Larkham, Carter, James, O'Gara - who'll fly highest in the Rugby World Cup? -
08-12-2007, 09:27 PM
The No.10 jersey has been the X-factor in the past five tournaments with Grant Fox, Michael Lynagh, Joel Stransky and Jonny Wilkinson all playing decisive roles for the winners. Whose number will be up this time?
'A goal kicker of almost boring accuracy, Wilkinson was also not afraid to run with the ball or mix it up with the forwards' At all five previous Rugby World Cups, the team with the best fly-half has won the tournament. This certainly seems to indicate whichever No.10 takes his game to the next level in France will also take his team to rugby's ultimate prize.
At the 1987 Rugby World Cup, one of the stars of the tournament was All Black five-eighth Grant Fox. By no means a flashy player, Fox was a rock steady goalkicker and led the tournament with 128 points. He also directed the back line well and provided a good tactical kicking game.
In 1991 it was time for Australian Michael Lynagh to shine. Putting the disappointment of the previous World Cup behind them, the Wallabies would claim their first World Cup on the back of Lynagh's accurate goal kicking and back line direction.
Lynagh and Fox were quite similar players in many respects, but in 1995 the battle of the No.10s was fought by two men who could break the defensive line as well as direct the back line and kick goals, South Africa's Joel Stransky and New Zealand's Andrew Mehrtens. In the opening game of the tournament, Stransky showed his class, scoring a try, a conversion, four penalty goals and a drop goal. He would go on to kick the Boks to victory with an extra -time drop goal after a Mehrtens miss.
Converted from fullback to fly-half, Australia's Stephen Larkham was the find of the 1999 World Cup. Although Matt Burke was given the goal-kicking duties, it was Larkham who provided the spark the explosive back line needed with his angled runs, ability to freeze defenders and bullet passes that put his outside men into holes.
Dubbed the "man of destiny", it was Jonny Wilkinson who took England to glory in 2003. A goal kicker of almost boring accuracy, he was also not afraid to run with the ball or mix it up with the forwards when required. And of course he kicked the winning drop goal at the end of extra time in the final.
So, based on past performances, it seems likely that the performances of the 2007 fly-halves will determine who takes home the William Webb Ellis trophy. Will Larkham be able to recapture his form of 1999 for the Wallabies? Or can Dan Carter return to his best and end 20 years of frustration for New Zealand? Or will Springbok Butch James or Ireland's Ronan O'Gara come into the form of their lives and guide their sides to glory?
Whoever plays the best, it is clear that the team with the best No.10 will go a long way towards capturing the 2007 Rugby World Cup.