There have been three World Cups this year for sports that started in England: cricket, netball and now rugby.
In all three, England have disappointed and disappeared.
In all three, the final was/is Australia vs. New Zealand.
Not a good omen for Sunday then, given the way the cricket and netball played out.
But. But but but.
There’s a difference, and there’s a lesson.
The Difference: Rankings
In the official rankings for cricket and netball, Australia was above New Zealand.
In the rugby rankings, New Zealand has been Number 1 since 2010. Australia is now ranked 2, having been 6th as recently as June this this year.
The Lesson: Bad Starts Kill You
In the cricket final, New Zealand had a horror start: McCullum out for a duck in the first over. All out for 183 in 45 overs. Only Elliott and Taylor made any runs. Not a total to defend at the MCG.
In the netball final, New Zealand lost the first quarter by 9 goals. They went on to win the remaining three quarters by 1, 2 and 3. Do the maths, and that still adds up to losing by 3 goals at the final whistle.
I remember vividly the 2003 semi-final between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney. The All Blacks were unbackable favourites because, once again, they’d played supremely during the pools and dished out the Boks 29-9 in the quarter-final. The Wallabies had snuck a 1 point win against Ireland in the pools, and then brushed past Scotland in the quarters.
I had a sense the match was lost when, during the anthems, the wild-eyed Aussie flanker Phil Waugh was so pumped up with passion he looked like he’d lost touch with reality. Ouch, I thought. This could be very good or very bad.
Stirling Mortlock’s intercept try in the 9th minute was the start of a long death of dreaming. Australia 22 -10 New Zealand.
So Shag, here’s the thing as you prepare the team: have confidence in what you have done these last four years, and make sure you get a bloody good, bloody fast start.