Don't write off the Welsh!
With New Zealand’s match against France looming this weekend as the biggest game of the tournament to date, former Wales captain Colin Charvis believes the clash between the hosts and the side that’s proved their World Cup nemesis, could well be a preview of the October 23 final.
Speaking exclusively to Sport24 and the Laureus Foundation, Charvis made the point that “suddenly (after the Australia result) we are guaranteed a southern hemisphere team in the final - unless France beat New Zealand this weekend. So a France-New Zealand final looks very possible. But maybe Wales could sneak through!”
Spoken in jest, perhaps, but the man who played 98 times for Wales has been impressed by a young side that came so close to upsetting defending champions South Africa, before seeing off Samoa.
“For a young side we are showing a lot of strength and tenacity. With two huge games played we need to stay focused and win the remaining two, probably leading to a quarter-final against Ireland, which will be winnable after the way we have played so far.”
That possible quarterfinal clash against Ireland, who have never progressed beyond the last eight of a World Cup, looks set to define the tournament for both teams, and Charvis is aware of the strengths of the Irish - as well as the limitations.
“Ireland have been responsible for the first upset of the World Cup,” the former skipper acknowledges.
“It was not pretty, but the way they beat Australia was comprehensive. You could see Australians looking at each other helpless to stop the Irish. An effective way to beat the Australia team, but is this style of rugby good enough to win Rugby World Cup 2011?
“The style of play is often dictated by the conditions for each match,” Charvis adds. “It will take a versatile team to raise the Webb Ellis Cup in a month’s time. We still need another round of games for coaches to establish their first choices and teams to lay down markers of intent to reach the final.”
That last round of matches will be the last for many of the teams, but 2011 has seen the minnows offer robust resistance and technically improved play against the established teams.
“The smaller nations have always had several players from the top leagues around the world. These players still shine and help galvanise the second tier teams,” Charvis suggests.
“The gap is closing due to their steep learning curve, but experience is still missing, as is seeing a win.”
Charvis also took time to commend the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation on the projects it has underway around the world, with Laureus Academy members such as Sean Fitzpatrick and Morne du Plessis supporting the global growth of the game. “Any project that offers an involvement in sport needs to be maintained,” Charvis commented.
“Sport enhances so many people’s lives, and the more people we can reach the better.”
An inspiring tournament in New Zealand will only help to spread the gospel of the game, as will performances of stand out performers; so far, Charvis likes “Nonu, Carter from New Zealand, and Warburton as a very young captain from Wales,” as players who’ve made an impact. But much as he’d love Warburton to lift the Webb Ellis Cup this time round, he concedes his money is elsewhere.
“New Zealand to win,” the big loose forward says with a wry smile; this weekend’s clash with France will go a long way to suggesting whether or not Colin Charvis has called it right.
For regular rugby updates from Laureus Academy Members including Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Lynagh, Morne du Plessis and Hugo Porta, visit blog.laureus.com