• This was the Rugby World Cup that was going to extend rugby's horizon. The game would show a surprising new face in unfamiliar surroundings to hundreds of thousands of potential start-up fans and players. Then the IRB decided to give RWC 2011 to New Zealand, and not Japan. This was a gift not just of the Cup, but of the cup too. Not even the flakey All Blacks could fail to win the Webb Ellis trophy with home advantage, though they tried their best, offering at the last a glimmer of hope to anyone who loves the game. That hope was extinguished. The All Blacks held on for their win that had been ordained since the IRB decision in

    Oct 23,
  • In boxing, the first and simplest of the combat sports to get itself organised, the referee from the earliest days brought the fighters' gloves together and said: 'May the best man win.' There is an acknowledgement in this saying, a sporting dread, that the best man will not always win. The best man sometimes loses. This creates a visceral sense of injustice - sport needs to be fairer than this. The injustice of cheating can be stopped. That's why rules are invented and evolve. Then there's the referee himself. In Wales 8 France 9, the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup, in one of the least simple of combat sports, the referee created a situation in which the best team was

    Oct 15,
  • France 19 England 12 - the French save the sport of rugby from extinction. Too much? I don't think so. Martin Johnson's team has been trying to prove that rugby games can be won in the gym. More muscle, more directness, eliminating mistakes. If he'd been right, and until this defeat nobody could be quite sure he wasn't, then rugby as a game would have been thought out, thought through. This may not be overstating the case. Billiards, as an example, was an engaging and competitive sport until training and application discovered its limits. When the Australian Walter Lindrum made a break of 4137 points in the World Billiards Championship in 1932, the game was up. Billiards had been an

    Oct 08,