Wallabies 'smashed' in World Cup final: Kiwi columnist

WHO are you kidding Australia?

A valiant Australian World Cup final performance? Dodgy refereeing decisions?

If those are the claims - as they appear to be in some quarters - then the Aussies need to give themselves a huge dose of reality.

In the hour of disappointment, Australia may vent. In the cold light of day, they will see it another way.

Look, humility is all the rage, gestures of humanity the new sports currency, and the All Blacks are trying to re-brand themselves as Saints in Sprigs.

But come on troops...that was a one sided World Cup final at Twickers where the truth about world and trans-Tasman rugby got twisted by a sin binning. Even then, the final margin was 17 points.

The All Blacks won the tournament and the final going away. If Ben Smith - whose brain explosion could have planted the much-loved All Black fullback in the hall of infamy - had played a full 80, the margin would have been nearer to 30.

The All Blacks turned out to be fabulous, having left - by their own design - their best work on the training pitch for much of the tournament.

Steve Hansen has proved a master coach, his mind and voice still drawing the best out of players despite having been on the coaching panel for so long.

His appointments, including bringing Wayne Smith back, have been superb. NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew and his cohorts were bang on with the early pre-World Cup re-appointment of Hansen. Congratulations to them, spotting the man and the moment.

But the rest of world rugby hovers around incompetence. It's a game awash with money and gizmos and money but devoid of sufficient rugby sense and maybe raw-athletic resources

Australia got smashed in the final. They were physically overpowered. They can't last the distance in a tournament.

England play like draft horses. They even dare to go into big matches without a proper openside. They are all talk and singing.

France were pathetic in the quarterfinal - the land of scary forwards turned up with powder puffs instead. Money isn't talking.

Wales think they can survive on a swarming defence and backs built like forwards, some of whom aren't even as skilful as the All Black forwards.

South Africa have regressed, finding their game plan on the wall of an ancient cave.

Ireland suffered key injuries, but they still don't truly believe. They aren't rugby's little people. But the back up players probably are unfortunately.

Argentina were superb for a rising nation. I loved watching Argentina, who were like a blast from the past. But they will struggle to rise much further, once they get overly tactical and freaked out by error rates.

As for Nigel Owens, his refereeing in the final was on the button, even if it slipped off a couple of times. He got a few things wrong, including a giant All Black forward pass.

But he was on the lax side, and rugby needs referees on the lax side. Otherwise it turns into Rugby Laws 101 under professor Wayne Barnes. Most of us would rather watch the TV test pattern (remember that).

There isn't widespread moaning across the ditch (from what I can gather at this point) about Owens. But if there is, Aussie rugby is on the wrong track. They need to sort out their side of the fence. Moaning about the ref will obscure the truth.

As for the future, rugby requires genuine challengers to the All Blacks.

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika is a scrapper, and he'll be planning and plotting once he gets over the dark disappointment. He needs to get a player like big Will Skelton fit and firing, and find Jerome Kaino-type brutes.

Australia can match the All Blacks in guile, but they lack enough force. South Africa can match the All Blacks in force, but need more guile. Or any guile. I'd back Australia to get it right before South Africa does.

As for the rest, they will probably keep slipping further behind. New Zealand rugby is on a roll, and will not rest.

My player of the tournament - Jerome Kaino. His smashing impact in the semifinal and final set the tone. His physical presence in the big games was immense. The biggest disappointment - Kieran Read. Have concussion problems taken a toll? As for Richie McCaw, stunning.

Tell us it ain't true, that the great man is retiring. I hope he does quit - McCaw has had a lot of head knocks and it's time to stop tempting fate even though 150 tests is in reach.

Dan Carter's very best days were some time ago, and they will never be forgotten. He was still more than good enough to get the World Cup farewell he deserved. A salute, to McCaw, Carter and the other departing veteran champs.

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald

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