Not that I’m wishing my time away but I’ve calculated that it’s around 1450 days until the next Rugby World Cup, back here in the Northern Hemisphere, in 2015. I think the fact that a lot of us are talking about that already is a mark of how great the tournament just gone has been.
Obviously the 2011 RWC has been special to so many Welsh fans because of the calibre of the performances put in by Warren Gatland’s squad. You’ll have seen the pictures of them arriving home by now, big smiles all round as they got off the coach at The Vale Resort just outside Cardiff. While a large part of that will have been the delight of being reunited with families and friends, they’ve got to be pleased with the tag of ‘one of the most exciting and popular teams of the tournament’. They were called that by a no-nonsense New Zealand public, whose appreciation of those who do justice to the sport they’re crazy about is hard to win but worth its weight in gold to have.
Early estimates show this 2011 Rugby World Cup has already brought more than NZ$750 million into the Kiwi economy. That’s got to have helped heal some of the hurt of a country that’s been battered by a series of disasters over the past year. And the Welsh have definitely played a substantial part in that – not just the performances of the team that really focussed the eyes of the world on New Zealand as the weeks went by – but also the travelling Welsh army of fans who were taken to the hearts of the Kiwi community and gave as much as they could back in return.
I’m really happy for the All Blacks that they’ve got their hands on the Webb Ellis trophy for the first time in more than two decades. If it wasn’t to be Wales, then it’s fitting that the country which has hosted such a terrific tournament, the team that’s thrilled the game for years and the fans who love and dissect every ruck, maul and scrum almost as avidly as we the Welsh do, have got their reward. I’m also really pleased that the final turned out to be as good as it was. We all know the old adage of ‘you never know which French team will turn up’ – gratifyingly it was a Gallic group who seemed genuinely hungry for victory who pulled on their Cup final shirts on Sunday. You could see the pain at the end, defeat by a single point hurts as we know, but at least Les Bleus are able to fly home from New Zealand knowing they put the ignominy of defeat to Tonga and the criticism of almost going AWOL against Wales behind them with a brave fight against the men in black.
It’s been a huge privilege to be part of the RWC coverage and to hear the thoughts and predictions of fans every step of the way. I’m not going to do a Gwyneth or a Kate and lyrically wax on about the taxi driver who got me to studio or the company who made my mascara or the newsagent who faithfully delivered my copy of ‘Rugby World’ on time and… well, you know the score.
I do want to say a big thanks though to the production and technical teams on our coverage who were brilliant every step of the way. I had the luxury of cracking pundits in the shape of Mike, Mark J, Gareth, Mark T, Rhys and Mike Owen who were their usual incisive and entertaining selves and also taught me it’s the survival of the fittest when it comes to getting your share of biscuits and tea at 5am on a Saturday morning! No wonder they all got to the very top of the game! Last, but by no way least, thanks to you for coming along for the ride – it wouldn’t have been the same without you! Roll on 2015!
- Follow Frances on Twitter – @FranDonovanTV