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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

We need more time

Jonah Lomu: Eighteen stones of incredible strength

The BBC's vioce of Rugby, Bill McLaren, laments the fact that no home nations have made it throught to the World Cup semi-finals and says we have to take it on the chin.

It was distressing to see the home nations struggle this weekend, because, this time, I really thought we were in with a chance.

At home I thought the northern hemisphere nations could make their mark, but it wasn't to be.

[ image: I thought Wales were potential champions]
I thought Wales were potential champions
Nevertheless, I think we can take a lot out of the tournament. There have been some tremendous performances in defeat.

Scotland's efforts on Sunday against the All Blacks were simply marvellous and for England to go down to five drop goals is heartbreaking

That result alone highlights how better prepared the Southern Hemisphere sides are in terms of tactical preparation.

I heard Springbok coach, Nick Mallett, say after the game that he had foreseen Jannie de Beer kicking three drop goals.

They had obviously realised try-chances would be at a minimum and had changed their game plan accordingly.


The other thing this weekend highlighted is that fact the South Hemisphere teams are oh-so physically imposing.

Consider New Zealand. Umaga and Ieremia both weigh just under 16st. Lomu weighs 18.5st and Marshall weighs 15st. And if you add explosive pace to each and every one of them it makes for a formidable side.

The Northern Hemisphere just doesn't produce people like that and if you remember that they play high quality rugby week-in week-out in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, perhaps it's not surprising that we cannot compete.

In Super 12, every match is akin to an international. Add that to the Tri-Nations and they are playing in a much tougher environment.

Defence becomes attack

One thing that came out of the Scotland vs New Zealand game is the Southern Hemisphere's superiority in defence. New Zealand knocked Scotland back in the tackle, turning defence into attack and as sides they never thrown the chance to put points on the board, as England can testify.

On the other hand, there is much to take heart from. And there have been some fine performances to admire. I thought Wales might have done better (I'd tipped them to win!) and it is a pity that only France are present in the semi's.

All in all, it's still an exciting World Cup and the action goes on. What England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales now have to do is to keep improving and keep challenging. Sooner or later, the gap will diminish.

For now, however, it's clear that we're still second best. I went to a New Zealand training session and it's even evident there. Every one of the players was so focussed and full of enthusiasm. And in 40 minutes I didn't see a bad pass or dropped ball.

They train under pressure, which gives them the edge on the pitch. And when push comes to shove that edge was clearly evident in the past few days.

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