The World Cup in France is coming to an end and there are two games left, which will determine the podium, we can draw the sketch of the rugby that will be played in 2023. A rugby in which the field has been narrowed because the players are bigger and faster, but above all because now they defend standing and do not enter the ruck, beyond the tackle, unless the possibilities of fishing are very favorable. Otherwise the maximum is to remain standing, thus forming a thick defensive curtain.

Kick to the box

He defends himself standing up and abuses the kick. Specifically from the kick to the box. A type of kick that makes offensive sense when the ‘almond’ reaches enough height to give a teammate time to catch it at the top with the consequent gain of meters. If you don’t catch it, at least compete for it by putting pressure on the receiver, or win the ruck consequent or force a hold. But in this World Cup we have seen hundreds of box kicks thrown indiscriminately into the opponent’s field without the option of competing, so that counterattacks are given to the opponent with the false purpose of removing the danger from their own 22.

And then comes the play that defines modern rugby: the tackle. In today’s rugby you can win games without having the ball, by forcing your opponent’s errors with it, and you can gain meters by tackling. As long as they are winning tackles, double tackles or tackles reaching the meeting point launched, which make you gain meters. Wales stands out above all, despite finishing in the quarterfinals, comfortably leading the list of tackles with 837 in five games, for an average of 167.5 per game. Second is New Zealand with one more game and 65 fewer tackles, lowering the ratio to 128.6 tackles. The dragons have built their playing identity in the World Cup from day one by tackling, in this case a Fiji that came within inches of beating them. Individually, Argentine Kremer (74 tackles in six games), Samoan Talitui (69 in four), Englishman Earl (65 in six) and Welshman Rowlands (65 in five) stand out.

The touch, offensive weapon

With defenses on their feet, raining kicks into the box and dealing out tackles left and right, the games become thick and the opportunities to break defenses focus on the static phases. To be more specific in the touch. He line out It has become the most used relaunch platform in all its variants. If it is in front, with mauls that disorganize the rival defenses to enter by rampaging, as Ireland scored against New Zealand in the penalty try they achieved, or using the crusher mode, slowly but surely, as the Georgians usually do.

The most dynamic version is to gather the defense at first, removing the forward from the equation, and then relaunch the attack with a powerful three-fourth. Alternative is less common, since the mauls They usually end up with the heels posing in the first phase, or with a forward, like Snyman against England, in an adjacent phase. Without a doubt, it has been the most used weapon in the rival 22 in this World Cup, in which against those defenses that remain standing, the maul It is a good resource to group and disorder them.

Supports and offload

In this rugby in which the field is narrow and you look for height of the kick to attack, there is an element that has become even more decisive: the supports. The pass after contact, what is popularly known as unloading or offload, is a widespread resource that has ceased to be a Polynesian or southern virtue and has become a widespread weapon. But for that they must have a partner who comes to support, “a friend who will accompany them on the excursion.” Today all players are capable of doing it, which has caused another of the great features of current rugby: the high tackle to immobilize the ball. In this aspect we have seen how the referees prioritized protecting the health of the players, showing yellow cards in the clashes above, such as the red to Tom Curry against Argentina or the yellow to Ezebeth after colliding with Atonio. Seven reds have been shown in this World Cup.

The arbitration criterion

Precisely that has been one of the great controversies of this World Cup: the lack of uniformity in the arbitration criteria. Same plays with different resolution, depending on the origin of the referee. An Englishman doesn’t whistle the same as a New Zealander. Nor, it seems, does the Fiji shirt weigh the same as the England or Wales one.

Much has been said about whether to talk about the referee or keep him out of it as has always been done in rugby. Always until they were microphoned and the TMO was introduced, giving refereeing a prominence that it did not have previously. With the focus on them, it is not strange to talk about the different criteria in decision-making, to which are added the usual suspicions about what happens in the dark world inside the scrum. It is difficult to find one in which one irregularity does not occur, let alone several. And it is precisely on them that players rely to generate superiority and subdue their rival.

In this 2023 rugby, scrums have rarely decided matches in this World Cup. With the honorable exception of the England-South Africa epic, in which prop Ox Nché jumped onto the field in the 50th minute to subdue Sinckler and extract one blow after another, which allowed Pollard to put his team in the English 22 and in the game. The old axiom of ‘No scrum, no win’ was vindicated in a match with rugby from another time.

This media rugby also sets its sights on the coaches’ box, where the tablets and the intercom They fume and the overacting of the managers triggers audience peaks in broadcasts and on social networks. The one in South Africa is worthy of the Truman Show, with Rassie Erasmus in the role of Jim Carrey. Eddie Jones or Fabien Galthie are also some of the camera’s favorites, along with other recognizable assistants with a certain telegeny such as the ‘French’ Shaun Edwards, the ‘kiwis’ Joe Schmidt and James Ryan, the ‘Irish’ Mike Catt…

Many rehearsals? Two speeds

We have seen 320 tries in 46 games, which gives a very high figure of 6.9 tries per game. A record that is actually inflated by the beatings produced in the group stage: New Zealand-Italy (96-17), Ireland-Romania (82-8), New Zealand-Namibia (71-3), South Africa-Romania ( 76-0), France-Namibia (96-0), England-Chile (71-0), Scotland-Romania (84-0), New Zealand-Uruguay (73-0), France-Italy (60-7) … Evidence that there are two speeds in the World Cup. In reality, there are two World Cups. That of the group stage with the ticket for the next World Cup at stake and the appearance of ‘small’ nations that add salt and pepper to the tournament, and that of the final qualifiers, where they really compete.

Each person must draw the conclusions. Is this rugby better or worse than previous World Cups? Is different. A team from the south will win it again, like eight of the previous nine. Breaking the tie between South Africa and New Zealand, at the top of the table with three titles each. But if we have learned anything, in case we had not already learned it, it is that What happens during the four years that go from one World Cup to another is not binding on the tournament, that the rugby It is increasingly physical, that the fields become narrower and shorter due to the growth of the players, that they defend themselves more and better… But in the end, everything depends on the bounce of a ball, the rugby ball, which is like life itself: sometimes it plays tricks on you and other times it smiles at you. And that forces you to be prepared for the best and the worst. Blessed almond. Blessed rugby.