Thank you Richie McCaw. Not for your inspiring leadership as New Zealand ended their 24-year Rugby World Cup drought, but rather for your rather accurate summation of events at the full-time whistle of Sunday's dramatic RWC Final.
McCaw, who captained his team at the 2007 World Cup - when they lost in the quarterfinals to France, led his team to glory in Auckland on Sunday and promptly declared afterwards: "I'm absolutely shagged!"
What about us, then?
Well, after some 48 match previews, 48 reports and well over 1,000 articles in all... well, we're pretty shagged too!
But it's been a pleasure bringing yet another World Cup to you, our loyal readers.
With Rugby Rugby having first been launched in 1999, we're now the veterans of four World Cup campaigns and all the 2011 RWC memories are fresh in our minds after a very busy six-week campaign - starting on Friday, September 9 and ending on Sunday, October 23... starting with Israel Dagg's try at Eden Park and ending with Thierry Dusautoir's five-pointer on the selfsame ground.
And with all that said and done, here are ten moments (or points) from the 2011 World Cup worth pondering:
(1) Both finalists from the 2007 World Cup (defending champions South Africa and runners-up England) crashed out of the 2011 tournament in the quarterfinals.
(2) A team which lost two matches made it into the final for the first time in the history of rugby's global showpiece. That's more than South Africa and Ireland - both of whom finished top of their pools but did not make it into the Last Four.
(3) The All Blacks won the World Cup - their first in 24 years - without Dan Carter... in fact, their fourth choice flyhalf Stephen Donald - who kicked the winning points - was on the field when the final whistle sounded. Carter, the scorer of no less than 1,250 points in 85 Tests, was ruled out of the World Cup with a serious groin injury, with veteran fullback Mils Muliaina later joining him on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. Who would have predicted that 12 months ago?
(4) The likes of John Smit, Jonny Wilkinson, Brad Thorn, Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Williams, Victor Matfield, Mils Muliaina, Felipe Contepomi and Lewis Moody - to name just a few - will never be seen again, on the field, at future Rugby World Cups. Thanks for the memories, fellas.
(5) England, for once, made more headlines for their off-field exploits than they did on the field - bar-room incidents, abusing hotel-room staff, wearing incorrectly branded mouthguards and jumping off moving ferries. Oh, they also lost in the quarterfinals to France - their worst RWC finish since 1999 and just the second time in World Cup history that they failed to reac the semifinals.
(6) Not only did New Zealand host the World Cup - their second opportunity to do so, after 1987 - but they also provided the most head coaches at the tournament. In fact, at the semifinal stage of the World Cup, three Kiwis were vying for World Cup glory - Graham Henry (NZ) and Robbie Deans (Australia) and Warren Gatland (Wales).
(7) There were some eerie happenings at the World Cup. For starters, the same four teams qualified for the semifinals (NZ, Australia, France and Wales) this year as in 1987. Those semifinals then produced the same final and the same Bronze Medal matches. New Zealand last won the World Cup in 1987... they won the 2011 final by '8-7'. We could go on...
(8) The Springboks might have failed to defend their World Cup title, but - in the process - South Africa produced yet another World Cup Final referee. Since 1995 - when SA first competed in World Cups - they have produced the final referee on three occasions (out of five). Amazingly, Sunday's final referee, Craig Joubert, attended the same school - Maritzburg College - as World Cup-winning Bok flyhalves, Joel Stransky (1995) and Butch James (2007).
(9) South Africa recorded the biggest win of the 2011 World Cup - 87-0 against Namibia in their Pool D clash. New Zealand and Canada provided the biggest match aggregate of the World Cup - as New Zealand won 79-15 (94 points); just edging out Australia v Russia (68-22 - 90 points) and New Zealand (again) v Japan (83-7 - also 90 points). There were, however, four matches which produced one-point winners; SA v Wales (17-16) and Argentina v Scotland (13-12) - both pool clashes - and France v Wales (9-8 - semifinals) and, of course, Sunday's final which NZ won 8-7 (against France).
(10) The breakdown. How can one law - or the different interpretation thereof - have such a big affect on the game of rugby union? Surely the game's lawmakers should be channeling all their energy into sorting that out... with immediate effect?
* What stood out the most for you during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand? Let us know below!
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