Rugby World Cup France 2007

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Argentina, England, France and South Africa reach the Rugby World Cup Semifinals



Argentina Rugby team staved off a strong late Scottish fightback to reach the World Cup semifinals for the first time, winning 19-13 Sunday in an encounter that simply had no chance of matching the drama of the other three quarter-finals.

Now, the four teams of the semifinals are defined: England's tense victory over Australia gave the British side the pass. Also France reached the semis with an incredible comeback triumph against New Zealand. And despite Fiji's valiant, but vain attempt to beat the rivals, South Africa qualified too. Now, Argentina's win over the Scots completed an exciting figure in this Cup.

The game had a thrilling finish, however, with Scotland camped on the Pumas line seeking a matchwinning try which eventually never came.

Gonzalo Longo Elia's first half try opened up a 13-3 lead for the South Americans who at least became the first team from outside the Tri-or Six Nations to reach the last four. Their prize is a game against South Africa, which beat Fiji 37-20 earlier Sunday.

"I think we were very tired and Scotland played really well, so we just stuck with it," Argentina scrum half Agustin Pichot expressed. "We are very pleased to be in the semifinals".

Now the Pumas will play against South Africa. The Springboks beat Fiji 37-20 on Sunday in Marseille to reach the semi-finals.

It's important to mention that aSouth Africa scored five tries through Jacque Fourie (14th minute), John Smit (35th minute), Jon-Paul Roger Pietersen (50th minute), Juan Smith (69th minute) and Butch James (80th minute).

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New Zealand is devastated for their elimination in the Rugby World Cup

With a suitcase full of questions and frustration, New Zealand Rugby team goes back home from the World Cup today, seeking a new coach and answers to why the top- ranked team underachieves at the sport's biggest event.

Indeed, following the All Blacks' quarterfinal defeat to France in Cardiff, the New Zealand Rugby Union yesterday said a coach will be appointed by Christmas, bringing a likely end to Graham Henry's four-year tenure and passing on the duty of guiding the national squad to a first title since 1987.

We think that Henry has the worst World Cup record of the five All Blacks coaches whose teams have flopped after entering as the favorites. Hours before New Zealand's 20-18 loss, defending champion England advanced to a semifinal against the French by beating Australia, which is also seeking a new head coach.

"This is the All Blacks' worst result in six Cups and Henry and his fellow selectors will have to live with that," former All Blacks prop John Drake, a World Cup winner in 1987, wrote in an important newspaper. "I hope the country doesn't get silly about it. Much of what they have achieved over their four years had been impressive.''

It's important to mention that as New Zealanders sought reasons for their team's worst World Cup performance, more than half of those polled online by the Herald today said they wanted Henry to remain as coach.

The All Blacks began this year's tournament in France as the bookmakers' favorite after winning 37 of 42 matches following their defeat by Australia in the 2003 semifinals. In fact, after racking up 309 points in pool play -- the most by any team in World Cups -- Henry's team lost its first must-win game.

"Deja vu all over again...and again...and again," headlined the Herald on its front page.

We must remember that New Zealand led France 13-0 after half an hour at the Millennium Stadium two days ago, only to allow two tries after the break and concede the lead with 10 minutes remaining. All Blacks center Luke McAlister missed a 50-meter drop goal in the last minute.

The latest failure carried echoes of the 1999 semifinal between the sides when France recovered a 14-point deficit to win 43-31. New Zealand had been seeking an eighth straight victory against over the French.

"All we can contemplate now is the fact that we have been reminded, once again, that whatever happens prior to contests of this nature holds no real relevance," Robbie Deans, coach of record six-time Super 14 champions Canterbury Crusaders, declares.

In fact, New Zealand's exit may partly be explained by the selectors' policy of rotating players, former All Blacks including 1987 World Cup-winning captain David Kirk said.

It's unavoidable to think that New Zealand used 67 players in almost four years leading up to the tournament -- enough for three 22-man squads. Exposing more talent at Test level may have come at the expense of establishing a cohesive first-choice lineup.

About that , New Zealand Rugby Union Chairman Jock Hobbs told reporters in Cardiff: "Everything possible had been done, but we weren't good enough".

Australia coach John Connolly will also fly home today after his last match in charge. He was due to quit following the World Cup and will leave after his team's unexpected 12-10 loss to England in Marseille.

"The toughest part is that England did exactly what makes Australians so proud about our sporting teams," John Eales, who led the Wallabies to the 1999 world title, wrote in today's Australian Financial Review. "They had a go."

The All Blacks are also likely to enter the next World Cup in 2011 as the favorites since they are staging the event. Their only success came as hosts of the inaugural cup 20 years ago.

"Imagine the next four years leading up to hosting the Cup," Drake added. "The burden of expectation will only grow heavier."

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