We take a look at who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
New Zealand: Finally, the All Blacks ended two decades of hurt by winning the Rugby World Cup for a second time, shedding their “chokers” tag in the process (though they came close to wearing it again!) with a nail-biting victory over France. New Zealand’s razor-thin victory at Eden Park sparked raucous celebrations in the country of four million, which has long dominated world rugby but had failed to lift the Webb Ellis Cup since 1987.
France: Not given a chance in hell of beating - even competing - with New Zealand in the 2011 RWC final, France defied their legion of critics to come within a whisker of causing the tournament’s greatest upset.
Stephen Donald: The last person Kiwis expected or wanted to be wearing an All Blacks jersey, went from zero to hero after slotting over what proved to be the World Cup-winning penalty kick for New Zealand.
Thierry Dusautoir: The French skipper capped off an impressive campaign with another magnifique outing for his country that will go down as one of sport’s great losing performances.
Australia: Finished third at the World Cup after seeing off a gallant Welsh outfit with a deserved win in the battle for bronze last Friday. Berrick Barnes was Australia’s stand-out player after switching from inside centre to fly-half for the injured Quade Cooper.
Put the kettle on…these guys need to warm up!
France: After the French regained respect the world over for their brave challenge in Sunday’s RWC final, damning footage emerged of centre Aurelien Rougerie eye-gouging All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. In a word: disgusting. But more of that to follow in next week’s Loose Pass…
Piri Weepu’s boot: Weepu had a forgettable night with the kicking tee in the World Cup final, missing all his kicks at goal (two penalties and a conversion) and squandering eight crucial points as a result. In the end, it was left to fourth-choice pivot Donald to show Weepu how it was done.
Marc Lièvremont’s thinking: France’s now former coach has had his fair share of bloopers at the RWC tournament, and his decision to replace experienced veteran scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili with Jean-Marc Doussain - a 20 year-old making his Test debut - five minutes from full-time with France on the attack was baffling to say the least. It was his last decision he had to make as head coach of France, and a costly one at that - the substitute’s sole contribution was a knock-on which handed possession back to NZ and the French never got hold of the pigskin again.
Wales’ goal-kicking: For the second match in a row following their 9-8 semi-final loss to France, the Welsh again let precious points slip by and were left lamenting more poor goal-kicking after misses from James Hook and Leigh Halfpenny - the former missing a penalty early in the second half from in front of Australia’s posts that, if successful, would have drawn Wales to within one point of the Wallabies.