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Sean Fitzpatrick on the RWC Semi Finals

Sean Fitzpatrick Rugby World Cup Blog 8

Posted Oct 19, 2011 by Sean Fitzpatrick

The relief around New Zealand is amazing after the semi-final victory over Australia in the Rugby World Cup. Most people feel we are in a wonderful place now.

The rest of the world may have seen the All Blacks as comfortable favourites before the competition started, but believe me there was plenty of nervousness here.

It was a great weekend for the All Blacks, but in rugby terms it was tainted by the sending-off of Wales captain Sam Warburton in the other semi-final against France. If you have been reading this blog regularly, you will know what I think of that young men. He is a terrific player and a great leader of his team.

In the cold light of day, it was a red card offence. In real time when you watch it, it looked very bad. But sometimes the punishment does not fit the crime.

I have tried to think what I would have done if I had been the referee!! The speed at which the red card was delivered was instant. I think the referee should have given himself some time to think it through. He could have gone away and discussed it with the touch judge. He might then have decided that, despite the letter of the law, on this occasion a yellow card would have been right.

Unfortunately for Wales, there was no way back. As coach Warren Gatland said, it was hard enough being given a red card, but in Sam Warburton they took away his best player. It was a body blow.

For sure, with 15 men, they would have beaten France. Even with 14, they nearly did. It was a shame for the game and it left everyone in a state of shock. We all felt we had been deprived of the concluding chapter of the great story that has been Wales in the World Cup this year.

On the other hand there can be no reservations about New Zealand's marvellous performance against Australia, their best performance for a long time.

The two best teams in the world; the two best No 7s in the world in David Pocock and Richie McCaw; two teams with great backs who were always looking to run the ball.

In this match, New Zealand understood the value of keeping the scoreboard ticking over. They looked patient. They wanted to score tries, but they took the points however they came.

It was, I felt, a very mature display. Especially from the youngsters, Israel Dagg, 23, and Aaron Cruden, 22, who looked wise beyond their years. I loved the way they moved themselves around the field.
For all the joy of a Kiwi who has just seen his team reach the Rugby World Cup final, I must be fair and mention that Australia ran out of petrol. There is no doubt that what they went through against South Africa really took it out of them. Everything they threw at New Zealand we absorbed/

Now for the final. The players can enjoy the week. I liked the fact that they were subdued after the win. They didn't get carried away. There is still a job to do.

They have the momentum of a nation of four million people behind them, so you would think this cannot go wrong.

Most neutrals will assume the All Blacks will turn up and win. But as a nation we know that when the French play the All Blacks anything can happen.

They have got to be in the right head space next weekend and coach Graham Henry will be reminding them all well of the Rugby World Cup in 2007 when it should have been a walkover.

There is a tidal wave of support. So now all the nation can do is wait and hope.
Blog number 8, 18 October 2011

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