2007 Rugby World Cup: Northern Lights Shine on World Cup Party

Rohan KallicharanCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2007

http://www.intair.com.au/images/sport_rugbyindex.jpgAfter the relatively predictable group stages, the 2007 Rugby World Cup finally came to life yesterday.

Who would have guessed that Qantas and Air New Zealand would be hastily rescheduling flights back to the Antipodes—whilst the Northern Hemisphere giants prepare for a repeat of their 2003 Semifinal.

The All Blacks result will be greeted with dismay and anger in a nation where rugby is a religion. With the sheer depth of talent at their disposal, New Zealand fans will have a hard time understanding why their 20-year wait for glory continues.

That said, nobody outside New Zealand is remotely surprised.

This is a nation that has lost five semifinals in cricket's main event, and has made a habit of losing the games that count in Rugby Union's showcase.

When the Kiwis HAVE to win, they rarely do.

The Aussies, for their part, can't be described as chokers—but they're still reeling after yesterday's defeat.

It was assumed that Australia only had to show up at Le Stade Velodrome to exorcise the demons of the loss to England in the 2003 RWC Final in their own backyard. Instead, the boot of Johnny Wilkinson proved to haunt them once again.

There are few sportsmen for whom a Christian name alone is sufficient recognition. "Johnny" is one of them, and his influence upon this side has been marked since his return from injury.

In the end, however, it was England's front five who decimated the Australians. The battle between Andrew Sheridan and Matt Dunning was simply unfair — any boxing referee would have stopped it after 10 minutes.

Behind the scrum, the tactical awareness of Catt, Wilkinson, and Robinson helped England hold firm when they needed to.

As for the French — they were special in Cardiff. It wasn't about Gallic flair, as it was in the famous 1999 victory over the All Blacks. On the contrary, France won with grit, organisation, and determination—traits not always associated with French rugby.

As it stands, the 2 superpowers of world rugby were set to meet in Paris for a semifinal like no other. They'll have to wait until next year's Tri-Nations to resolve their diplomatic disputes!

Simply, the Kiwis choked and the Australians were complacent. Quite frankly, nobody in Europe really cares.

Les Bleus turned Cardiff into the Champs Elysee, and that Chariot was swinging wildly through Marseille.

Now for the semi-final ...