Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tales of the Unexpected as Minnows Crash Party

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tales of the Unexpected as Minnows Crash Party

Article excerpt

Byline: Ian Chadband

(1) Exit door: Australia's Lote Tuqiri and Sebastien Chabal, of France, feel the pain of Cup defeat(2) Ups and downs: Fiji (left) celebrate as they stun Wales in their pool match; (right, clockwise) Tonga's players perform their version of the haka; Argentina enjoy spoiling France's opening-night party; England supporters go wild after the team defeat the hosts in the semi-final and Wales trio Matthew Rees, Ian Gough and Tom Shanklin trudge off as their World Cup dream ends

It's been one surprise after another at this French festival of funwhich has made a mockery of plans to reduce the number of teams in futuretournaments. By Ian Chadband


SEBASTIAN COE (chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee) "It is trueEnglish grit and determination that has taken them through to the brink ofglory and a historic achievement."

IF UNPREDICTABILITY is the lifeblood of sport, then this sixth edition of theWorld Cup has provided rugby with a massive transfusion.

It started in the Stade de France with something amazing and every Englandsupporter will pray it ends in the same arena tomorrow with something equally astounding.

If the compelling six intervening weeks are anything to go by, we ought to beable to bank on it.

Even Roald Dahl couldn't have offered up so many outlandish tales of theunexpected. France humbled on the opening night of their own party?

Champions England, lost and humiliated, scraping themselves off the canvas toreach the final? And New Zealand, the team touted as being maybe the finestever, sent packing when they weren't even in the host country.

Then there was Argentina, the side with nowhere to play, proving themselves oneof the best four teams in the world; there was Fiji rising, falling thensoaring again past Wales and reaching the quarterfinals after one of the mostbreathtaking games of rugby ever seen.

And there was Georgia, apparent no-hopers who battled so courageously theyended up just a video ref 's call away from from humiliating Ireland in whatwouldn't have just been the biggest rugby upset of all-time but one of sport'sgreat sensations.

Not just them, though; a host of minnows, like the 2003 sacrificial lambs fromNamibia, refused to live up to their road-kill billing.

All this against a backdrop of effervescent support, full houses and the hostsputting on their best trains and their finest festival face. The lingeringimage for France may be that of a weeping Sebastien Chabal, their caveman totembereft after the semi-final defeat by England, but it is not the definingimage.

That's the one of thousands of fans sharing in the party around Marseille'sVieux Port on one of the most wonderful day's sport you could hope to see.Unless you happened to hail from the Antipodes, that is. …

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