CHRIS FOY’S RUGBY WORLD CUP HIGHLIGHTS: Portugal’s progress gets Cristiano Ronaldo’s seal of approval, Antoine Dupont’s injury grips a nation, Fiji steal hearts and was France vs South Africa the greatest Test EVER?
- South Africa retained their World Cup title with 12-11 win over New Zealand
- The tournament in France has thrown up some brilliant stories and moments
- Mail Sport’s Chris Foy selects his highlights – good, bad and ugly – here
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
The Rugby World Cup has reached its conclusion and South Africa are champions again following their dramatic 12-11 victory over New Zealand on Saturday night.
The tournament in France threw up many highlights, no shortage of controversy and some astonishing stories which resonated around the globe.
Mail Sport’s rugby correspondent CHRIS FOY selects his highlights – good, bad and ugly – from the past few weeks.
South Africa retained their Rugby World Cup title with a dramatic 12-11 win over New Zealand
All Blacks captain Sam Cane became the first ever player to receive a red card in the World Cup final
Random highlights: Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer’s incredible touch kick, Samoa scrum-half Jonathan Taumateine’s leaping finish v Chile – and his peroxide hair-off v Joe Marler. The beach in Le Touquet. Parisian brasseries. Massive Tonga captain Ben Tameifuna’s massive performance v South Africa.
Worst bits: Crowd crush outside Stade Velodrome before England v Argentina. Rip-off (or absent) taxis. Antagonistic, over-zealous stewards. Ludicrously excessive security (using this event as a dry run for the Olympics). Strikes and gridlock.
Favourite game attended: Fiji v Portugal in Toulouse. So many Portuguese fans were there for their country’s maiden World Cup win, unleashing glorious bedlam. The post-match press conference in a marquee by the stadium was a write-off – it was hard to hear a word over the joyous din outside.
Favourite game overall: France v South Africa. Ridiculous, frankly – especially the first half. Insanely ferocious and adventurous, endlessly compelling and high-calibre. It was rugby to the max; maybe the greatest Test ever played.
Biggest story: Not even close; the injury to Antoine Dupont. The plight of the France captain, who suffered a broken cheekbone, brought the whole host nation to a standstill. It was wall-to-wall news on every screen, radio, website and all over social media. Interest in every update was astonishing.
Portugal’s passionate fans brought a splash of colour to all of their matches in France
The injury to Antoine Dupont in the group game with Namibia had France on tenterhooks
Meanwhile, their quarter-final defeat to South Africa could be the finest game ever played
Lessons for 2027: Cut out the late (9pm) kick-off times. Improve transport links, crack down on hotel profiteering, let fans bring water into stadiums. More volunteers for info, more signs, more toilets. Fewer jobsworths. Better flow of fixtures. Traditional kits if at all possible – identity matters. Better marketing of the event, which was decidedly low-key in many parts of France.
UN diplomacy prize: Dan Biggar – the Wales fly-half won over locals from the outset as he delivered a welcome-ceremony address in impressive French. Weeks later, having confirmed his retirement from Test rugby, Biggar patiently talked it through with media from various nations. What a class act.
Favourite locations: Tours – beautiful, historic town in the Loire valley. Aix-en-Provence – charming haven of tranquillity half-an-hour north of manic Marseille. Paris (east side) – areas of Republique, Oberkampf and Canal St Martin were a vibrant new discovery.
Pacific passion: Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui gave an evocative insight into what his team’s feats meant to the public back home, while Samoa counterpart Seilala Mapusua spoke with simmering angst about ‘unconscious bias’ among officials and a lack of certainty re future fixtures.
Wales legend Dan Biggar bowed out of the Test rugby arena after their loss to Argentina
Portugal captain Tomas Appleton meets Cristiano Ronaldo following their memorable World Cup
Trendiest hotel: Mama Shelter, Lille. Party central for the city’s in-crowd. Not the place to go for a good weekend night’s sleep but a magnetic location for the Instagram generation.
Pantomime villains: Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell, who were both constantly and harshly booed, every time they appeared on a stadium big screen. Johan Deysel of Namibia, for wrecking Dupont’s cheek. Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe – who was cast as the scapegoat for the French exit.
Signs of progress: The scenes at Lisbon airport, as thousands of fans turned up to greet Portugal’s heroes after their break-through campaign. Days later, rugby’s lift-off in the country was confirmed when captain Tomas Appleton was invited to a photo-call with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Best fans: Bronze – Argentina. Silver – Portugal. Gold – Ireland; for travelling to games in such huge numbers and creating a raucous, carnival atmosphere, as their renditions of ‘Zombie’ became the primary sound-track of the tournament.
Most entertaining interview: Freddie Tuilagi. Met him in Lille to talk about brother Manu’s first Test encounter with Samoa. After a good lunch chat, the kingpin of the Tuilagi clan went outside to hug various passers-by and perform an impromptu street Haka.
Fiji’s Josua Tuisova played on at the World Cup despite the tragic death of his son Tito
Vital voices for change: Former Argentina captain Agustin Pichot’s explosive interview with Mail Sport ignited a fresh debate about rugby’s stale status quo, then Samoa playmaker Lima Sopoaga railed against the new Nations Championship and Michael Cheika demanded better support for emerging countries. Good on them all.
Courage in adversity: Fiji centre Josua Tuisova, for playing on through extreme personal tragedy, after the death of his seven-year-old son, Tito, which unified the global rugby community in grief.
So much for core values: The racism storm after Tom Curry’s allegation of discriminatory abuse by Bongi Mbonambi brought out a toxic backlash which was a stain on the good name of the sport.
Team of the tournament: D Willemse (SA); W Jordan (NZ), W Nayacalevu (Fiji), B Aki (Ire), D Penaud (Fra); R Mo’unga (NZ), A Smith (NZ); O Nche (SA), P Mauvaka (Fra), B Tameifuna (Ton); E Etzebeth (SA), T McFarland (Sam); PS Du Toit (SA), A Savea (NZ), B Earl (Eng).
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