The winners and losers from the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup semifinal exit.
Forward of the week – Maro Itoje (England)
The hulking English lock was at his disruptive best against the All Blacks, forcing a number of turnovers and smothering the opposition at the breakdown. He was terrific at the lineout and solid defensively. Itoje has been immense all competition and when all is said and done should be named player of the tournament.
Back of the week – Manu Tuilagi (England)
After scoring the game’s first try just 98 seconds into the match on a pick and go run from the back of the ruck, Tuilagi played the game as it came to him. Impressive on defence, Tuilagi made his presence felt both with his tackling and positioning as the All Blacks tried to get their attack going.
Coach killer – Slow start
It can’t have been easy for Steve Hansen to watch as the All Blacks fell off tackles and were unable to stop the English attack in the opening two minutes of the game. Falling behind 7-0 in the blink of an eye is not the ideal way to start a semifinal and put the All Blacks on the back foot essentially for the entire match.
He did it with the Wallabies in 2003 and now with England this year. There’s something about World Cup semifinals against the All Blacks that falls right into Eddie Jones’ area of expertise.
Northern Hemisphere rugby
With the All Blacks dispatched from the competition, the north could have their first Rugby World Cup champion since England claimed the title in 2003. At the last World Cup, it was two Southern Hemisphere teams who contested the final, while this time around England will be the likely favourites after taking out the defending champions.
While they will contest for third place, the general feeling is that their loss to England brought the curtain down on the All Blacks tenure of coach Steve Hansen and a host of the team’s veterans including captain Kieran Read and backline stalwarts Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith. It wasn’t the way they wanted to go out, and time will tell if they’re remembered for the great things they did, or whether recent results will dominate the memories of fans.
Still likely the favourite to succeed Steve Hansen as the All Blacks head coach, many have suggested his stocks took a hit in the loss to England. The All Blacks’ attacking mastermind, who was praised by Hansen after their impressive victory over Ireland, could only watch as the side’s attacking game was smothered from start to finish.