Winning ugly: Brian Moore on the Rugby World Cup

England can win the Rugby World Cup, but only if they show steel when games are tight, says Brian Moore

What a tournament this is turning out to be. It’s a privilege to be here. The first round of games has been better in standard and spectacle than any other World Cup – and I’ve been to every single one since the first in 1987.

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For all the criticism that followed England’s narrow opening win against Argentina, I wouldn’t care if they played every game like that, including the final. Winning is all that matters. But they won’t get far unless they put things right. If you don’t get quick possession, your attacking options are very limited. It will be an issue against the better teams, but not against Romania early on Saturday morning. England should beat them well.

That’s followed by New Zealand v France, which is the biggest game of the tournament so far. New Zealand are nervous of France, they’ve lost to the French before in World Cups. I was in the crowd at Twickenham for the 1999 semi-final, and when the French won 43–31, it was one of the most remarkable turnarounds I’ve ever seen. New Zealand are the best team in the world, but they’re starting to suffer from injuries, as well as nerves.

I’d like to see France win for the northern hemisphere. I get tired of the ceaseless allegations that northern hemisphere rugby isn’t as good as the southern game. That’s not true.

As an England supporter, though, mindful that England are likely to play the losers, maybe I don’t want France to win! But you can’t worry about that. In tournament rugby you play what comes next. If it goes well, it’s fantastic, but if it starts to go badly, it can go disastrously wrong, as Ireland showed in 2007.

On Sunday, it’s Argentina v Scotland, and I expect Scotland to win. They did enough in their opening games to leave me impressed. Elsewhere, Ireland haven’t done much – they don’t look a very good team. Wales, though, haven’t prospered because they were unable to close out the game with South Africa.
I felt very sorry for them because it was a bad refereeing error. James Hook’s kick was clearly over. It should have been reviewed and given.

As the pool games move to a conclusion, let’s see if bonus points will affect any teams’ destiny. I was sceptical that giving an extra point for scoring four or more tries and one point for losing by seven points or fewer would make a difference. But I can see teams pushing harder when the outcome of a game is already settled. Anything that encourages tries is a good thing.

You have to come here to see how all-encompassing rugby can be. Every New Zealander realises how much having the World Cup can do for their country. It’s a real contrast to some attitudes to the Olympics in the UK.

Brian Moore is a commentator for Talksport’s live coverage of the Rugby World Cup

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Interview by Geoff Ellis