Category Archives: union
And to think – 4 years ago – I had blamed the poor French.
In 2007, I found myself in the city of Lyon in a queue outside the Stade de Gerland, about to attend the Rugby World Cup Pool B match featuring Australia and Japan. I wore a green and gold karate headband, adorned with a kangaroo instead of the rising sun – an act that is about as hilarious as ironic racism gets.
As we neared the entrance to the stadium, a gruff attendant approached me, pointed to a camera around my neck and waggled his finger in that French way that is camp, arrogant and intimidating all at the same time. After some confused back-and-forth, including my own bastardised exclamation of “Ne pas SERIOUS?!”, I eventually checked my camera into an outside office, to be picked up after the game. The pile of Nikons in that room looked like some grotesque, paparazzi, torture tableau.
My own illegal contraband was a Canon 400D – a digital SLR camera with a single lense (15-50mm), no longer than my pinkie finger. With that device – sitting anywhere that wasn’t on grass – I would have been able to roughly work out which team was Australia, based on the fact that we were playing Japan, and Nathan Sharpe is six foot seven. The camera had two purposes only – to record personal memories of an overseas trip with my parents and girlfriend, and eventually to be left in some random bar after the game when I got drunk. I soothed my frayed nerves before kickoff with a cold, plastic cup of “Amstel Sans Alcool”.
What I initially thought was an act of French bastardry not witnessed since they snuck around the back at Agincourt turned out to be an official IRB mandate. Back in quaint old 2007, the IRB – in an attempt to protect the rugby product – banned spectators from bringing cameras into the ground that may have been able to produce photos that could be used for publication. These were constraints placed on actual, paying ticketholders – many of whom had travelled thousands of miles to witness the spectacle (and by spectacle, I mean watching a referee trying to even-up a match between the likes of the Wallabies and Fiji).
The restrictions initially placed on the accredited media were even more arcane. For example, only 10 pictures could be broadcast from the stadium and published on a website during the course of the match. 2007 – with it’s pesky Interwebs! After all, you take pictures quickly enough and join them together and – brother, you got yourself some live coverage! Other rules included banning overlaying text across a published photo (say, a headline or the name of a player) and refusing to allow any mobile phone content.
Not only are the IRB happy to bite the hand that feeds them, they want to put a 10-mile exclusion zone around the whole farm, and patrol it with snipers.
This year, it was time again for the IRB to pass calligraphic parchments from their dark, smoke filled rooms, placing new restrictions on the media. In “ought-eleven”, they were having none of this Youtube malarkey, and deemed that online media providers could not accompany any video highlights with advertisements from their own sponsors. Heaven forbid Extra Dry try to muscle in on Heineken territory (as if taste itself wouldn’t be the deciding factor in that match-up). Such was the threat this restriction posed, both Fairfax Newspapers and Rupert Murdoch’s own News Ltd joined together and refused IRB accrediation. Remember when Hulk Hogan rescued Randy Mucho Man Savage from a Hart Foundation beatdown? When your outdated restrictions have Fairfax and News Ltd shaking hands, surely you’re doing something wrong.
So instead, the unaccredited Sydney Morning Herald and Australian journalists sat in the stands, or in front of their widescreen plasmas at home, and did pretty much the same job they were going to do, just without a badge, and without – one would imagine – having to be strip searched and deloused before entering every stadium. They sourced video and images in pretty much the same way, without threatening their online earnings. In fact, I probably would not have noticed this development at all, except I have a permanent Google News alert running, for the phrase “the IRB and Steve Jobs are the seven white men running the world”.
And if it’s not those pesky reporters – it’s the silly branded mouthguards. There are not enough elbow patches, or slightly raised eyebrows in the world, for the IRB to express their disdain.
All of this masks a far bigger problem. Whilst the IRB runs around in circles, kidney-punching reporters and spitting on ticketholders in order to protect their product, the quality of the product itself is in decline. Sure – the final match between France and New Zealand was a tight, rousing affair, but was this a result the IRB deserved? Red cards, fixture lists, referees, mouthguards, Samoans on twitter- with all the kerfuffel the IRB created for themselves, did their “product” warrant a 9-8 victory to New Zealand that had Richie McGaw throwing that wry smile and lifting the Cup – a battered nation breathing a sigh of relief?
The International Rugby Board should have given the French side a big hug, but instead, their final act of the tournament was to substantially fine them for holding hands.
I could almost see the Head of the IRB watching the coverage of this moving French tribute from their plastic-covered, floral print sofa, through a haze of pipe smoke.
“I say, what do these Gaul bastards think they’re doing…. the f&*king LIBERTY!”
In any case, the International Rugby Board needs to find a way to protect their product without attacking everyone involved in it’s creation – fans, media and teams alike. Because while Luis Suarez keeps banging in goals like this, rugby union cannot afford to push away a single ticket buyer, a lone reporter or one Samoan winger with a mobile phone.
Rugby is more than a sport in New Zealand; it’s a national obsession and borders on being a religion.
There is no country more associated with a sport than New Zealand is with rugby. India is a nation of cricket fans and, other than beach volleyball and waxing, Brazilians don’t care for much other than football but what neither of those countries, or any other nation, can boast is the sheer percentage of the population that participates in the national sport in New Zealand.
It’s a genuine obsession and with this obsession comes not only excellence but expectations of Dickensian proportions.
Even if you only examined the 24 years since the first rugby world cup, New Zealand has had the best team in the world for the majority of that period and yet, for all their domination, just one world cup on home soil in 1987.
Those with only a passing interest in the game know about the All Blacks’ failures on the biggest stage. Those with a slightly higher interest love to talk about how they “peak between world cups”. And who’s ever had a conversation about rugby world cups without the “c” word being mentioned?
Godwin’s law roughly states that any argument will eventually involve an accusation comparing one of the participants to the nazis. All Blacks Law should state that any conversation about world cup rugby will eventually (generally less than 5 minutes) involve the words “All Blacks” and “chokers” in the same sentence.
That they’ve under achieved at world cups is without question but are they actually chokers?
1991 World Cup
As New Zealand won the inaugural world cup, we can skip over that and move to the 1991 when they were knocked out at the semi-final stage by eventual winners, Australia.
Scoring two tries to nil, Australia won the world cup semi-final 16-6 in a match that even The Times’ columnist and staunch defender of northern hemisphere rugby, Stephen Jones, refers to as one of the best he’s ever seen. Tim Horan, who described the first half of that game as the best 40 minutes the team played in a 6 year period, combined with David Campese to score one of the great world cup tries and the Wallabies led for the entire game including being up 13-0 at half-time.
So was that loss due to the All Blacks choking?
In the lead-up to the ‘91 world cup the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup but it was courtesy of a 6-3 victory at Eden Park. The other game in the two match series was won 21-12 by Australia. The Wallabies then regained the Bledisloe Cup in 1992 winning the first two matches of the series before New Zealand claimed the third.
At the time of the ’91 world cup, the All Blacks were not the best team in the world and to attribute the loss to choking is an insult to an Australia side which included the likes of Farr-Jones, Lynagh, Campese, Horan, Little, Eales and Kearns. It was not only one of the great wallaby sides, it was one of the great rugby teams of all time and in 1991 and 1992 they held a 4-2 match record over New Zealand.
1995 World Cup
In 1995 rugby was on the cusp of professionalism and one player, Jonah Lomu, looked like he’d been playing rugby for a living since the day he was born. Although history has cast Mike Catt in the unfortunate role of Speed Bump #1 in Jonah’s highlight reel, the reality is that Lomu practised the Maori sidestep on opponents from all countries and his powerful runs are the lingering memory of the ’95 world cup.
The final at Ellis Park brought together two proud rugby nations, two hugely physical sides, two inspirational captains – Francois Pienaar and Sean Fitzpatrick – and a host of the game’s greats including Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Os du Randt, Zinzan Brooke and Frank Bunce. New Zealand rightly went into the final as favourites but in a tryless encounter played at altitude, Joel Stransky booted the home side to victory.
The All Blacks had been the dominant team of the tournament but came up against one of the great Springbok sides who, in their first world cup, were not only playing at home but playing at altitude and playing in front of Nelson Mandela and 63,000 other passionate South African fans. Since that final, the All Blacks’ record in South Africa is 12 wins and 10 losses. If you look only at games at Ellis Park the record is 4-2 in favour of the Boks.
Leaving aside that many in the New Zealand camp suffered food poisoning in the lead up to the final, if losing at altitude in South Africa renders the All Blacks chokers then the label can be applied to every other test playing nation along with the British and Irish Lions.
1999 World Cup
Australia capped off its finest decade in rugby by winning the tournament for a second time in 1999 but it was the mercurial French at their scintillating best who knocked New Zealand out in the semi-finals.
Scoring four tries to New Zealand’s three, France triumphed 43-31 over their more fancied opponents. Although the All Blacks went into the match as heavy favourites, it is glossing over history to underrate the 1999 French side. They were the 5 Nations champions in both 1997 and 1998 (both grand slams) and on the All Blacks’ European tour in 2000, they lost to France 42-33.
As for the eventual winners, in the year prior to the tournament the Wallabies achieved their first 3-0 Bledisloe Cup whitewash to win the ’98 tournament. After losing the opening game of the ‘99 series (though scoring 2 tries to 1) they retained the bledisloe courtesy of a comfortable 28-7 win in Sydney. Having regained the World Cup later that year, the Wallabies won the Bledisloe cup for the following three years and their match record over New Zealand for that 5 year period was 8-3.
While New Zealand might have been expected to win their semi-final over France, the result was not a complete anomaly and at that time the All Blacks could certainly not lay claim to being the best side in the world. Few Australian rugby fans would deny they were happy to see New Zealand knocked out of the ’99 world cup but there can be little doubt that the John Eales-led side of the late 90’s and early 00’s had the measure of their trans-Tasman rivals.
2003 World Cup
Having beaten the All Blacks at Twickenham at the end of 2002, England coach Clive Woodward took his troops on a tour down under in June just a few months before the world cup was due to commence.
In a close match in Wellington the All Blacks’ line wasn’t crossed all game and England were at one stage down to 13 men but Jonny Wilkinson’s boot ensured England recorded their first victory on New Zealand in 30 years winning the game 15-13. A week later Woodward’s men recorded a 25-14 over the Wallabies in Melbourne to ensure they would go into in the world cup as the team to beat.
In the world cup later that year the All Blacks made light work of their opponents to earn a semi-final against hosts Australia. The Wallabies’ only try came courtesy of an intercept by Stirling Mortlock but, playing in front of 82,000 fans in Sydney, they put in a clinical performance and deservedly won 22-10.
Including the world cup semi-final loss, the All Blacks record against Australia from 2002-2004 was 4 wins from 7 matches. However, of those games played on Australian soil the record is 3-1 in favour of the Wallabies.
As in 1999, New Zealand were not knocked out by the best team in the competition but nor were they the best team in the world at the time. Their loss to Australia in the semi-final cannot be considered an aberration or a result of choking.
2007 World Cup
New Zealand went into the 2007 tournament as heavy favourites but it was their Tri Nations’ rivals, South Africa, who took the cup home for a second time.
Although France were the cup hosts, the quarter-final was played in Cardiff due to France’s opening game loss to the tournament’s surprise team, Argentina. In a quarter-final that New Zealand fans will remember as much for the refereeing as the shock loss, a spirited French side narrowly won 20-18 to send the All Blacks packing at the earliest stage in their world cup history.
Unlike their previous exits, the 2007 loss can be considered a proper upset. Out of 5 games played between the two nations in 2006 and 2007, the quarter-final was France’s only victory. More telling perhaps is that the collective scoreline of the other four games was 173-35 in New Zeland’s favour.
Unlike some European teams, French wins over New Zealand are not complete anomalies but there can be little doubt that the loss in the 2007 world cup was a genuine upset. Whether this renders them deserving of being labelled chokers is another matter but it is certainly the most difficult result to reconcile with their otherwise proud record in world rugby.
Chokers or Overachievers
While the All Blacks are regarded as world cup chokers, it is generally accepted that the Wallabies are overachievers. The reality is Australia have twice gone into the game’s biggest tournament with a side that was, at the least, the equal of any team in the tournament and, arguably, actually the strongest and on both occasions they went home world champions. That is not overachievement; it is simply a better return on expectations than their friends across the Tasman.
Having won two world cups, it is easy to forget that the Wallabies have also actually been the victim of world cup upsets. In the ’95 and ’07 tournaments, Australia went into their matches against England as favourites but both times found themselves unable to live up to their billing. Adding their loss to Ireland in the 2011 tournament, the Wallabies have been on the wrong end of three world cup upsets and yet, because of their triumphs in ’91 and ’99, the tag “chokers” is never applied.
Having reviewed the All Blacks’ exits from world cups, the loss in 2007 is the only truly genuine upset. They might well have been expected to win some or all of the other games which resulted in them going home and the cumulative effect is certainly telling but those losses cannot be considered aberrations.
That the All Blacks have underachieved on rugby’s biggest stage is without question but to label them as chokers denigrates other world cup winners.
That said, a loss to Australia on Sunday would not only send a nation into mourning, it would ensure the ”c” word is plastered on headlines the world over.
It feels like this game has been brewing my entire adult life.
For has long as I can remember, usually in pubs littered with folks from the antipodes (shout out to SheBu Walky), the passionate debate has raged regarding Aussie & All Black successes and come Sunday, the eternal Rugby conundrum will be finally be decided.
How does complete dominance of the rugby world for three-and-a-half years out of every four compare with the glory of hoisting ‘Bill’ aloft?
Despite the countless beers spilled during heated debates, complex diagrams drawn on the backs of coasters and advanced population-to-sheep calculations, the answer to this question has varied dramatically depending on which side of the Tasman your mother was lying on when she pushed you out.
Granted, the All Blacks have won a world cup. But it was on home soil, the competition itself still had training wheels attached and it was so long ago that great Aussie band Split Enz were topping the charts with their undeniably 80′s sounding hit, ‘I Got You.’
But the inaugural World Cup was rightfully theirs and that achievement should be properly acknowledged instead of being thrown a cutout pass by many an Aussie, usually something along the lines of “yeah they won the first one but that was back in the 80′s and since then all they’ve done is prayed that someone knows the Heimlich maneuver.”
So the Kiwi’s drew first World Cup blood. But the Wallabies exacted prompt revenge by winning the first World Cup staged in the northern hemisphere and they did so in stylish fashion beating the hosts, England, in the final at Twickenham. Since the game went professional, the Wallabies have definitely enjoyed the better running in Rugby’s biggest showpiece, as they won again in 1999 and finishing runner-up in a tense final at home in front of 83 000 fans in 2003.
The All Blacks, on the other hand, have only made one final since their initial World Cup success and their 4-yearly inquisition into what went wrong has become more of a Kiwi staple than a cold can of Tui (whose slogan, I might add, is Distracting the boys from the task at hand since 1889).
But one dependable foundation of All Black Rugby, that probably swings the favoritism for Sunday’s match toward Team Haka, is the Eden Park influence. More a home ground certainty than advantage as the All Blacks have not lost there since 1994. It was also the stadium in which they tasted their only World Cup success in ’87 and you even have to go back to before that time, some 26 years, to find a day where it felt great to be an Aussie at Eden Park.
With the All Blacks hit by a string of injuries, namely that of their first & second choice fly halves as well as their inspirational captain (who will still probably play after a couple of needles), this could be the best opportunity the Wallabies have had for victory in Auckland in that 26 year period.
Despite the Aussies being far from convincing in the quarter final victory against a dominant South Africa, they will go into the game as underdogs which is a tag that will suit them just fine and pile yet more pressure on the boys in black.
The biggest danger for both sides is that with all the hype surrounding this game, they may just play their final a game early and be slightly overcooked for a tricky encounter against the ever improving Welsh or the unpredictable French.
But all eyes are, for now, on Sunday’s Semi final between the ANZAC nations. The fact that these sides have only met twice before in a World Cup match ups (both in the semi-final stage 1991 – Oz 16- NZ 6 & 2003 – Oz 22-NZ10) only adds to the intrigue. Those matches have produced some of the most memorable rugby moments with Campo’s no look flick to Horan and George Gregan reminding the All Blacks just how many years there are between World Cups, so we are no doubt set for a classic match.
Whether it be poking fun at accents, slating each others environmental policies or switching the nationality of famous actors, musicians and race horses, there will always be a healthy sense of rivalry driven banter between the two nations. But the real bragging rights, for a long time to come, are up for grabs and are far more important than the fact that Shortland Street is vastly superiority to Neighbours or how Kiwi’s pronounce battered cod with a side of fries (for the record, some of them say ‘shark and potato’).
Occasionally, society is guilty of a tendency to take sport a little too seriously. The Vancouver Hockey Riots, sectarian death threats to football players from Northern Ireland and Mark Geyer likening being accused of being an eye gouger to being labeled a kiddy-fiddler, are just a number of many examples. This is not one of those times.
Generations past bled together on Turkish sands and due homage to that fighting spirit to be paid through claret spilt on the blades of grass of Eden Park. It should be one for the ages – A ripper contest. A clessic breh.
For the losers may just find themselves living in a shotgun shack and the winners most likely behind the wheel of a large automobile because, for these players, a game of this magnitude is played only ‘Once In A Lifetime’ (cue music).
Of the 23 previous World Cup quarter finals in which an undefeated team has faced a team which had already suffered a loss, the undefeated Group Winner has won on 20 occasions (87%).
This makes good reading for England, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand. To further preview the quarter finals, we examine the team’s previous World Cup records and which side has generally had the advantage throughout history, before making some fearless predictions as to the outcomes of what should be a great weekend of Rugby.
England vs France
France is the 1st team in World Cup history to make the quarter finals having been defeated twice in the pool stages.
This match represents the 7th straight quarter final appearance for both England and France. France has won 5/6 to date, England 4/6. England’s record in all World Cup knockout matches is slightly superior at 8/13 compared to France’s 7/13.
These sides have met on three previous occasions in World Cup history, with all three matches occurring in the knockout stages, and all three going to England. England has knocked France out of the last two World Cups.
England lead the all time record 51 to 36 (7 draws), and have won 4 of their last 5 matches against the French.
While England have failed to sparkle so far in the tournament, they have exhibited a “Rod Macqueen era Wallabies” like ability to get themselves out of jail, sealing both their wins over Argentina and Scotland with late tries. France have been in disarray and statistically come into the quarter finals as the worst performing group stage team ever.
All signs point to another England World Cup victory over the French.
Tip = England
Ireland vs Wales
The winner of this clash will be in unknown territory – Ireland have yet to win a Quarter Final in 4 previous attempts, and while Wales have won 1 of 3 quarter finals, that victory was in the first World Cup in 1987.
These teams have met twice in World Cups, Wales winning in 1987 and Ireland in 1995.
Wales lead the all time record 63 – 47 (6 draws), however Ireland hold a 3-2 edge in the last 5 matches between the sides.
Both sides have impressed so far in RWC 2011. Ireland won Pool C in style by defeating Australia and thrashing Six Nations rivals Italy, while Wales has displayed some brilliant attacking Rugby during their campaign and pushed reigning world champions South Africa to the wire in their opening match.
The bookies have Ireland as favourites, and the grind it out style they displayed against the Wallabies seems tailor made for the latter stages of the World Cup. However I’m backing the Welsh loose forwards to supply enough quality ball to their backs to enable them to ensure victory.
Tip = Wales
South Africa vs Australia
These nations boast the two strongest World Cup knockout round records; South Africa having won 7 / 9 to date and Australia 9 / 13. Neither has ever missed the Quarter finals. South Africa has won 3 / 4 Quarter finals to date while Australia has won 4 / 6.
So far in World Cup history the record stands at 1-1. South Africa beat Australia in its first ever World Cup match in 1995, and Australia more than repaid them by winning the 1999 semi final 27 – 21 in extra time.
South Africa have historically had an edge over Australia, leading the all time series 41 – 31 (1 Draw), however Australia have had the wood on their Tri Nations rivals in recent years, winning 4 of the last 5 encounters.
This match is going to be extremely tight. Australia’s recent strong record against the Springboks has bookies judging them slight favourites. With the weather and refereeing likely to favour the South African’s forward dominated play, I give a slight edge to South Africa
Tip = South Africa
New Zealand vs Argentina
This is New Zealand’s 7th quarter final, and they had been undefeated in their first 5 quarter finals until their shock loss to France in 2007. This will be Argentina’s 3rd quarter final; their record to date is 1 from 2.
New Zealand has never lost to Argentina, winning 12 / 13 encounters (the other was a draw) including the last 5 by an average margin of 29 points. They have only met once in previous World Cups, New Zealand recording a 46 – 15 victory way back in 1987.
While Argentina has often been competitive against the All Blacks at home, in New Zealand it is a different story, with the All Blacks winning the seven encounters to date by an average margin of 48 points.
Difficult to see anything other than a comfortable New Zealand win, providing them with a great chance to acclimatise to life without Dan Carter.
Tip = New Zealand by 30
 Jinx Jinx Jinx Jinx Jinx….
As we prepare for the commencement of the business end of RWC 2011, it is worth looking back at an exciting pool stage which can lay claim to being the most even ever.
This may seem a strange claim to make in light of the 8 separate 50 point thrashings handed out, and given the fact that we have a quarter final line up which is largely as expected.
However in the context of the rugby World Cup, which for such a large and successful sporting event has generally lacked an element of uncertainty and competitiveness, this year’s tournament can be considered a step forward, and vindication of the belief that the global standard is improving and the gap between the contenders and minnows is at least somewhat closing.
How can we measure competitiveness?
Firstly, let’s look at the frequency of upsets. To compare this to past tournaments, I’ll define an upset by dividing the competing nations into three broad categories:
- The “Contenders”, all of which have made the final in the past and who generally have designs on winning the tournament (Australia, England, France, New Zealand, South Africa).
- The “Competitors”, comprised of the remaining members of the Six Nations, the Pacific Island teams and Argentina. These nations generally enter World Cups aiming at qualification for the knockout stages (Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Argentina).
- The “Minnows”, made up of all the remaining nations, who enter each World Cup aiming for competitiveness and a victory to head home with
An upset is then defined as a victory for a team over a nation residing in a superior category. This is a narrower version of an upset than is often used, but appropriate for the purposes of having a comparable definition over the 24 year history of the tournament.
Using this definition, this pool stage has thrown up 3 upset results out of 31 matches (not counting the 9 matches between teams in the same category, where an upset was impossible), namely Ireland over Australia, Tonga over France and Canada over Tonga. As the table below illustrates, this compares to a total of 5 upsets in the previous 6 tournaments.
It is difficult to draw a trend out of such scarce results. However the two upsets of “Contender” nations in this pool stage, coupled with the fact that the previous such upset occurred in the 2007 tournament, points towards an increase in unpredictability in the tournament in recent editions.
The other way we can measure competitiveness is in the margin of victory. On this measure, the 2011 pool stage has also improved.
The 28 point margin of victory is 2 points less than at the France 2007 pool stages, and is the lowest pool stage average margin since the tournament was expanded to 20 teams in 1999.
Looking at the Margin by match type, considering only the matches between teams from different categories (which make up 75% of all World Cup pool matches to date) we can see that the reduction in total average margin since France 2007 is driven by the increasing competitiveness of the “Minnows” and “Competitors” when playing the “Contenders”.
An interesting result is the steady reduction in margin since 1999 in matches between the “Contenders” (Tri nations plus England and France) and the “Competitors” (remaining Six Nations, Pacific Islands and Argentina). As shown in red above, the margin of victory has steadily fallen from 47 points in 1999 to 15 points in 2011. This is partially due to the increasing competiveness of Italy and Tonga, which each had 100 points put on them in a single match during the 1999 group stage.
The advent of professionalism in Rugby, coupled with the expansion of the tournament to 20 teams in 1999, saw a larger gap open up between the top echelon of World Rugby nations and the rest. This margin has now reduced as both the “Competitor” nations and “Minnows” are now also experiencing the benefits of professionalism. The aim of the IRB has to be for the Rugby World Cup to become as competitive a tournament as the FIFA version. While this dream may be still some way from realisation, recent experience indicates that the tournament is heading in the right direction.
 New Zealand 83 Japan 7, South Africa 87 Namibia 0, England 67 Romania 3, Australia 67 USA 5, Ireland 62 Russia 12, Wales 81 Namibia 7, New Zealand 79 Canada 15, Wales 66 Fiji 0
The Wallabies shock defeat at the hands of Ireland has left them needing to make World Cup history in order to ‘bring home bill’.
No team has ever lost a pool match at the world cup and then proceeded to win the tournament. In fact, very few have even managed to win a single knockout match.
Of the 23 previous world cup quarter finals in which an undefeated team has faced a team which had already suffered a loss, on only 3 occasions has the pool stage runner up emerged triumphant.
The first of these occurred in 1991, in which England lost to New Zealand in the opening game of the tournament before going on to defeat France in an ill tempered (aren’t they all?) QF at Park de Princes.
The other two quarter final upsets of this nature occurred on the same day in 2007, as England overpowered the Wallabies on a hot afternoon in Marseille, and France shocked the grey-clad tournament favourites New Zealand later the same evening in Cardiff. England had been whitewashed 36-0 by eventual champions South Africa during the pool stage.
But it is perhaps the French of 2007 to whom the wallabies current predicament could most be likened. The English pool stage losses of 1991 and 2007 had been largely expected, coming as they did at the hands of two of the southern hemisphere heavyweights. The French of 2007 however, like the wallabies of 2011, were heavily favoured to win their group and thereby earn an easier quarter final assignment. Their shock loss to Argentina in the opening match of the tournament ranks alongside Ireland’s victory last Saturday as the greatest World Cup pool match upset ever, and relegated them to facing the kiwis in Cardiff.
So the optimistic amongst the Wallabies supporters can point towards the 2007 French campaign as evidence that all is not lost, and a revival of the campaign is possible. That is where the favourable historic precedent ends however.
While two teams have gone on to reach the final after suffering a pool stage loss, neither were able to win the tournament. Judging by World Cup history, Australia’s hopes of lifting the Web Ellis trophy on October 23rd now appear to be very slim indeed.
 One quarter final, in 1987 between New Zealand and Scotland, featured 2 undefeated sides, as Scotland finished 2nd in their pool on for and against after drawing with France during the pool stages.
 New Zealand has never lost a pool match. South Africa’s only pool defeat came to eventual champions England in 2003. Australia’s only previous pool match defeat was in the opening game of the 1995 world cup to the hosts South Africa. England’s two other pool defeats were to Australia in 1987 and New Zealand in 1999, while France have only lost the pool match mentioned above. None of these defeats suffered by tournament contenders was an upset on the scale of the Irish and Argentinean triumphs.
 England 1991, England 2007