Book review: Sweet Chariot 2: Heroes and Heartbreaks

Sweet Chariot 2 looks at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Each pool is summarised, with games written about in varying levels in detail. After the summary of each pool, the knockout matches are described individually. After the chapter about the final, statistics for the tournament are given with lineups for each match. An excellent summary of a tournament that saw the recognised nations not have everything their own way.

Rating (out of 5): ****

48 teams at the World Cup

FIFA have announced that from 2026, the number of teams at the World Cup will be increased from 32 to 48. There will be 16 groups of 3, with the top 2 qualifying for the knockout stages. FIFA have said that the move is to be more inclusive. I have no objections to FIFA looking to make the game more inclusive, but I don’t think that expanding the number of countries will help promote football. I think that more countries being at the tournament will result in some mis-matches. The World Cup should be for the best countries in the world, but it will be more difficult to claim this as more and more countries compete at the finals. Also, groups of 3 will mean that the two countries who play each other last in the group stage will know what they need to do, which has led to problems in the past with certain results being played for.

Please vote in the polls above and leave a comment and let me know your thoughts about FIFA’s announcement.

Zimbabwe U19s knocked out by ‘Mankad’ incident

Zimbabwe have been knocked out of the Under 19 World Cup after losing to the West Indies by 2 runs. The West Indies won the game by claiming the final wicket via a ‘Mankad’ dismissal (check the video below I found on Youtube that shows the dismissal)

The dismissal is within the Laws of the Game, but is widely accepted as not being within the spirit of the game; the spirit of the game would see the batsman being warned before being run out. An appeal for a ‘Mankad’ dismissal also sees the umpires asking if the fielding side wish for the appeal to be upheld.

I think that the controversy surrounding a ‘Mankad’ dismissal proves that it is a batsman’s game. The Laws of the Game state that it is a legal dismissal, therefore surely making it no more controversial than a ‘normal’ run out. It is very easy for a batsman to avoid being run out in such a manner – all they have to do is remain within the crease before the delivery is bowled, something that everyone is aware of. If batsmen are unable to manage this, surely they are attempting to gain an unfair advantage over the fielding side? Such a dismissal also proves that it’s a batsman’s game because when wickets are reviewed, the first thing that is checked is whether it is a no-ball or not. If the delivery is a no-ball, the batsman is reprieved and allowed to continue his innings, regardless of whether the bowler has overstepped the line by a millimetre or several centimetres. Therefore, if a batsman is out of his ground before the ball is delivered, the fielding side should be allowed to run him out without it being described as controversial.

New Zealand 34-17 Australia

New Zealand beat Australia to become the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy with a strong performance to cement their place as the best in the world. New Zealand opened the scoring with a penalty, which Australia replied to and New Zealand added a couple more penalties before New Zealand scored their opening try at the end of the half. New Zealand looked to have the game secured with a brilliant try from Nonu at the start of the second half, but a yellow card for Smith allowed Australia to score two quick tries and move within four points, before a drop goal, penalty and try secured victory for the All Blacks.

The first half hour was quite nervy with plenty of errors from both sides, but once New Zealand hit their stride, they were the better team. They were able to secure quick ball when required when attacking and limited Australia’s chances – Australia only seemed to be in with a chance when New Zealand were down to 14 men. The victory for New Zealand was well deserved, who were clearly the better team and excellent throughout the knockout stages against France, South Africa and Australia.

South Africa 24-13 Argentina

South Africa secured third place at the World Cup with victory over Argentina at the Olympic Stadium. South Africa started the game well with 10 points in the opening 15 minutes, aided greatly by a yellow card for Cubelli. Whilst Argentina did come back into the game (they finished with 65% possession and 63% territory), they rarely looked like unlocking the South African defence and running in points as they had against Ireland. South Africa looked comfortable with making tackles and waiting for Argentine errors. Argentina did secure a late consolation try in stoppage time, but the game had been over for quite a time and South Africa fully deserved their victory following an impressive opening quarter.

South Africa 18-20 New Zealand

New Zealand recorded a narrow victory over South Africa to book their place in the World Cup Final and continue their quest to retain the Webb Ellis trophy. South Africa started well and were soon in the lead courtesy of a penalty. New Zealand hit back quickly with a try through Kaino that was converted by Carter. New Zealand had plenty of pressure in the first half, but were unable to score further as South Africa’s defence held firm. South Africa enjoyed success with box kicks, claiming many that they used. New Zealand’s discipline was poor and South Africa added three further penalties to give them a half time lead, the third seeing Kaino receive a yellow card for a blatant offside.

New Zealand opened the second half with more pressure despite having a player less and Carter scored a drop goal. They then followed this up with a try when Kaino returned, the try also seeing Habana sent to the sin bin for an offside in the build up. New Zealand kept their lead for the rest of the game, with further scores being added through penalties as the rain increased. New Zealand managed the clock well in the closing minutes to see the game out and record the win.

New Zealand looked less formidable than they did in the previous game against France, which perhaps shows the different intensity levels between the Northern and Southern hemisphere teams. South Africa kicked and chased well and it is surprising that they didn’t look to use the tactic more in the second half. New Zealand’s discipline improved in the second half, denying South Africa the chance to keep the scoreboard moving. New Zealand will need better discipline in the final to give themselves the best chance of winning as I think it will be difficult for them to win again if they concede too many penalties against either Australia or Argentina.

Australia 35-34 Scotland

Australia secured their place in the semi-finals with the narrowest of victories over Scotland. Australia started well and it looked that the game would progress as expected with a routine Australian victory, but Scotland soon got themselves into the game. Australia found success with driving mauls from the lineout, but gave away some soft tries, with Foley in particular having a poor game; he missed many kicks, struggled under the high ball and had a kick charged down that led to a Scottish try. However, he slotted the winning penalty with just under a minute to go.

Australia will play Argentina in the semi-final. After good performances against England and Wales, Australia were expected to secure quite a comfortable victory, but Scotland seemed to cause them problems and did much better at the breakdown than either England or Wales managed; Australia must be hoping that they can name Pocock next week. Argentina have showed that they are a dangerous side and a similar performance from Australia next week would give Argentina a great chance of making the final. For Scotland, this was a performance that they will be hoping to build upon in the Six Nations.