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Sean Fitzpatrick on the 2011 RWC
Sean's Blog 6
Posted Oct 05, 2011 by Sean Fitzpatrick
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The question of the moment is undoubtedly what will the fallout be for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup after the injury to Dan Carter.
Frankly, I think it is also a massive loss to the tournament and to rugby lovers. We are not going to see the best rugby player in the world performing on the biggest stage. He must be devastated and our thoughts are with him at this moment.
There has been concern for years about what would happen if we lost Carter or Richie McCaw. Richie has had injury problems, so I guess he was the major concern, but we assumed Dan was always going to be there. Realistically, you just can't replace him. This is the time the rest of the All Blacks have got to stand up to be counted.
Playing knockout rugby is difficult enough without losing your best players. I was involved in All Blacks teams where we did lose important players, but the secret is not to ponder the problem or over complicate the issue. You have to come up with a plan and stick to it. You must not allow the teams you are playing to set the agenda.
With or without Carter the All Blacks will have too much fire power for Argentina. I am sure they have learned things from the weekend game against
Canada about how they can play without Carter.
I think with the news about Dan Carter has moved the All Blacks from clear favourites back into the pack and the the Springboks are probably now the favourites. The World Cup is all about momentum and at the moment South Africa are a juggernaut that is going to be difficult to stop.
They have had two very tough matches, against Wales and Samoa, which will have helped them. Some people said they did not look impressive in those games, but they dug in and won them both. Samoa are a good team that it is easy to underestimate. In any other pool, they could have qualified. I would expect South Africa to beat an under strength Australia, who have been depleted by a stack of injuries.
Ireland showed against Italy that they are continuing in the same vein with an effective game plan built on the sheer power of their forward pack and capitalising on the momentum of their win over Australia. I think their loose forwards - O'Brien, Ferris and Heaslip - have been one of the most effective loose forward units in the World Cup. And they are complimented by the British & Irish Lion's locks O'Connell and O'Callaghan, But also their front row, who have continued there wonderful form.
The Ireland v Wales quarter-final is a match I am really looking forward to. Those of you who have been following this blog over the last couple of weeks will know that I am a fan of the young-looking Welsh team, who have been led superbly by Sam Warburton. Rhys Priestland at No 10 is also a great discovery and they have fire power out wide from young George North and co.
England v France looks like the quarter-final between two out of form teams. France are terrible. They look as if they don't want to be here. They are under real pressure from their fans and the people back home.
England are winning, but winning ugly. They would be relatively happy after beating Scotland. They had one opportunity and they took it. At this level, sometimes that can be enough. Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson had a game he would like to forget and Toby Flood came on and did well.
Knowing Martin Johnson, I think he will go with the safe option of Wilkinson in the 1/4 final, knowing he can always bring on Flood to change things round.
We certainly face an intriguing set of quarter-finals, and I'll be back next week to tell you my thoughts.
Blog number 6, 03 October 2011