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Remembering the Decade: Rugby World Cups

As 2019 and a decade draws to a close, I want to reflect on some of the more significant moments I have observed. Follow this series here. An honest reflection will always yield a mixed bag, this list will focus on the shocking, regrettable, and inspirational. This is an exhaustive list, feel free to add your own in the comments. In no particular order:

Todd Clever Snubbed: 2015 RWC

Todd Clever Featured in ESPN Magazine’s 2015 The Body Issue.

Todd Clever went from Captain to couch in less than 12 months. Then USA Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin had taken over in 2012, the controversy began in 2014 during the November Tour. It all culminated with Clever being suspended and dropped from the 2015 Rugby World Cup selection pool. Al McFarland carried the bulk of the minutes at #6 in a regrettably flat campaign where the USA was win-less, with 5 tries in 4 matches and outscored by 106 points overall. It is worth noting McFarland led the USA in tackles completed. Clever was 32 years old, a visible brand (see photo), and was 5 caps away from being the USA’s all-time caps leader. This article summarizes things from Clever’s standpoint. Clever returned the the USA Eagles in 2016 under John Mitchell and in his final match saw his side seal the America’s #1 position for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Maro Itoje Snubbed: 2015 Rugby World Cup

Maro Itoje breaking the line against Wales in the Six Nations

Since we are talking about 2015 snubs, Maro Itoje was also left off of England’s Final World Cup Roster for 2015. Imagine snubbing someone like Lamar Jackson or Giannis Antetokounmpo. For those familiar with ‘Naija’ people (people of Nigerian Heritage, he is Urhobo specifically), we have a joke “Naija no dey carry last” (Loose translation Nigerians don’t lose). Itoje, was a proven winner by all accounts at this stage. He was also a likely choice for the English captaincy one day. He definitely would have been helpful to have around. The English joined the USA watching the knockout rounds (in their own country) from the couch.

Japan 28 – Scotland 21, Japan 19 – Ireland 12: Rugby World Cup 2019

Japan celebrate their first quarterfinal berth after beating Scotland

At the 2019 world cup, the Brave Blossoms made their knockout round debut, finishing the top of their group defeating heavyweights Ireland and Tier 1 mainstay Scotland. I’d argue this momentum started with their shock victory over South Africa in 2015.

Japan 34 – South Africa 32: Rugby World Cup 2015

Japan makes their world rugby presence known

This victory had more massive implications than anyone could have realized at the time. Japan lands the 2019 world cup and tops their pool. This was the moment that set it all in motion.

Magali Harvey’s Try Canada vs France: 2014 Rugby World Cup

Magali Harvey en route to one of the most ruthless tries ever.

The Women’s Rugby World Cup was on it’s most visible stage yet and that in itself was significant. The hosts produced positive ratings and fans got access to the game in a way we were not accustomed. We were treated to an absolute gem of a try from Canada’s Magali Harvey against hosts France. It was massively significant, it put them ahead 18-11. France scored at the death drawing within 2 but legend French flyhalf Sandrine Agricole missed the game tying conversion and Canada moved on to the Rugby World Cup final against England. I interviewed Magali Harvey on Viral Rugby 1v1 also!

USA Eagles Finish 4th: 2017 Rugby World Cup

USA Eagles Naya Tapper touches down against England with Cheta Emba in support

This was one of the most exciting teams to watch in recent memory. Statistically the trio of Naya Tapper, Cheta Emba, and Kris Thomas were meter gaining machines. The Viral Rugby USA hype vid was awesome. Kris Thomas and Sara Parsons were named to the world cup dream team as well. The team finished 4th overall. I interviewed Naya Tapper here.

Thierry Dusautoir’s Performance in the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final

2011 Player of the Year Thierry Dusautoir

France bounced back from one of the other significant events on this list (loss to Tonga in pool stages), to make the cup final. The French captain did not disappoint in any fashion. 38 Tackles, 1 Try in 2007, a try and man of the match in 2011 France were so close in both finals.

Tonga 19 – France 14: 2011 Rugby World Cup

Tonga shocked the world in 2011 with a Pool victory over France.

Massive pool victory. Looking back on the decade, it was a bit of a warning shot about what was to come. France salvaged a bonus point from the match, and was able to make the world cup final in 2011.

Uruguay 30 – Fiji 27: 2019 Rugby World Cup

Uruguay celebrates a well earned pool victory over a heavily favored Fiji

This is arguably the largest upset on the list. Uruguay sealed their first victory in a rugby world cup over a storied rugby nation. Fiji was sloppy and uninspired, Uruguay played their brand of hard charging defensively stout rugby. This upset will live on for decades to come.

Warburton Red Card: 2011 Rugby World Cup

Sam Warburton’s tip tackle against France 2011 in the semi-finals

Welsh captain Sam Warburton was sent off with a red card for a tip tackle against France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup semifinals. I cant imagine a more significant blow to a team. Red card, captain sent off, and the final score was 9-8.