From the Touchline

(Rugby News Service) Saturday 22 October 2011
From the Touchline
Wales coach Warren Gatland, left, and his kicking coach Neil Jenkins

AUCKLAND, 22 Oct. -  A lighter look at Rugby World Cup 2011.

The numbers

25 - Australia's win in Friday's Bronze Final was their first at Eden Park in 25 years. They had lost their previous 14 Tests at the ground since beating New Zealand 22-9 in September 1986.

95 - New Zealand have scored at least one try in their past 95 Tests and in 101 of the 102 Tests coached by Graham Henry.

He said it

"No. I don't think you should touch it till you've earned it."
- On the eve of the Rugby World Cup Final, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw admits he has never laid hands on the Webb Ellis Cup - and that he does not want to unless he leads New Zealand to victory over France on Sunday.

Life in the too-fast lane

Australia wing Digby Ioane had an up and down RWC 2011, missing much of the tournament with a dislocated thumb after scoring a try in the Wallabies' opening pool victory against Italy.

And despite starting and playing every minute of Australia's Bronze Final victory, Ioane says his most memorable moments of RWC 2011 were getting to know All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, who dropped in on the Wallabies' training and then spoke to the players at their hotel on the eve of the third-place showdown against Wales.

"Meeting Jonah Lomu has been the highlight of my tournament so far, I'm still looking at his videos on YouTube," said Ioane, who then admitted a ride in Lomu's muscle car, a 600-horsepower Nissan Skyline GT-R, had been a little more than he had bargained for.

"He told me about his car and and he told me how fast it will go," said Ioane. "I told him that I didn't believe him so he took me for a ride just outside the hotel and when he was in first/second gear, I had to tell him to slow down." 

Gatland grouchy about kicking

When Stephen Jones reviewed Wales's RWC 2011 campaign after the Bronze Final, he said the future of Welsh rugby looked good, just before unwittingly producing one of the most perceptive quotes of the tournament. "We need to kick on and win these games," said the veteran fly half.

Including drop goal attempts (six), Wales left a monster 59 points on the field at RWC 2011, just shy of 10 points per match. More bad news for the Dragons is that in the three matches they lost, a total of 37 points went begging at an average of 12.3 points per match. Wales's defeats have all been close - the average margin was just 1.67 points - so  the difference even slightly better kicking would have made is immediately obvious.

No wonder coach Warren Gatland was a bit bristly when discussing the subject. "Probably what I am most upset with is (kicking coach) Neil Jenkins," said Gatland. "At this level you have to take the opportunities and unfortunately our goalkicking has let us down. 

"It is something we have to look at. It was one of our strengths coming into this tournament," continued Gatland, giving no indication about whether Jenkins, Wales's leading Test points scorer, could still expect a Christmas card.

More Welsh woes

Traipsing away from the Bronze Final at Eden Park, a Touchlines scribe overheard a conversation about a pair of Welsh rugby fans who had gone the extra mile - thousands of them, in fact -  to support their team.

The friends had driven from Cardiff to London's Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon, and, as they were flying on a last-minute whim, had to take a convoluted route before touching down in Auckland on Friday afternoon, having lost the Thursday in the process.

On arrival at Eden Park to cheer on the boys in red, they were told the tickets they had bought for the Bronze Final were expensive forgeries. Sorry, but no entry.

They managed to get their hands on a pair of  the genuine article - at a price - and were in the stadium singing and cheering as their heroes lost to Australia.

They were planning to enjoy New Zealand's Labour Weekend and Monday holiday before flying home on Tuesday.

Not off Scot free

The Scots have long departed RWC 2011 but their influence lives on.

At the Bronze Final on Friday, and at earlier matches involving Australia, blasts of AC/DC's It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock n Roll) were played when the Wallabies scored their tries and Men At Work's Land Down Under rang out at the final whistle to signal the team's win over Wales.

Both tunes were penned by Scottish-born Aussies: Long Way to The Top by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young (Glasgow) and the late Bon Scott (Forfar), who all moved to Australia as young boys, and Down Under by Colin Hay, from Kilwinning in North Ayrshire, who moved to Australia at the age of 14.

Daddy Cool keeps things calm

When you have been around Les Bleus as long as defence coach David Ellis has, you know how to take things in your stride and not let emotions get the better of you.

That might explain why the Englishman, who was hired by the French in 2000, is known as Daddy Cool by the French players.

"When there are a few concerns, I just calm things down,'' says Ellis. "It is being capable on the job and putting the other stuff to the back of your mind."

There have been plenty of distractions around the French team in the build-up to Sunday's RWC 2011 Final against the All Blacks.

Coach Marc Lièvremont took offence at a few players defying his orders by going out on the town after France's 9-8 semi-final win over Wales, and there have been heated words between the players and some members of the French press.

So what has Monsieur Cool told his players?

"Don't let the things you can't control control you. It is not easily translated into French but they understand it."

RNS aa/gs/mr