This evening, I was lucky enough to attend one of the most incredible matches in sporting history. Twickenham Stadium saw a nail biting match full of complex intricate play and explosive runs, ending in arguably the greatest team in sporting history clinching victory in a record breaking match watched by millions of sports fans around the world.
In the highest scoring World Cup final ever, New Zealand became the first team to win two consecutive tournaments and the first to win three in total.
The match was the final game for Richie McCaw, the most capped player in test rugby history, and Dan Carter, possibly the best player in the sport’s history.
But this match was not just about New Zealand. The Australian team, masterminded Michael Cheika, came back from losing 16-3 at half time, the highest first half score in a rugby world cup final, to nearly take the lead with 15 minutes to go. Going back 12 months, this would have been unimaginable with the Wallabies in a seemingly never ending downward spiral.
Put short, this was one of the most dramatic eventful matches in rugby history.
However, on the train back from Richmond I noticed something quite depressing: no one knew what had just happened.
Despite the significance of the match, half the people on the district line seemed totally oblivious to what had just happened. The pre-drinking party goers dressed as sexy pineapples and sexy Spongebobs seemed to think the people with thistle face paint and kangaroo costumes were just fellow Halloweeners.
I’d been looking forward to this match all week, but when I told people I had tickets, I was often met with a look of total disinterest. A lot of the people I told didn’t even know there was a world cup on.
It’s a little embarrassing that so many people in the host city of one of the largest sporting events on the planet did not even know it was happening?
Although the atmosphere at world cup games has been fantastic, the actual public hype has been seriously limited.
Go back to New Zealand four years ago, or France in 2007, and everywhere you looked there was evidence that the country was suffering from a serious case of world cup fever.
Unless you are actually at a match this year, it’s hard to even tell that London is hosting the tournament.
The lack of public awareness meant that last Sunday’s fantastic semi-final game between Argentina, one of the heroes of the tournament, and Australia was relegated from BBC 5 Live for an oppressively dull nil-nil draw between Manchester City and Manchester United.
Now, I’m sure there are football fans who would argue the Manchester derby was a big deal. But let me put it this way, there are around seven months and dozens of games left in this season for the Manchester teams. This is not a crucial point in the season. In the grand scheme of things, the match was essentially meaningless. The match whose place it took was the last Rugby World Cup Semi-Final for four years and the last to be played in London for decades.
Although the England performance has been pitiful this world cup, it’s not as though there has been a lack of underdog heroes to root for. Early on in the tournament, Japan, a team that has almost been a joke in world rugby for many years, slayed the mighty Springboks. The Scottish had one of their best world cups ever and should have made it through to the semis. And, against all odds, Argentina fought their way to the semi-final.
For Rugby fans in the UK, this has been a fantastic world cup. Once we recovered from the disappointment of England’s early exit, we were rewarded with an orgy of sporting brilliance.
This world cup will have had an amazing impact in countries like Japan and Namibia where Rugby is still finding its feet.
Rugby is the fastest growing team sport on the planet, and occasions like the World Cup are what propel its growth. It’s just depressing that the unbelievably obvious opportunity to utilise hosting the cup to open rugby up to a whole new audience domestically was not utilised.