Minnows Have Own Agenda
Second tier rugby nations have defended their role in lop-sided World Cup results, saying they have their own agenda outside the Webb Ellis Cup.
Results such as South Africa's 87-0 demolition of Namibia, New Zealand's 83-7 victory over Japan and Australia's 67-5 hiding of the United States do not necessarily reflect their respective strengths, the underlings say.
Instead, they have their own quest for prestige which involves building towards matches against countries of similar strength and not expending their best against obviously superior teams.
Japan came to New Zealand with the intention of being rated the most improved side and coach John Kirwan made no excuses for using all 30 players in his squad in their the first two games against France and the All Blacks.
As far as he was concerned they were trial matches so every member of the Japanese squad had "a huge opportunity to play themselves into what is our big Test match, which is Tonga."
The United States goals were the realistic -- to beat Russia, which would be only their third win from six World Cups -- and the hopeful of adding the Italy scalp to automatically qualify for the next World Cup.
"It wasn't about (overall) wins and losses but it was about competing and getting better as a team," said captain Todd Clever whose US Eagles had a tough schedule of completing all four games within 16 days.
With only four days between playing Australia and Italy, US coach Eddie O'Sullivan rested 13 senior players from the match against the Wallabies giving them a 12-day break to freshen up before playing Italy.
"Our main goal was to get a win over Russia and we did that," said Clever who did not play against Australia.
"If we get two wins it means we automatically qualify for the next World Cup and that would be huge for the country.
"We will be able to focus not on qualification but on actually having a proper preparation for the next World Cup."