A southern hemisphere team was strongly tipped to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in New Zealand, and so it proved, the All Blacks deservedly winning the title for only the second time. For the sides from the northern hemisphere, it was a mixed bag. ITV Rugby's Mark Orlovac rates each of the Six Nations teams on their World Cup campaigns.
Superlatives all round for Warren Gatland’s babes, who were the shining northern hemisphere light at the World Cup. Sam Warburton is a Lions captain in waiting, Rhys Priestland showed he is the side’s number one fly-half, wing George North is the real deal while Toby Faletau is one of the world’s stand-out backrowers. All three are under 25 and I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny. It just shows what can be achieved when talented youngsters are given their chance. The future is certainly bright - they are gifted, well coached (Shaun Edwards take a bow) and well led on and off the pitch. All they need to do is sort out their kicking, missed attempts at goal cost them dearly against France and Australia, while finding a permanent place for the talented James Hook is getting more problematic by the game.
Shining light: A real struggle to single out one player… going for Toby Faletau.
Low point: That red card.
Six Nations prediction: 1st
If ever there was a campaign that typified the French rugby stereotype, this was it. They were superb in patches but mainly shambolic, losing twice in their pool while the squad was riven with arguments and splits. Coach Marc Lievremont, who managed to alienate almost all of his players, selected a scrum-half (Morgan Parra) at fly-half for most of the tournament while his bizarre public utterances can only be matched by South Africa’s Peter de Villiers. It defies belief that they made it out of their pool, let alone so close to winning the tournament. New coach Phillipe Saint-Andre now takes over from Lievremont and will be determined to make selection more consistent as well as trying to end the days of second guessing which France team is going to turn up. Don’t hold your breath, though.
Shining light: IRB Player of the Year Thierry Dusautoir
Low point: For a team that reached the final… there were surprisingly many. The Tonga defeat was particularly poor.
Six Nations prediction: 2nd (mainly going on the fact that they have both Ireland and England at home)
Where do you start? Off the field and on it, the reigning Six Nations champions made headlines for the wrong reasons in New Zealand and their departure in the quarter-finals did not disappoint many neutrals. England have the core of a very good team but what's the point of having the likes of Chris Ashton and Ben Foden et al if they are not utilised properly? England were guilty of producing uninspired and turgid rugby in New Zealand and manager Martin Johnson, or whoever takes over should he depart, must take the shackles off to give his pupils a chance to shine. The old guard needs to be thanked for their service and moved on... if they haven't got a chance of being around in four years time, then it has to be goodbye. And as for the shambles at the Rugby Football Union, well that's another miserable story.
Shining light: In a very dark room… Manu Tuilagi, by a mile.
Low point: Too many to mention, too many away from the pitch.
Six Nations prediction: 3rd
Ireland came into the World Cup in poor form but they soon banished into distant memory their disappointing August with the stunning pool win over Tri-Nations champions Australia. However, they were out-muscled by an inspired Wales in the last eight and their unwanted record of never making it to the World Cup semi-finals remains intact. This World Cup was the swansong of Ireland’s ‘Golden Generation’ – the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Gordon D’Arcy and Paul O’Connell almost certainly won't return. Ireland do have promising youngsters coming through,though. Fly-half Jonny Sexton, prop Cian Healey and scrum-half Conor Murray have their best years ahead of them while in open-side Sean O’Brien, Ireland possess one of the world’s most promising flankers. Coach Declan Kidney has a rebuilding job on his hands to find adequate replacements for the older members of the squad while sticking with a stable half-back pairing would be helpful.
Shining light: Sean O’Brien was ubiquitous and particularly so against Australia.
Low point: The quarter-final against Wales.
Six Nations prediction: 4th
Despite brave performances against England and Argentina, the fact that Andy Robinson’s men failed to qualify for the last eight for the first time means the campaign has to be regarded as a failure. Conceding late tries in both of those games cost them dearly while at the other end, crossing the whitewash has become a particular problem. Scotland scored only four tries at the World Cup (only Romania and Georgia scored less); reliance on a world-class kicker can only take you so far. The scrum and line-out are a match for anyone but more devil and nous is required in the backs if that is to change. To help that, surely the attack-minded Ruaridh Jackson has to be handed the fly-half jersey on a permanent basis. Off the pitch things look stable, Robinson has a contract until the 2015 World Cup and has the backing of the SRU. But if the big results do not come, how long will that support last?
Shining light: Sean Lamont
Low point: The final eight minutes against Argentina and the last three minutes against England
Six Nations prediction: 5th
The Azzurri were always going to find it difficult to make the quarter-finals for the first time considering they were in a group containing Australia and Ireland. Their performances were again dogged, stubborn and full of heart but they did not have enough quality to really trouble the big guns. Coach Nick Mallett departs with his head held high, however, and he has overseen real progress in his time in charge. However, world-class players such as Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni can only do so much and Italy desperately need to find the game-controlling half-backs they have been lacking since the days of Alessandro Troncon and Diego Dominguez.
Shining light: Sergio Parisse
Low point: The second half of the Australia game, from 6-6 at half-time to a 32-6 defeat.
Six Nations prediction: Wooden spoon
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