Was it really the greatest weekend in Rugby World Cup history? Quite simply, yes. Having covered all 10 tournaments, I have never seen two back to back matches of such high quality and gripping drama as we witnessed in Paris.
There have been one-off matches that have lifted the spirts and taken the sport to a new level but what Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and France delivered was truly remarkable. It reminded everyone that rugby union has the ability to make brutality and physicality a thing of beauty.
It was a much needed reminder that while English rugby is beset by financial problems and famous clubs have gone to the wall, the sport is thriving in so many ways. The sheer joy that Portugal brought to the tournament was infectious while Fiji gave a glimpse at what is possible when the so called “Tier 2” nations are given funding, new competitions and a chance to sit at the top table.
Of course, there remains a gulf between the haves and have nots in the sport but what France 2023 has done is provide a stage for rugby’s finest to weave their magic. I have never seen a player charge down a conversion and it was an incredible effort by Cheslin Kolbe, the Springbok wing and will be replayed for years to come.
That is what you want from a World Cup, players operating at a level they have never reached before as they bid to add their names to the tournament’s roll of honour. Kolbe had never charged down a conversion before Sunday night in Paris but you can bet youngsters all over the world will be trying to emulate him.
Every sport needs its icons and iconic moments and last weekend grabbed the attention of the sporting world. For the four teams who remain the bar has been set incredibly high.
Can the semi-finals reach the same level of rugby? I doubt it. Argentina and England are still trying to find their best form yet have made it to the last four of the tournament.
In 2007, England lost 36-0 to South Africa in a pool match and came agonisingly close to successfully defending their title in the final when they faced the same opponents. England have a puncher’s chance against the Springboks while Argentina look ill equipped to shackle an All Blacks side that has rediscovered its mojo.
Two stunning semi-finals? That may be too much to hope for but at least we had last weekend in Paris.