So, after 48 matches of precise passes, huge hits and top tries, that’s it – farewell to Rugby World Cup 2011. No-one in New Zealand is ever likely to forget this tournament, and you can bet your life the men in charge of the new world champions, New Zealand, are now doing exactly the same thing as everyone else involved in international rugby: turning their attention to 2015.
Because from this moment on, every country with hopes of challenging for glory at RWC 2015 in England is looking to build a team capable of challenging for the Webb Ellis Cup when it’s next up for grabs.
It’s just as well, because 2015 could be the best Rugby World Cup yet. Many of the players who shone in New Zealand should arrive in England approaching their peak. The likes of David Pocock of Australia, Sam Warburton of Wales and Manu Tuilagi of England will all be in their mid to late twenties in 2015. Being four years older and wiser, they should be significantly better players by then – and given how well they performed in this tournament, that is some prospect.
Then there’s the certainty that all the tier two nations will continue to improve and narrow the gap to the bigger nations, meaning we can look forward to more titanic clashes like the 23-23 draw between Canada and Japan and Tonga’s shock victory over France.
Throw in the fact that rugby fans in England will be desperate to match the passion for the game shown by New Zealanders over the last six weeks, and you have a recipe for the perfect Rugby World Cup. Which means the next four years are just going to fly by…