YOU can’t contemplate how big an achievement it is to win a World Cup with your fourth choice fly-half. Not only have New Zealand been the best team for the last four years and at this tournament, they have also had to overcome so many setbacks. They deserve all the credit that they get.
It was a courageous effort from people under immense pressure. There have been, in my opinion, better All Black sides over the last four years than this one. But the fact they ended up playing with their fourth choice fly-half had a massive impact on their game.
Dan Carter is the best No10 in the world and when he played in the first two games New Zealand looked magnificent: incisive and effective. But they lost him, then another kid and then another kid, and were left with Stephen Donald (below) in the final, who actually ended up playing really well.
GOT AWAY WITH MURDER
Yet France were the better team yesterday, which is an amazing thing to say. Beforehand I gave them no chance; I thought they were dreadful in all areas. But they proved me completely wrong, summoned their best performance in a very long time and could have won the World Cup had a couple of things gone their way.
They did not get much help from the referee. I expected France to lack discipline at the breakdown but they were excellent, while the All Blacks got away with murder, so Les Bleus did not get reward for the risks they took.
It’s been a successful World Cup but now the players return to their clubs, although I have been delighted that Saracens are second in the Premiership after six games with so many players away. This is when our youth policy and rotation system is very beneficial. People know they are full-blown squad players, not just back-up until others return, and that’s important – as yesterday’s important LV= Cup win over Exeter showed.
Brendan Venter is technical director of Saracens, who play Sale Sharks in the Aviva Premiership at Vicarage Road on Sunday 6 November, kick-off 3pm. See www.saracens.com or call 01727 792800.