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Rugby world Cup: Standout performers and disappointments in the final stage

Rugby world Cup: Standout performers and disappointments in the final stage
A young girl lifts the trophy alongside South African Mbongeni Mbonambi   -  
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AP Photo


After South Africa's victory in the World Cup final on Saturday against the All Blacks, here are the successes and failures of the final phase of the 2023 Rugby World Cup organized in France.


South African power

South Africa won a historic fourth world champion title, its second in a row, after an indecisive final until the end against the All Blacks (12-11).

Incredible in self-sacrifice and power, the Springboks, carried by an impressive Eben Etzebeth throughout the competition, overcame the difficulties, triumphing in particular over the Blues (29-28) in the quarters and England (16-15) in the semis. -final of a small point each time.

English surprise

Who would have thought, when France inflicted the biggest defeat in its history in the Six Nations Tournament at Twickenham (53-10), that England would find themselves on the World Cup podium a few months later? Not many people, except perhaps his coach Steve Borthwick.

Called to the rescue last winter after the dismissal of Eddie Jones, he built around experienced players, an aggressive defense and an effective kicking game a team very difficult to beat, failing to develop an attractive game. An assumed minimalist plan which could have brought down the South African title holders in the last four without a saving penalty from Handré Pollard at the last minute.

New Zealand Resilience

Beaten by the Blues in the opening match (27-13), the All Blacks then gained momentum until the masterpiece of their quarter-final victory over the Irish favourites (28-24).

A match of crazy intensity, undoubtedly the best of the tournament, concluded with a final Dantesque action, after 37 phases of play during which the New Zealand defense never broke under the opposing attacks.

Reduced to 14 in the first half in the final after the exclusion of their captain Sam Cane, New Zealand once again showed incredible strength of character to return to the match and be on the verge of winning.


The Northern Hemisphere is upside down

Favourites among the favourites, Ireland and France had to fight for the final title. Alas, the world No.1 and No.2 at the start of the competition fell in the quarter-finals, respectively against the All Blacks and the Springboks.

For the ninth time in ten editions of the World Cup, the Webb-Ellis trophy is heading south. Only England, the only northern nation crowned, in 2003, held its place by reaching the semi-finals despite a limited team.

For the first time in the history of the competition, four teams from the North (France, Ireland, Wales and England) finished at the top of the four groups.

The blue disappointment

It was written: supported by an exceptional generation, led by a genius coach, the French XV would finally write its name on the World Cup list. At home, with Antoine Dupont, helmeted or not, the title could not escape the Blues.

But they came across a South African bone, which, on experience, derailed the French machine in the quarter-finals, nipping in the bud the hopes of an entire country which had started to live to the rhythm medical reports from Super Dupont, victim of a maxillo-zygomatic fracture during the group stage and recovered in record time. In vain.

Arbitration controversies

With a hot declaration after the early and frustrating elimination in the quarter, Dupont opened the door, judging that Ben O'Keeffe's refereeing had not necessarily been "at the level of the challenge".

The French public rushed into it, scapegoating the 34-year-old New Zealand referee, who was heavily whistled by the Stade de France the following week during the semi-final between South Africa and England.

We can regret this in a sport which has always made respect for the referee one of its fundamental principles. 

As we can regret the numerous criticisms formulated, openly or half-heartedly, by team staff against a refereeing body that is increasingly targeted by insults on social networks.

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