2011 Rugby World Cup

The 2011 went back to where it all started, New Zealand. They were, of course, overwhelming favourites. It was the largest sporting event ever held in New Zealand, eclipsing the 1987 Rugby World Cup, 1990 Commonwealth Games, 1992 Cricket World Cup and the 2003 America's Cup. Overseas visitors to New Zealand for the event totalled 133,000, more than the 95,000 that the organisers expected

The event was expected to cost about NZ$310 million to run and to generate NZ$280 million in ticket sales. In Auckland, the city where many of the most important games took place, the costs to the local ratepayers alone was estimated at $102 million. Ticket sales exceeding NZ$285 million, accommodation-related spending of another NZ$260 million, and NZ$236 million spent on food and drink was expected to provide a significant fiscal stimulus, of nearly 1.4% of the quarterly GDP.

Damage caused by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake forced the relocation of a number of cup matches, including the quarter finals.

What was going on in the world in 2011?

  • Southern Sudan holds a referendum on independence, paving the way for a new state.
  • A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the east of Japan, killing 15,840
  • Space Shuttle Atlantis lands successfully at Kennedy Space Center after completing STS-135, concluding NASA's Space Shuttle program
  • Occupy Wall Street protests begin in the United States. This develops into the Occupy movement which spreads to 82 countries in a month
  • Basque separatist militant organisation ETA declares an end to its 43-year campaign of political violence, which has killed over 800 people since 1968


The film world lost Elizabeth Taylor, Ken Russell, Peter Falk and Pete Postlethwaite. Music bade a early farewell to Amy Winehouse. The sports community was diminshed by the loss of Seve Ballesteros, Gary Speed, Joe Frazier, and Socrates. Steve Jobs logged off from business for the last time. Christopher Hitchens participated in his final debate.Leaders Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il left the world scene for the final time. The world breahed a sigh of relief when euthanasia proponent, Jack Kervorkian, and paedophile Jimmy Savile breathed their last. And the obituaries were filled with the best name in diplomacy, Lawrence Eagleburger.

World Cup format

After speculation that the number of participating teams would be reduced to 16, the IRB announced on 30 November 2007 that the 2011 tournament would again feature 20 teams. Twelve teams qualified as a result of finishing in the top three in each pool in the 2007 tournament. The remaining eight berths were determined by regional qualifying tournaments


Russia were the only rookies, effectively replacing Portugal. They finished last in pool C with no points despite a creditable effort against the USA.

Tournament facts and records

  • Top points scorer: Morne Steyn (South Africa) 62 points
  • Most tries: Chris Ashton (England), Vincent Clerc (France) – 6 tries each

Who should have won but didn’t?

It was New Zealand all the way, until they got to the final and then struggled past a French side so poor they had lost to Tonga in the pool match. It would have seemed outrageous for France to have won, given their anaemic performances until the final, but in fairness, in the final itself France were every bit as good as New Zealand and on the day probably deserved to have won. It speaks volumes that the man of the match, by a country mile, was French captain, Thierry Dusautoir.

Anyway, Richie McCaw and his team held their nerve and won a second World Cup for New Zealand, both of which have been in home tournaments. No rugby fan could deny that New Zealand fully deserve to have 2 such titles. Their record has been the best in World Cup history and they have been the games most persistent innovators during that time.

Here is a clip of New Zealand smashing Australia in the semi-final; the tackling is ferocious from Kaino, Kahui, Read, Whitelock, McCaw…

Close matches

  • Canada 23 Japan 23 – amazingly these sides drew for the second World Cup running
  • Tonga 20 Canada 25 – Tonga were kicking themselves; a win in this game would have seen them into the quarter-final instead of France
  • France 14 Tonga 19 – one of the great upsets in World Cup history, but Tonga failed to make the next round
  • England 13 Argentina 9 – England's lukewarm performances started right here
  • Argentina 13 Scotland 12 – a late try saw Argentina home by a single point
  • England 16 Scotland 12 – another insipid display from an underdone England
  • South Africa 17 Wales 16 – determined the group winner
  • South Africa 9 Australia 11 in the quarter final; a super-charged performance from David Pocock won the game for Australia. Many have questioned whether this performance at the breakdown was within the rules or should have been penalised

  • Wales 8 France 9 in the semi-final; a match marred by the early red card for Wales captain, Sam Warburton, for a spear tackle on Christophe Dominici, which seemed very harsh at the time and still does on re-looking at it

  • Wales 18 Australia 21 in the match for 3rd place
  • France 7 New Zealand 8 in a very tense final – Tony Woodcock became only the second prop to score a try in the World Cup final (after Tony Daly in 1991)

Heroes and Villains

Hero: Thierry Dusautoir

Thierry Dusautoir lead France by example in the final, scoring their try and making 22 tackles in a Man of the Match performance. In 2007 when France defeated New Zealand in the quarter-final, he had made a record breaking 38 tackles in the match, so it seems he really does raise game against the world's beat.

On the night of the final, one could hear chants of "Dusautoir" coming from the many bars showing the game around the Auckland waterfront. He was named the 2011 IRB International Player of the Year, thus becoming the second player from France to win the award after former captain Fabien Galthie in 2002. Here is Dusautoir's try in the final; oui, oui oui!!!

Villain: Mike Tindall

If you had said to me before this World Cup that England's biggest problem under Martin Johnson would be lack of discipline off the pitch, I would never have believed it. You could put the Manu Tuilagi plunging off the ferry in Auckland harbour incident down to high jinx, perhaps, but there was a malaise through the squad which did not sit well with a focus on elite level performance.

It was simply too painful for me to select Martin Johnson as a villain, so I am pointing the finger of blame towards Mike Tindall. The flirting with a family friend episode may or may not have had much substance to it, but dwarf throwing in a Queenstown bar? Seriously? This is supposed to be the professional era, but felt more like a blast from the past circa 1987.

Quick facts

Winners: New Zealand

Runners-up: France

3rd Place: Australia

4th Place: Wales

5th – 8th: Argentina, England, South Africa, Ireland

Others: Tonga, Scotland, Italy, Samoa, Canada, Georgia, USA, Fiji, Japan, Romania, Russia, Namibia


Verdict: good, bad or ugly?

Probably just about good. New Zealand proved to be a great place to host the World Cup in the professional era. The final was not the greatest, but it was close and very tense. In fact there were a lot of close matches in the tournament, although rather a lot of those were low scoring. The fact that many of the teams were more closely matched bodes well for the future. France nearly beat New Zealand in the final, having lost to Tonga in the pool, who lost to Canada, who drew with Japan. All rather unpredicatble which can only be good.