Rugby World Cup 2015 – the biggest and the best ever, without a doubt.
All involved in the organisation of the tournament should be rightly proud of what they achieved. Pats on the back all round.
Yes, there may be gripes about ticket prices, the TMO, the disciplinary procedures and the match schedule. And the less said about the England debacle the better (although when has that ever stopped me?)
It's time, however, to set aside my usual curmudgeonly approach to life and to celebrate the highlights of what was a fabulous rugby tournament:
The Rugby – France v Italy aside (I know, I was there!) there was barely a dud game all tournament.
Japan – the Brave Blossoms' unbelievable opening victory over South Africa kick-started the competition and they never looked back. There’s pressure now on the Japanese Rugby Union to sustain that momentum through to their own RWC in 2019. I, for one, hope they succeed.
Argentina – hugely deserving semi-finalists and now indisputably eating at the top table. Their mission to find the wide open spaces showed the way forward for less ambitious teams.
The Venues – I only experienced Twickenham and Milton Keynes at first hand, but the user experience and carnival atmosphere at both was first rate. Clearly much has been learned from the 2012 Olympics and the challenge for Twickenham going forward is to reproduce the same once we return to the corporate jolly-fest otherwise known as the 6 Nations.
The Fans – despite the ticket prices virtually every game was a sell out and the stadia were packed out with fans from all four corners of the globe. And, the occasional inappropriate rendition of “Swing Low” aside, local fans embraced the tournament in its entirety despite the failings of the host team. Special, very special.
The Final – best two teams, best referee and best quality final ever.
The Winners – the word “awesome” is much overused, but not in the case of the All Blacks.