Editor’s note: Paddy O’Brien is a New Zealand international rugby union referee and currently the head of the International Rugby Board’s Referee Board. He recently wrote this piece about the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2011 for us:
It will a great day in New Plymouth on September 11th when that city hosts Ireland and USA in their opening games of RWC 2011. A number of features stand out. September 11 is a significant date in that it will be the 10th anniversary of the attack on America by Al Qaeda: the U.S. Eagles are coached by the man who led Ireland into the 2007 World Cup, Eddie O’Sullivan; and USA, the last Olympic Rugby Champions (1924), will have to be all out to hold a team ranked several places ahead of them on the IRB rankings.
Whilst most people associate the USA with gridiron, it is fair to say Rugby Union is becoming stronger each year in a country which we all know produces wonderful athletes. Whilst I have never refereed USA in the 15s form of the game I have witnessed them on the IRB Sevens circuit and the passion and power they show in this form of the game is outstanding. Their Sevens coach, Al Caravelli, is a real character who lives and breathes the game and the improvement they have shown since the series began is immense.
Four days after the Ireland game the United States face Russia at the same venue. (Now doesn’t that have some lovely connotations?). No doubt this will be a game the Stars and Stripes will be targeting as a must-win, as will Russia. So it will have all the hallmarks of a very close, bruising encounter.
The Eagles then head to Wellington to play Australia, and depending on their two previous results we should know if they are going to be competitive or not.
Their final pool game is against Italy in Nelson, another match they may fancy their chances in.
Like all rugby fans in New Zealand, I am looking forward to welcoming The Eagles to our country, because from what I have seen of them on the Sevens circuit there will not be many more friendly teams taking part in this year’s World Cup and I know they will entertain us as only they know how.
- Paddy O’Brien