrition. The successful formula of recent years had been abandoned for some reason and New Zealand found themselves out of the competition.