The rugby world boils over today as the 2011 Rugby World Cup kicks off at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand today. The opening game is the game between the hosts, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nation of Tonga. The gulf between the All Blacks and Tonga will be too big for the Tongans to upset the All Blacks but the Pacific Islanders, like their neighbours Fiji and Samoa, can be rather physical and the All Blacks should hopefully (for them) make it through the game without any injuries.
New Zealand, so many times, the undisputed best team in the world between World Cups have a tendency to choke on the huge occasion of the World Cups and have only won it once, in the inaugural tournament in 1987. The similarity between that tournament and this one is that the tournament is being held in New Zealand. The crowd will have a huge influence on the tournament and any team, if they do knock the All Blacks over would be well-deserved champions. The problem the All Blacks have demonstrated (and even their fans are worried about this) is that they are heavily reliant on their flyhalf (or first five-eighth as they like to call it) Dan Carter. If he’s injured the All Blacks lose a distinct advantage and may struggle afterward.
This is the seventh Rugby World Cup and the trophies are concentrated in the hands of four countries: Australia (two), South Africa (two), England (one) and New Zealand (one). If either Australia or South Africa win the tournament they would be the first team to have won it three times with the added bonus to the Springboks (South Africa) that if we win the trophy again, it would mean that we would be the first team to successfully defend the trophy ever.
There are twenty teams in the tournament, but if we’re realistic there are only a handful of countries who will have a chance of winning the whole bangshoot. The teams are really the Tri-Nations teams (South Africa, Australia and New Zealand) and England and France. However, if you’re completely honest, you’d have to eliminate the two Northern Hemisphere teams from the equation as they have just never been able to tour well to New Zealand and aren’t used to the conditions. South Africa and Australia as touring nations will be used to New Zealand after sending a couple of months there every year while touring for the Super Rugby and Tri-Nations tournaments.
So let’s get this thing underway and GO BOKKE!!!