Six talking points from Tokyo as Rugby World Cup reality settles in.
THE BIG HURT
At a relatively sparsely populated press conference the day after the All Blacks' loss to England most questions were about hardcore rugby matters.
But by far the most electric moment came when TVNZ's Matt Manukia asked who All Black coach Steve Hansen had been on the phone to when he made a call on the field immediately after the semifinal. "I don't mind you asking," said Hansen. "I rang my wife." Then he had to stop, take a drink of water, and gather himself, before he continued. "We had a bit of a chat."
The pause was barely more than 10 seconds, but somehow seeing such patent emotion from a man as stoical as Hansen illustrated how raw the loss was more than any number of words could.
AND THE AMEN CORNER AGREES
The only undefeated All Black coach, Sir Fred Allen, had a mantra that "rugby's a pretty simple game but people try to bugger it up by complicating things".
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The late Sir Fred would have applauded Steve Hansen's summation of the semifinal. "England don't play a sophisticated game. Win the ball, give it to a big bloke and run hard. Win that collision. It's rugby in a simplistic form, but it's beautiful.
From the time the game was played to the last time it was played, the team that goes forward will win the game. (England) won those collisions, and when you win them you win the game".
WATCHING THE OTHER SEMI WAS NO FUN EITHER
If, as a New Zealander, you were still reeling from our semifinal thumping, there was no joy to be gained from South Africa's 19-16 win over Wales. Of course, if it had been the All Blacks playing Wales we'd have been happy with an ugly win, as this was for South Africa.
But the Boks-Wales match denied all that the William Webb Ellis creation story glorifies, that the key difference in rugby is carrying the ball in hand.
If you love rugby, how could you get any pleasure from a game in which the only variation was whether the halfbacks kicked short, or the first-fives kicked long?
RASSIE'S PREDICTION, SADLY, MAY PROVE TO BE VERY TRUE
South African coach, Rassie Erasmus, after the semifinal with Wales, said, "I am not sure it will be a final won through an expansive game plan and wonderful tries."
The last time England and South Africa met in a World Cup final was 2007 in Paris. South Africa won 15-6. Not one try was scored, and neither team made much effort to score one. It was, by a long stretch, the worst 80 minutes of mind-numbing, tedious, rubbish rugby ever seen in a Cup final. That year Eddie Jones was the South African assistant coach. You join the dots.
THIS REALLY ISN'T SOUR GRAPES, HONESTLY, IT'S NOT
The All Blacks lost to England because, as Steve Hansen has said ever since the semifinal in Yokohama had just finished, England played better than us. But World Rugby really needs to urgently address the offside line at the breakdown.
One of the reasons the Springboks-Wales semi was crap was the fact that, again and again, the defensive lines for both sides were patently offside, and virtually never penalised. Why not change the rules, and say that defensive players, apart from a halfback or acting halfback, has to be five metres behind the back foot at the breakdown?
All teams will still cheat a metre or so, but it would hopefully mean there was at least a tiny bit of breathing space for a team that wanted to run the ball.
WHO WANTS YESTERDAY'S PAPERS?
While on the topic of refereeing, has the issue of high tackling now become a forgotten, slightly embarrassing, issue at the Cup? There were moments in both semi-finals that would have had a referee in the first round of pool play reaching for, at the least, a yellow card.
They were just moments, and by and large, the tackling techniques of the last four teams standing were impressively accurate. But it was hard to escape the feeling that somewhere in the background the head of refereeing for World Rugby, Alain Rolland has quietly told his men that unless they find a severed head rolling across the pitch, the days of dealing the cards for high tackling are over.