Who will win the World Cup? The answer isn't black and white

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am


Gareth Thomas, Secretary of the St David's Society Hong Kong
Partner, Herbert Smith international law firm

The St David's Society of Hong Kong and Welsh rugby fans have been gathering at Delaney's in Wan Chai to watch with increasing excitement the progress of the Welsh team. The atmosphere for the quarter-final against Ireland was electric. The singing after the final whistle was emotional and impressive. I was in Auckland for the Wales v France semi-final, but I bet our disappointment down there at the result was matched in Delaney's as well as in the Welsh diaspora all over the world. We were singing Why, Why, Why? but it was not about Delilah, it was about the sending-off of captain Sam Warburton 20 minutes into the game. There was a feeling of numbness after the match when you cannot believe it has ended as it did. Then, of course, the spirit of rugby kicks in, you snog the nearest Frenchman, buy him a drink and teach him Cwm Rhondda.

I'll be in Delaney's for the final, hoping to see a great match and may the better side win. Of course I wish that Wales were there to battle it out with the All Blacks and not the French, what Welshman wouldn't? I have my wager on New Zealand by 20 points.

Semi Iafeta, former captain of HK rugby team
General manager of Rugby Asia Channel

Like many Samoans whose parents migrated to New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s in search of employment opportunities and a better lifestyle, I was a New Zealand-born Samoan. Fast forward to 2011 Hong Kong and I was proud to watch Manu Samoa give the Boks a good bashing a couple of weeks ago. Samoan rugby is all about physicality. You only need to look at the Tuilagi brothers, Filo Tiatia, Jerry Collins, Tana Umaga, Sonny Bill Williams even Christian Cullen, who has Samoan heritage, and you can already see the mark they've left on international rugby.

As captain of the Hong Kong national team in the first Asian Five Nations competition, it did feel a bit weird at first, especially trying to sing the Chinese national anthem, but then at the end of the day you just have to get on with it and play your best given the opportunity.

My family and I will be watching the finals at The Doghouse in Wan Chai because they are one of the main sponsors for the Rugby Asia Channel website. I think the All Blacks have been the best team for many years now and have continued to set the standard and have the skill set other teams could only dream of. They deserve to win the final. People are saying to respect the French, I say the All Blacks should stick a long fork in the French team because they'll be done.

Jean-Christophe Marten Perolin
French Police Attache in Hong Kong

I was one of the few in Hong Kong who predicted that France would be in the final. I watched the Wales game last week at the Hong Kong Police Officers Club with a bunch of Commonwealth expats. I was the only Frenchman. In France, we are rugby addicts.

I will be wearing my 2007 Rugby World Cup beret and shirt. I am lucky that I didn't burn it. That loss to England in the semi-final was too much. We hate Jonny Wilkinson, although we think he is a terrific player. A lot of our dreams have failed because of him. I was at the 2003 World Cup in Australia playing in a veterans' tournament, and the same thing in France in 2007. I saw a lot of games in France during the World Cup but that game was awful for us. To beat them in 2011 and go through was already a victory for us. They are our big rivals as we come up against them every year to fight it out in the Six Nations. But it is the All Blacks' year. It's their tournament, their stadium, their final, and it is up to us to use our French flair to defeat them.

There will be many French on the edge of their seats down in the Stanley bars and in McSorley's Ale House and Hemingways in Discovery Bay where they live. Even though France is made up of 64 million people and 64 million coaches, we will open champagne whether we win or lose, because it's just a game as well as a way of life. You play, you fight and then you have fun and meet your friends, because that's rugby.

Chris Harker, Managing Director, Iseo Advisory
Chairman, Hong Kong Tens

Like every Englishman I was disappointed in England's performance. They didn't play the most expansive of games, the team were somewhat over-drilled and it was not entertaining rugby. Being a Brit I would have preferred to see Wales in the final over France. New Zealand are the top ranked team, I would expect them to prevail today. France do have the ability to turn them over though. France have the ability to penetrate the line without kicking the ball. If France don't give away penalties, it could be a close game. My money's on New Zealand and a margin of 10 to 12 points.

I'm playing in my 38th season, these days with the HKFC Sequins. I will be watching this final at the Hong Kong Football Club and look forward to hearing Chester Williams' take on the game.

The Webb Ellis Trophy was at the Hong Kong Football Club during this year's GFI HKFC Tens, thanks to Heineken. Having it on display was significant for many reasons, particularly in a Rugby World Cup year. Each World Cup grows the sport internationally and closer to home here in Asia. People had hoped Japan would have been more competitive overall, but their presence in the Cup is good for Hong Kong rugby events and will give people a greater appetite to watch.

Bill Burgess
Vice-President Air Operations, DHL

I will be watching the game in Zurich wearing a 3XL Wallabies shirt. I will be watching it with my grandson, Errol Fletcher Barry, who is eight weeks old and it's his first Rugby World Cup.

In Australia, we say, 'In like Flynn' after Australian actor Errol Flynn, and I reckon in this game the Kiwis will be in today. However, I am going for the underdogs and supporting France, as they are capable of doing anything against the odds and out of the blue. I remember the semi in the Rugby World Cup in 1999. The French were 14 points behind by half-time. It was like a new team came on the field in the second half and they ended up winning the game. That's the wonderful thing about sport, anything can happen.

New Zealand have been the leading team for 24 years and yet they haven't won for 24 years.

The Kiwis are the form side and have been all the way through. A game of typical World Cup rugby is close, low scoring with very few tries. A huge emphasis is placed on defence and on not losing and not taking any risks. But in the second half the game will open up and the Kiwis will win by a big margin.

Robbie McRobbie
HKRFU Head of Community and Development

The Rugby World Cup has been an excellent vehicle to raise the profile of the sport in our community. The day after the tournament began we joined the New Zealand consulate and the Mini Rugby Union in organising our own Mini World Cup for under 12s here in Hong Kong, which was a tremendous success. There is no doubt we have benefited from the massive media interest in the RWC, and having all the games shown live locally has been a big boost as well.

I am from Edinburgh and it was disappointing that Scotland didn't make it to the quarter-finals, but I wasn't too disappointed in how they performed against Argentina and England and they were close games. Unfortunately, the difference between the best teams in the world at that level comes down to small margins.

Today I'll be watching the final at Football Club or the Kowloon Rugby Club event at Grappas. The All Blacks have lived up to their pre-tournament level, and I can't honestly see France beating them. The French have demonstrated that you don't have to play pretty, you just have to win. I hope they they put on a good show and play competitively to give it the full spectacle a Rugby World Cup deserves.

Pieter Schats, CEO Toys R US Asia Ltd
Former Chairman HKRFU

I am in Auckland and watched the French beat Wales last Saturday night. The game will be remembered mainly for the sending-off of the Welsh captain and not the quality of the rugby. The French did not play very well, and against 14 Welshmen! But you never know with the French, they may just do something unexpected today.

As I am from the southern hemisphere, there is no doubt that I am backing the Kiwis today. They've been unlucky a number of times in the World Cup and deserve a RWC win for their contribution to rugby over the past 20 years or so. They have been one of the best teams for a long time but I understand the irony of them having to play against France in the final as the French have done them a couple of times in World Cup history, despite being the underdogs.

The New Zealanders have played the best rugby in this tournament and they look set to get their rewards today. I will be watching it at Eden Park with South Africa's 1995 win still etched deep in my memory and soul, but today could be New Zealand's time to shine. There is nothing like watching a game like this live. Sometimes you just have to be there to get the full essence and enormity of a Rugby World Cup.

Marc Figgins, Head of Human Resources Institutional, ANZ
Sai Kung Assistant Coach Under 5's and 6's.

Who will win today? It really depends which French team decide to turn up. They are, however, exactly where they want to be - much maligned, written off, minimal chance, extremely dangerous. They are enigmatic, capable of the sublime, with supreme Gallic indifference to form or occasion. With their Latin temperament, they prize beauty and style above the more prosaic Anglo-Saxon rugby virtues of consistency and graft. The All Blacks combine both which is why the French love to play New Zealand - so much so that despite winning the toss they have allowed us to keep our Black Jerseys - they want it pure and classic. Like all Kiwis I long for victory and revenge for previous World Cups where France have been the definitive banana skin for us. This time surely, we are prepared for the most bizarre they can throw at us. In the 1987 final against France I was in the North West stand at Eden Park eating hot chips when David Kirk scored in the corner. While he raised the cup, I ran down, collected the divot from his dive over the try line and grew it at home for six months. Surely, this time we can beat them again!?

I'll need crowd support and a few refreshments to steady the nerves - so I'll be definitely down the pub this afternoon.