The World Cup is Finally Here
The time has come and the waiting is over. The weeks, months and years of planning will be rewarded or ruined in just a matter of matches. When the blood, sweat and tears are worth it, or simply a waste of time. It’s here, the Rugby World Cup is upon us.
The sport has spent much of the last four-year cycle recovering from crippling financial woes and shooting itself in the foot but over the course of the next two months fans, players and coaches will live and breathe rugby and all of the highs and lows that tag alongside.
Because now, in rugby’s 10th edition of the quadrennial event, everything is on the line.
Never has there been such uncertainty before the curtain rises as to who will win, who can win, and who may cause an upset for the ages.
Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania have challengers, and serious ones at that.
The history and heritage of past winners will collide with the hope and ambition of nations who are yet to taste glory; an army of David’s encircling the Goliath’s.
Hosts France have a nation proudly behind the tricolour; the island of Ireland, too, will be a force of strength for Europe.
Les Bleus’ Petit General Antoine Dupont transcends the sport; GQ covers, yellow Balenciaga overcoats and a fame few rugby stars could imagine are common traits of the No9.
The sport has often struggled to produce that calibre of star – Jonah Lomu, Siya Kolisi and Dan Carter aside – and Dupont could be the trend setter as his side march on the Stade de France with intent this evening against New Zealand.
The All Blacks head to the Parisian suburbs off the back of a record loss to defending champions South Africa while the Springboks themselves look to give departing coach Jacques Nienaber a send off to remember.
Ireland join France as Europe’s strongest hope, the island – under England captain Owen Farrell’s father Andy – unified in their desire to go beyond the last eight for the first time in history.
And in Steve Borthwick’s England, Warren Gatland’s Wales, Eddie Jones’ Australia and Michael Cheika’s Argentina and you have an old boys coaching club with what’s soon to be 15 World Cup under the collective belts.
But about those David’s; the three Pacific nations – Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – are stronger than ever while Georgia aim to put pressure on the European stalwarts over their international future.
And then there’s Japan, whose last venture to Europe in a World Cup saw them complete the Miracle of Brighton.
The bookies will have their favourites and the odds will undoubtedly shift, but the uncertainty and excitement that surround this World Cup – with all of it’s on-field and off-field storylines – could be the remedy for an injured sport.
No matter what happens to each of the 20 teams in relation to the targets they’ve set themselves, the result will be the same. Legacy.
It’s either a legacy of glory, omnipresent in every anecdote of where you were when your side won; or a legacy of pain and disappointment when nothing anyone says will incite forgiveness.
But that’s sport, beautifully brutal, and the pinnacle of ours begins tonight. The countdown is on. Troix, deux, un, coup d’Envoi.