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World Cup 2017 Grading- How Did Your Nation Fare?

Scotland

Like the Italians, the Scots were creating headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Going to a World Cup and representing your country should be the pinnacle of any players career, yet Danny Brough, Johnny Walker and Sam Brooks thought it acceptable to drink so much that they were unable to board a flight for their last group game.

The three were subsequently sent home and have since apologised, yet their irresponsible antics did nothing to help what was already a far from satisfactory tournament for Steve McCormack’s players.

Crushing defeats at the hands of Tonga and New Zealand were perhaps to be expected, but the way they let a second-half lead slip against Samoa, knowing that victory would secure them a dream tie against Australia, will leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Scotland’s squad was missing a lot of the players who helped them top their group back in 2013, yet the ending of this edition of the competition will leave McCormack wondering where his side goes next.

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The one real leader in the side, Brough, will surely have played his last World Cup match, throwing his final opportunity away in such idiotic style.

Now the Bravehearts must regroup quickly and decide how best to move forward with their young group of players if they do not want another campaign of disappointment and regret in four years’ time.

Grade- D-

Tonga

The real revelation of the competition, Kristian Woolf’s side will be able to return back to their clubs knowing that they have been part of a Tongan revolution.

And yet, if not for a last-ditch Elliot Whitehead tackle in the last play of their semi-final, we might have had a Tonga versus Australia showdown at Suncorp.

Their clash against the English was without doubt the game of the tournament; the atmosphere was the best at a rugby match for many years, the attacking displays from both teams was admirable, and the passion shown by both groups of players really highlighted why rugby league is the greatest sport on Earth.

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People really started to take note when they defeated New Zealand 28-22 in the group stages, topping their pool in the process.

Tonga played with passion and desire throughout the tournament, and they must now build on their success.

Spearheaded by Sika Manu, Jason Taumalolo and co, they have shown that they are no longer there to make up the numbers.

Make no mistake about it, come 2021, the Tongans will be wanting to take home the trophy.

Grade- A-

Samoa

Matt Parish’s men will surely look back on their performances with mixed emotions.

Firstly, their ability to come back from what seemed like oblivion in their game against Scotland, securing their place against Australia in the semi-final, really epitomises the passion and commitment to the cause by Toa Samoa.

Their desire to win has not wavered since 2013, when they performed admirably against the likes of New Zealand and Fiji, yet it looks like this group of players isn’t capable of making it beyond the quarter-final stages.

They have players like Tim Lafai and Ben Roberts who possess a lot of skilfulness. However, these kinds of players will shrink into the background when they come up against much more all-rounded teams, as was the case against the Aussies.

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The task now for Parish is to use the talent available to him, and try to address the shortfalls in talent across the park, rather than relying on a select few.

They will look at the performance of Tonga during the campaign and will hope that they can follow in their footsteps.

However, it looks a long way before Samoa and Tonga can be classed as equals once more.

Grade- C

New Zealand

It was almost inconceivable before this tournament that the Kiwis wouldn’t progress to at least the semi-finals stage, and for large swathes of the tournament, they looked like they would be competing until the very end.

Big wins over Scotland and Samoa paved the way for another tournament of steamrolling all in David Kidwell’s group, yet their teams looked to have gone off the rails after their shock defeat against Tonga.

Their ability to lose from being 16-2 up at half-time looked to have dented a lot of their players confidence, and it is almost inevitable that it was still playing on their mind before their knockout game against Fiji.

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To have the talents of Shaun Johnson in the halves and not being able to break down an admittedly-incredible scrambling Fijian backline will be a huge source of embarrassment for New Zealanders everywhere.

We must admire Fiji’s heroics, but their quarter-final result will hurt a lot of Kiwi fans for years to come.

Despite this, expect New Zealand to be back with a vengeance when the World Cup returns to England in 2021.

Grade- D+

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