THE OTHER WORLD CUP

As the Rugby World Cup reaches its climax, a rather different kind of World Cup begins today in Shizuoka, as the plethora of Halloween costumes on display last night are replaced by circus outfits and clown suits.

The Daidogei (Great Street Performance) World Cup is the showpiece festival of the city and the premier event of its kind in Asia, attracting 1.5 million visitors annually.

Although over 100 acts from all over the world will be performing in central Shizuoka for the next four days, an elite 14 will be aiming to take home the 2,000,000 yen (20,000 dollars) of prize money on offer for the winning performance.

The jury is composed of 25 Shizuoka citizens who have to decide precisely how much of 1,000 yen they would throw into the bucket of each act, with the winner being the one that collects the most.

I wonder how much the New Zealand team would collect for a performance of their haka if they were to take part. The battle dance will be performed for the last time this World Cup in Tokyo today, just before their clash with Wales for the bronze medal. It will also be the last match in charge for both head coaches, with Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland both stepping down after many successful years in charge of their sides.

I’m predicting that New Zealand will bounce back from their semi-final disappointment to claim victory against the Welsh, who will probably be more frustrated with the narrowness of their defeat to South Africa than New Zealand are about their loss to England. History supports that prediction as well, as the All Blacks have not lost to Wales since 1953 and Wales haven’t got within 15 points in the last 10 years.

After their historic performance last week, few will be betting against England claiming their second World Cup title on Saturday. Remarkably, they have not faced any European sides in their march to the final, with the US the only side from the Northern Hemisphere they have played. In fact, their last four matches will have been all against Rugby Championship sides. Argentina, Australia and New Zealand have all been successfully dealt with. Now only this year’s champions, South Africa, remain.

The Springboks have outmuscled their opponents with power and aggression thus far, but England will be ready for that. If the South Africans are to win, they will need to cut out the handling errors and be clinical if/when a chance falls their way.

South Africa have the better head-to-head record historically, but England have won the last two matches, winning by a single point in their last meeting nearly exactly one year ago at Twickenham. It’s likely to be another tight one tomorrow and if one side gets a significant lead early on, it will be extremely hard for the other to come back.

I’m backing England. Game on!

Bronze Final
Friday (1800 JST) New Zealand vs Wales (Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo)
Final
Saturday (1800 JST) England vs South Africa (International Stadium, Yokohama)

Expression of the day
大道芸へ行ったことありますか? (daidougei he itta koto arimasu ka)
Which means…
(Have you been to Daidogei?)

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